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By: Steve Strang

Take a moment to think back to college and when your professor would assign a group project.  Regardless of the group members, your grade was going to be based upon the work and willingness of someone else.  Without control, the amount of time needed and project outcome were unknown.

With that experience behind you, why put yourself back in that position – this time with your organization?  The most dependable revenue is revenue that you have some control over.  As we have recently seen, not only can your funds dry up for a program overnight – they can shut the doors of an organization for good (and here).  Challenges with smaller growth in donations and new funding structures are threatening what were once “stable” funding sources.

To build a more viable organization, you need to think more strategically about your income streams and start building a revenue strategy – not just a fundraising strategy.

Focus on your Strengths for Revenue

Talking recently with an ED of a health-based nonprofit, it was mentioned that no matter how diverse their fundraising became – there was not enough time to ever fundraise their entire budget.  They use their services to help earn revenue to serve their clients, which has become a much more efficient and realistic strategy.

This example is a trend that is taking shape within nonprofits.  An organizational example of using “in-place strengths” to help increase revenue is DC Central Kitchen.  They use their food service training program to help fund 55% of their budget.  DCCK recently increased their programs (and revenue) by becoming a vendor for D.C. Public Schools food service.  This contract is a prime example of turning in-place structure into new earned revenue, which in this case is worth somewhere around $1 -1.5 million.

What strengths can your organization build upon to help sustain the organization?  Here are some ideas to get you thinking outside-the-box:

  • Tutoring program in a low-income area – try to expand services to a higher income area?
  • Developing an in-house training curriculum – are there other organizations you can provide the training?
  • Running a community garden – plant some extra rows to sell and cover some expenses?

Earned revenue in a large scale takes a thoughtful and thorough planning process, but can both diversify – and build sustainable and controlled revenue.  While traditional fundraising is still (and will continue to be) vital to an organization’s financial viability, creating revenue is a way to supplement (unrestricted) funding within your organization.

Think about this —- are there services comparable to yours that are currently being paid for, when you charge little to no cost?

Learn more about how Spectrum Nonprofit Services can help your organizations Sustainability planning.


(Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash)