Business and strategic planning for social enterprises and nonprofits.
Since 1996, Rolfe Larson Associates has been helping organizations develop entrepreneurial strategies to increase mission impact. We provide guidance and direction on social enterprise strategies such as selling goods and services, licensing, and business partnerships. Our services include strategic planning, market research, feasibility analysis and business planning. We help enterprising nonprofits grow their earned income by using effective planning, research, and analytical techniques.
Rolfe Larson is the author of Venture Forth! the award-winning guide to social enterprise endorsed by the late Paul Newman of Newman's Own. Rolfe is also a professor at the University of Denver, where he teaches courses in social enterprise and nonprofit finance. Rolfe's educational background includes an MBA from the Yale School of Management and an undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College.
Years as university professor
Years in business
Greyston Bakery is the iconic social enterprise that for decades has provided training and employment to the underserved in Yonkers, a low-income area just north of NYC. Greyston manufactures all the chocolate found in Ben & Jerry's ice creams. We helped them to explore opportunities to launch another venture, to expand their impact and diversify outside the food services sector. We helped them brainstorm and evaluate venture ideas, complete two feasibility studies, and then prepare a comprehensive business plan. (See endorsement below.)
We met regularly with WPR for more than a year to develop a strategic change plan at a time when they were facing major external and internal challenges. This project, funded in part by Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), was part of a larger project called Leadership for Philanthropy from the Development Exchange. We guided them through a planning process that led to major changes in their priorities and strategies. (See endorsement below.)
We researched and wrote a business plan for a student and community counseling center, to provide counseling services to moderate income residents facing mental health challenges. We studied local market conditions, competitors and models, and prepared recommendations for operations, pricing, marketing, positioning and structuring this venture, along with realistic financial projections. The counseling center opened in 2011, and is still going strong!
Planned Parenthood hired us to present several webinars to their affiliates around the country, to help them explore and develop new business ventures to diversify their funding. One special feature we incorporated was live collaboration between affiliates; another was online facilitation using an electronic white board to collectively plan specific venture ideas.
We provided consulting assistance to Public Media Company (formerly Public Radio Capital) for several years, in strategic planning, project management and implementation. This work led to creation of a long term vision for public radio, and then a focused strategic plan to accomplish that vision, including goals and measurable outcomes for the next three years. We also represented PMC in providing consulting services to public radio stations in Washington, Missouri, Wisconsin and Maryland.
Rolfe's direct venture management experience includes almost ten years as a senior manager at Minnesota Public Radio, where his responsibilities included developing and launching new business ventures. In that role, he took the lead in developing several successful ventures that generated millions of dollars of profit to support programming. One such business generated revenues of approximately $5 million per year; another earned a one-time profit of $850,000; a third generated profits exceeding $1 million over a ten year period of time.
We work closely and collaboratively with your organization, bringing in your perspective and expertise as well as our own. This approach leads to a consulting product that your organization "owns," which increases the odds of successful implementation.
We collect and analyze external and internal data. We look for relevant data that agrees and conflicts with expectations. Openness to disconfirming data is important to successful business planning, helping the team identify strategies to address problems.
A primary consulting goal of ours is to build your internal capacity. While we possess unique skills, we do not view our work as proprietary, and instead seek to transfer knowledge to your organization. Our goal is to leave your organization stronger and more resilient.
Our approach is to keep you and your team completely informed about the research and analysis we are doing, the roadblocks we are encountering, the progress we are making. Through regular emails and Zoom calls, we will keep you up-to-date on our project and invite your participation in our decision-making in an ongoing basis. We are experts in providing brief, useful updates!
We understand many organizations can not afford full-on consulting assistance, and may not reach out for help expecting a price tag well outside their range. We do things differently! We pride ourselves in our ability to custom-design a project to meet your needs AND your budget. Let us know what you need and what you can afford, and we'll work with you to figure something out!
Many of us rush quickly into activities and decision-making, without taking a moment to get grounded, to listen within, to calm ourselves. In contrast, we believe we do our best when we approach our work (and our relationships) with a sense of awareness of the present moment, and a feeling of gratitude for what we have and what we can accomplish.
Rolfe helped us through all the steps of developing a strategic change plan during a very challenging time. He provided encouragement and guidance when we most needed it.
The most important emphasis he brought was to focus us on "transformative" change. We've been working on that ever since!
We hired Rolfe to provide research and analysis in support of development of our next social enterprise. Rolfe and his business partner provided excellent value to this project.
Rolfe has deep social enterprise experience. He is hard-working, insightful and easy to work with. We hired Rolfe again for the next phase of the project.
Senior Vice President, Greyston Foundation
Rolfe is a wonderful instructor. You can tell that he is passionate about the subject material and that translates in the discussions and the course content. The ability to progress in knowledge throughout the course, on the way to the portfolio assignment is a big plus for me personally. I can confidently say that I learned a lot from Rolfe.
30 years direct
management and consulting experience working with social enterprises and nonprofits.
25 years management experience working for social change organizations in the US, New Zealand, Japan and Costa Rica.
3+ decades computer and software experience; specializing in application development, technical support & hardware configuration.
There are many theories why some social enterprises flourish while others languish. Is it leadership, business planning, funding or market timing that makes for a successful social enterprise?
To answer that question, we took a deep dive into what works and what doesn’t. Here's what we discovered.
Read complete article
Thousands of nonprofits that use the marketplace to accomplish their social goals call themselves social enterprises. Thousands of for-profit companies also have big social goals. Yet these two groups barely talk with each other. Why is that?
Read complete article
Competitions are all the rage in the social enterprise world. From New York to San Francisco, organizations seeking to nurture emerging social entrepreneurs have decided to go all in on the pitch, offering winners startup cash and technical assistance. Good idea, right?
We’re not so sure. Looking for second opinions, we crowd-sourced this question to the online social enterprise community.
Read complete article