Could your non-profit generate revenue?

Fundraising / Sunday, August 24th, 2014

It’s no secret that these past few years have been rough ones for non and for-profits alike.  The recession pushed businesses to the breaking point – which in turn caused them to reign in charitable giving, forcing many non-profits to close their doors.

At the same time, national and local governments responded to shrinking tax revenues by dramatically cutting funding for organizations engaged in public service. The results were devastating.  Families who depend on services were cut off, social workers were laid off in droves, and many phenomenal organizations that had been in service for years simply ceased to exist.  

Fortunately, times are better now, but the scars of the recession still run deep.  Even deeper is the realization that it could all happen again. We in the non-profit world are no stranger to challenge, so it is little surprise that many of us in this space reacted by exploring ways we might determine our own destinies. Today, I want to share with you three short stories of non-profits who chose to respond to funding cuts by creating revenue generating opportunities.  Think it’s not possible for you?  Well, read on, and you just might be surprised at the innovative ways these non-profits generated funds.

1.) Affordable Homes of South Texas – Affordable Homes is a jack of all trades in South Texas – providing mortgage servicing, family matching, affordable homes, and home repair to hundreds of low-income families in the area.  When the federal funding that they depended on was cut, Executive Director Bobby Calvillo sprung into action.  He and his team had been searching for a way to use a building they owned near a nursing school, so they struck a unique partnership with Blimpie Subs: the non-profit would open a Blimpie franchise in the building, with proceeds going directly back into the non-profit.  The result?  Nursing school students loved the new lunch option (before Blimpie, their nearest eatery was 15 minutes away), the community was made more aware of AHST’s mission, and Bobby and team had a reliable stream of revenue to fund operations.

2.) City Year Care ForceCity Year is part of the AmeriCorps network, and each year, they engage thousands of 18-24 year olds in service to their communities.  The organization has led service events for decades, so Care Force became a natural way for them to generate revenue.  Care Force is a for-profit subsidiary of City Year that directs all of its proceeds back into the non-profit.  Its mission?  Managing large scale service events for corporations.  How cool is that??  City Year gets to leverage what it’s best at (engaging people in service to others), and corporations are able to plug their employees into meaningful community service.  

3.) Habitat for Humanity Restore – This is perhaps one of the most well known revenue generators for a non-profit.  Habitat for Humanity is an international expert at building affordable homes, so it is only natural that they would run a store selling construction goods to the public.  All of the goods in Habitat’s Restore are donated, meaning that every sale is 100% revenue for the non-profit.  The best part is, Habitat has not deviated from its core mission by generating this revenue, rather, they are doing it in a way that is genuinely them and that creates significant (and independent) revenue. 

-I’ve given you just a quick overview of these stories for now, but on Friday, I want to dig more deeply into the practical ways that we can explore revenue generation at our non-profits.  In the meantime – will you join this conversation???  Please answer the following in the comment box below: How could your non-profit generate revenue?