"You've got to be true to mission," says social entrepreneur Chris Henderson. Photo: Isaac Prazmowski
When it comes to raising money through enterprise, Chris Henderson has one word of advice for the Anglican Church of Canada: think of projects or partners that will be in line with your values—otherwise, it won’t work.
“You’ve got to be true to mission,” he says. “Not being true to mission means you’re almost writing a cheque for failure.”
Henderson is the founder of two clean energy companies—Lumos Energy and the Delphi Group—and much of his work involves consulting with Aboriginal communities on clean energy projects. A member of the United Church of Canada, Henderson also helped the United Church divest itself of old church property in Ottawa in a way that attracted national media attention.
Beginning in 2010, Henderson led the search for a buyer of the old Westboro United Church property in Ottawa, when its congregation decided to amalgamate with two other local churches. Eventually he found a developer willing to partner with the Ottawa Music Foundation, a major local arts organization. The foundation got the church building, which it repurposed for its own office space and use by the community. The developer paid more than a million dollars for the property around the church. The church gave some of the proceeds of this sale to the Ottawa presbytery, and with the rest, it created a special fund for granting money to local community organizations. This funding arrangement allowed the congregation to continue to “support the community to do God’s work on Earth,” Henderson says.
If the Anglican church wants to try raising money through social enterprise, he says, it needs to ask itself, “What is the unique asset the Anglican church has that could be applied to where the elements of a growing economy are, that have a social enterprise output that also attract partners who could work with the Anglican church?”
The Anglican church should ask itself not simply how to make money, Henderson says, but how to do something for the greater good in a way that also brings in revenue.
“Go and do things that you’re good at doing,” he says. “You’re a faith organization—work in a faith context.”
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Tali Folkins has worked as a staff reporter for the Law Times and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. His writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail and The United Church Observer.
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