More on Entrepreneurs With a Social Mission

Duncan Campbell founded the nonprofit Friends of the Children after years in the corporate world.


My colleagues and I have been working for the past 10 months with the research firm Penn Schoen Berland to investigate the potential for social entrepreneurship in boomers.

Research by the Kauffman Foundation has already shown that for 11 of the 15 years between 1996 and 2010, Americans between 55 and 64 had the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity of any age group.

Our goal at Civic Ventures was to dig even deeper, to find out more about what motivates aspiring boomer entrepreneurs and what type of impact they hope to make. The findings surprised me.

It turns out that 25 million people – one in four Americans ages 44 to 70 – are interested in starting their own businesses or nonprofits in the next five to 10 years. And of those, more than 12 million are aspiring encore entrepreneurs who want to make a positive social impact as well as a living.

Most fascinating to me are the differences between aspiring entrepreneurs with a social mission and those without one. Here are a few examples:

  • Job creation – 55 percent of potential encore entrepreneurs say helping the community by creating jobs is very important, compared with 28 percent of those without a social mission.
  • Race/ethnicity – 22 percent of potential encore entrepreneurs are African-American, compared with 8 percent of potential entrepreneurs without a social mission.
  • Faith – 61 percent of potential encore entrepreneurs are motivated by faith, compared with 37 percent of those without a social mission.
  • Spirituality – 44 percent of potential encore entrepreneurs say answering “a spiritual calling” is very important, compared with 14 percent of those without a social mission.
  • Previous entrepreneurial success – 31 percent of potential encore entrepreneurs who started previous ventures said they were “very successful,” compared with 18 percent of those without a social mission.
  • Community involvement – Potential encore entrepreneurs report an average of 15.3 years of community involvement, compared with 8.7 years for those without a social mission.
  • Volunteering – 26 percent of potential encore entrepreneurs volunteer at least once a week, compared with 8 percent of those without a social mission.

The research, funded by MetLife Foundation, is culled from responses to an online survey of 400 adults ages 44 to 70 who report interest in starting businesses or nonprofit ventures in the next five to 10 years.

To learn more, check out the following resources:

Duncan Campbell counts himself among the millions of encore entrepreneurs. An entrepreneur in the for-profit world, he used his experience to create the nonprofit Friends of the Children. The organization provides children with long-term mentoring, often from kindergarten or first grade through high school.

"Our vision is that this will be how our community, our society, will care about children," Campbell says.

To see Civic Ventures' research about encore entrepreneurs and other subjects, click here.