There are about 5,200 social enterprises in Scotland with a combined income of more than £3.6bn, according to new figures.
The research, which took place during the first half of 2015, found that 60 per cent of organisations had annual turnovers of less than £100,000 and almost a third operated on incomes of less than £25,000 a year.
About 60 per cent of the organisations were found have a woman as their most senior employee and 68 per cent paid at least the recognised living wage.
Housing associations accounted for 36 per cent of income, researchers found.
Rachael McCormack, strengthening communities director at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and speaking on behalf of the project steering group, said the report showed the "vital contribution" made by social enterprises to Scottish society and its economy.
"Social enterprise is a business model that helps tackle social issues, promote equality and achieve sustainable economic growth," she said. "These are the reasons that we attach so much importance to social enterprise and are working with social entrepreneurs to strengthen leadership, innovation and the business dimension of their enterprises. Working together in this way will help achieve our shared ambition to grow the social enterprise community year on year."