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Feature Grantee – Calgary Reads

This month’s blog will put the spotlight on Calgary Reads, an organization that is inspired to create a thriving community where all children can read with confidence and joy.  Calgary Reads is an early literacy initiative that provides help to struggling readers in grades one and two.  Their core program, Calgary Reads @ School, is an in-school program offered in the Calgary area.  Trained tutors work with these students for a total of 33 sessions that last for 40 minutes each, twice a week.   

Social Enterprise Opportunity

Calgary Reads was among Trico Charitable Foundation and Enterprising Non-Profits Alberta’s (enp-AB) very first group of grantees.  Calgary Reads was exploring the idea of starting a social enterprise that would further both their mission and help achieve financial stability.  They first came upon the idea of an after-school tutoring program through their relationship with the U of C’s Faculty of Education.  This partnership would provide education students with paid positions to tutor struggling elementary students after school for 33 sessions.  This opportunity would also help generate additional revenue for Calgary Reads to continue and improve its programs, since Calgary Reads currently meets its budget through funding from individuals, corporations, foundations, and the annual CBC Calgary Reads book sale.

Feasibility Study

With the grant that Calgary Reads received, they conducted a feasibility study for the after-school tutoring program.  From this study, they realized that they had two significant market advantages.  First, Calgary Reads had a close relationship with the CBE and could gain access to many struggling students.  Another market advantage was Calgary Reads’ brand identity and established methodology that is proven to be effective. 

Despite these competitive advantages, Calgary Reads also discovered they would have to overcome several challenges.  The after-school tutoring program would be competing in two different spaces: after-school programs and tutoring services.  Through interviews and surveys with potential customers, after-school programs and tutoring agencies, Calgary Reads also struggled with a pricing strategy for their service due to the two highly saturated industries.  This implied that competitive pressures would force them to charge a lower fee, ultimately shrinking their bottom line.

What Happened?

In the end, Calgary Reads decided not to pursue the after-school tutoring program.  They felt that they needed to define more clearly their social and financial goals.  As well, they concluded that the need for early literacy intervention did not translate into demand in the marketplace.  Calgary Reads also felt that they needed to understand whether they were going to focus on revenue generation or on extending the reach of their early literacy initiative.

Advice to Share

  • Define “social enterprise” and clarify your organization’s social and financial goals prior to launching a venture.
  • Take time to conduct a feasibility study before acting on an idea.
  • Understand your organization’s capabilities and available resources; Leverage these existing assets to offer a product or service that will drive your mission forward but will also help generate revenue.
  • Don’t get too attached to one idea, as it will likely change.  Continue to explore different opportunities.

Thanks for taking the time to read up on our featured grantee.  We look forward to sharing more experiences and stories from around the community soon.  Lastly, as August is a busy month for us, we will be taking a short blogging break and will return in September.  Enjoy the rest of the summer!

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