Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

NetSuite Embraces The Social Enterprise, But It's Not What You Think

There’s a big buzz these days around the social enterprise, which generally refers to applying social media tools that vaguely resemble Twitter and Facebook into the corporate setting. An example is Chatter, the social and collaboration application that Salesforce.com brought out last year.

But there’s another use of the phrase social enterprise that predates that. It refers to various non-profits that use market principles to social good, and to for-profit businesses whose raison d’etre is to do some social good.

You might expect a cloud computing company like NetSuite to be making a lot of noise about the first definition, but today it’s making some news about the second. NetSuite sells cloud-based financial and enterprise resource planning software. Today its philanthropic arm, NetSuite.org, announced it is donating or offering big discounts to five organizations.

Non-profits and social enterprises, they generally rely upon the kindness of donors, have the same urgent need to stretch their operational budgets that businesses do, and so the efficiency gains from cloud-based software is appealing for its efficiency gain, especially when it’s donated or heavily discounted. The base donation includes NetSuite’s complete software suite, five user licenses and ongoing support just like any customer. Discounts are tied to the applicant’s size by revenue with small organizations who bring in $2 million or less per year receiving outright donations, while larger ones get discounts ranging from 50 percent to 80 percent.

Non-profits have a lot of the same needs that businesses do, because they rely on the kindness of donors, just as urgent a need to stretch their operational dollars as far as they can. “When we looked at what good we could do in the world, we found that there were a lot of organizations in the world that look like companies, but which exist to make the world a better place,” David Geilhufe, program manager for NetSuite.org told me.

The five lucky organizations are: Easy Office which offers accounting and bookeeping services to non-profit organizations; United Prosperity, a micro-lending organization EdTec, which helps charter schools manage their accounting and IT; and Envirofit, which sells clean-burning cook stoves in 40 countries.

NetSuite also said it it has donated software to micro-lending site Kiva.org, which has helped arrange more than $175 million worth of loans to 450,000 small businesses owners in 57 countries. Kiva needed help managing the expenses of employees who are constantly traveling the world, a task complicated by all the currencies involved.


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