Non profits are struggling now primarily because a lot funding has dried up. It’s a simple trickle down effect. The interest rates are so low that the foundations and donors are not earning the money they once did on their investments. Thus, giving is down.
So what’s an organization to do? My suggestion is to take stock of what you have and do and make a major effort to shift fundraising toward monetization: i.e. turning assets into money making machines.
Here are three examples:
ONE: A group of four agencies serve the same population, let’s say veterans. None of them own their own buildings. None of them like the space they’re in. They decide to band together and pool their donor bases to buy one large building. The building should be two to three times the size the need today so that they can rent out the remaining space, generating steady, ongoing revenue. But…what kind of space to rent out? Currently there is a glut of office spaces in most areas, so that may not be a good option. But let’s say they research and find that storage companies are in great demand. Bingo. They develop a large portion (but not all) of the space to rent to individuals and businesses for clean, climate controlled, secure storage.
TWO: Some non profits have these wonderful assets called experts. Let’s suppose that there is a school that serves special needs kids. Down the road is a school that serves troubled teens. And around the corner is a mental health facility. One night, over a few sasperellas, the staff of these three centers get an idea. Why not form a consortium and put on training for parents of young children, families of mentally ill individuals, and businesses who struggle to cope with employee mental health issues? They go a step further…why don’t they develop printed material and ebooks that they can sell? And even further, how about applying for grant funding to do some much needed research in the pediatric mental health arena? Suddenly this group, this human asset group, has come up with a way to generate a potentially large amount of money for doing what they already do. Perhaps they write a grant request for a video recording studio so that they can give virtual seminars? Now they have a physical asset that they can rent to other non profits and the public.
THIRD: A cancer support organization has run a thrift store for years but it is continually losing money. The building it owns is falling down around its ears and they cannot go to their donors again for any more building issues. They are on the brink of closing even though their services are unique, needed, and they have a great reputation. The other problem is that they are having more and more trouble finding volunteers to man it. Their solution to monetize is to monetize their influence and reputation. One of their board members knows a developer who is helping to renovate a large loft/retail building. A local sports figure is putting in a funky restaurant encompassing the entire first floor. They set up meetings and a year later all of the items from the thrift store have been integrated into purchasable decor for the restaurant. The old building is sold and the vintage items add interest and are free decorations to the restauranteur. Now the organization merely has to maintain the stock. The staff at the restaurant “man” the store so that sales are processed with the customer’s food and drink purchases. It’s a win for the restauranteur in that he has a built in, automatic potential customer list in the donor/supporter list of the charity. It also has the potential for replication in other parts of their large city. It is a great win-win and eases the stress of the problems of the failing former building and location.
The whole key to building assets and creating stable funding streams is to define your assets (which can include collaborators, good will, reputation, community connections, knowledge base, and human beings,) match it to community need, and then be open to new and unusual ways of making things not just successful, but incredibly successful!