D & Q Dreamland: Assisting SMEs to transform themselves into Social Enterprises
Dorothy said, as a professional social worker, it did not only allow her to earn a living, but also enabled her to gain first-hand experience in applying for all sorts of funds. She admitted that owing to the government’s one-off grant policy, many non- governmental organizations (NGOs) request their district branches for children and adolescents, for example, to look for income sources to sustain their own expenditure. In this way, social workers have to search for different sources of income and funds, and this has then trained her into an expert in applying for funds. She has also provided useful advice to her friends who are running small and medium enterprises (SMEs). She said, many owners of SMEs or persons-in-charge of NGOs have no idea about the funds available in the market. According to the government, there are as many as over 40 funds available for SMEs, with a total sum of HK$35 billion. However, even though the Technology Voucher Programme (TVP) is a famous example, the total of successful grants up till the 1 st quarter of last year is still less than 30% of the total sum of the funds. Many owners of SMEs expressed that the application procedures are too complicated. Some founders of start-up businesses even said that it’s better to focus on their own businesses rather than spending time to complete the fund application procedures. Dorothy said that as a matter of fact, as long as SMEs have applied for the right funds, they can gain adequate resources and more exposure to new customers, which can be beneficial to their business development, especially when they are encountering difficulties in business expansion.
Besides SMEs, large enterprises are facing difficulties in applying for funds. Recently, there are more and more enterprises registering their own NGOs in order to fulfill their corporate social responsibilities (CSR) and further improve their corporate image by making more contributions to society. However, even though merchants excel in running their businesses, operating NGOs is another story. Dorothy said that sometimes NGOs rely too much on the volunteers or the donations from other parties. All these make the NGOs difficult to sustain themselves; some other NGOs have applied for too many funds at the same time but they don’t have adequate manpower to complete all the projects, resulting in a failure in getting the funds at the end.
Since D&Q Dreamland has been put into service, Dorothy has assisted over 60 SMEs in writing fund application proposals. These SMEs include sports equipment companies, religious groups, Chinese restaurants, and technology companies for youth. She said if there is a demand, she can offer one-stop services in accounting and legal consultation, and formulate marketing strategies. She mentioned that, “many funds have their own requirements. From the failure cases, it is observed that the applicants had failed to express how their enterprises had met the requirements in the proposals.” Additionally, Dorothy is also assisting SMEs in applying for the status as charitable institutions to gain tax exemption under section 88 of the Inland Revenue Ordinance, and for subsidies and grants. She said, “ideal NGOs should open up their own income sources from the government’s subsidies, donations from all sectors and their own revenues. These NGOs should also ensure that they have adequate time and manpower. When they are too aggressive and have too many projects at the same time, they might not be able to manage everything well.”