A fortnight ago, Jerr Boschee, executive director of the American Institute for Social Entrepreneurs, addressed a group of UK charity executives at the Department for Trade and Industry.
US charities, he explained, did not become more entrepreneurial because they particularly wanted to, but because the sector had no choice. Starting with Ronald Reagan, successive administrations attempted to "get government off the people's backs", running down the welfare state and transferring responsibility for social services to the voluntary sector.
The UK voluntary sector may not quite be at this stage yet, but Boschee's web site does contain useful advice for those charities that want to head off future funding crises and develop alternative sources of income.
Going against the natural inclination of charities, Boschee says that they must be prepared to kill services, expanding the organisation's impact "by having fewer programs". But Boschee warns that it will take three to seven years for specific business ventures to achieve self-sufficiency and very few non-profit groups will achieve significant profitability.
The web site also contains a free version of Boschee's book The Social Enterprise Sourcebook. But shouldn't he be charging for it?
Web site for the US Institute for Social Entrepreneurs.