How Social Ventures Grow: Understanding the Role of Philanthropic Grants in Scaling Social Entrepreneurship
Author(s): S. Lall, J. Park
Published by: Business & Society


“Although early-stage finance is critical to the growth of most ventures, it is even more important for social ventures as they face the challenges of balancing their social and commercial objectives. Drawing on institutional logics and signaling theory, this study uses a panel data set of 3,401 nascent social ventures to investigate the important role philanthropic grant funding plays in the organizational and financial development of social ventures. We find mixed results, with positive effects on employment and subsequent access to debt finance, but no effects on revenues and access to equity. Our findings connect these theories by suggesting philanthropic grants provide social ventures with flexibility to invest in human capital without pushing them to pursue short-term financial objectives, and that receiving a philanthropic grant provides a signal that is interpreted differently by debt and equity financiers. These findings are especially relevant as funders increasingly use grants to support social entrepreneurship.”