Business of Nonprofits, For Nonprofits, By Nonprofits : B2B Organizations in the Social Enterprise Sector
Johanna Gunawan, marketing intern, Northeastern University 2017
In increasing efficiency and reducing costs in business, B2B (business-to-business) companies and transactions help other groups focus their efforts more clearly by taking care of one aspect of the trade process. For example, advertising firms create campaigns for other companies, allowing those companies to redirect resources towards building better products. Other consulting or manufacturing firms also specialize in a duty and perform these functions for a wide range of company clientele.
In the nonprofit sector, B2B relations can be just as effective. Nonprofits helping other nonprofits not only increase efficiency and reduce much-needed costs, but help increase impact across the globe!
The Next Mile Project is a B2B itself, in that it incubates other nonprofits, renting out office space for at discounted rates and offering pro bono professional services.
But B2B relations in the nonprofit sector can take a variety of forms. Take, for example, Reweave – an online marketplace for sustainable, fair-trade products made by nonprofits and social businesses around the world. Its mission is to help the general public do good in a way that is beneficial both to the buyer and the producer – but also works on tackling social issues, increasing microfinance, and cultivating ideas of social responsibility. Reweave challenges the idea that consumerism only hurts those in need by providing a way for trade to improve lives.
Reweave, founded by Northeastern University students, recently took off in the past few years. After “seriously listening to consumers” and fellow students, founder Abhi Nangia (NU Class of 2013) and his team began understanding what people want in a socially conscious market. They raised questions as to “the way we buy things, why we use them, and how we can transform how we buy.”
“How do we create an organization that promotes social enterprise and sells products?” That question kicked off Reweave’s inception in 2010. The point, Nangia explains, was to “find new ways to connect fair-trade, socially conscious products to a consumer market.” Intended to be a way for people to become part of the trade and to be responsible buyers, Reweave found its place in the social entrepreneurship scene as an online marketplace. Running on a beautiful and aesthetic web platform, Reweave appeals to the modern consumer.
Reweave finds its products by reaching out to nonprofits and social enterprises that produce items for impact. The website, reweave.org, features a variety of products like jewelry, apparel, fair trade chocolates and teas. It then finds its market by reaching out to the consumer public – asking them what they’d like to buy, and purchasing power can be used for good!
But above its platform and strategy, Reweave is, simply put, a B2B. And in the nonprofit sector, B2Bs offer much more than a service to other nonprofits. They help improve “collaboration… where there’s a lot of competition [especially for funding]” or services, says Nangia. “Nonprofit, socially responsible B2Bs create a new community where the focus is not simply business-to-business,” and definitely not business-against-business; instead, it works toward a world where we have “business with business.” Much like the Next Mile Project, Reweave reflects a move toward collaboration and decreased competitiveness.
The beauty of B2Bs for nonprofits rests in the values that it brings to the field. Open communication, collaboration, and an overarching desire to do good regardless of technique all help to further the purposes of the nonprofits and social enterprises utilizing B2B services.
This concept is not a new one, but it certainly speaks volumes as to how nonprofits can work together despite targeting different fields or competing in the same funding pools. Streamlining the infrastructure of social enterprise only allows for even more powerful impact to be seen worldwide.