9 Ways To Enhance The Sustainability Of Your Nonprofit

By Laurence A. Pagnoni, MPA

Here are nine ways that nonprofits can enhance their capacity for sustainable growth. Not all ways work for every nonprofit, but we present the following list so you can explore your options.

1) Fee For Service

Can you charge clients a fee for the services provided? It can be a flat fee or a sliding fee based on individual income. So long as the fee is less than what a for-profit business would charge, you will not be overstepping the moral and ethical bounds of a nonprofit organization. Perhaps you might consider inviting users and clients to make a voluntary donation for the services they receive. Some will be feel better about themselves by doing this.

2) Social Enterprise

Consider revenue from thrift shops, retail stores, coffee stands, the sale of greeting cards, DVDs, or other merchandise. Collectibles, such as pins, patches, t-shirts, and ties have generated sales for many nonprofits, particularly those with a unique identity, such as the Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood. With volunteers operating these ventures, business activities that are directly related to your mission can be highly cost-effective. Harry Chapin, the legendary folksinger, raised about a million dollars a year for world hunger relief when he was alive just by dedicating the profit from the sale of his t-shirts and CDs toward the foundation that he established. Can you approach a value-aligned celebrity to do the same for your cause?

3) Membership Program or Annual Fund Campaign

Is there a way to create a membership program that charges dues? Or an annual fund campaign to reach donors interested in the services you provide? An annual fund in honor of a community leader identified with your organization may have considerable traction among your donors and supporters.

4) Major-Gifts Program

Can you identify, cultivate, and solicit donors that have the potential of making large gifts? Naming a few donors that you plan to approach (or offering to show the funder the list in a private meeting) will add luster to the section of your grant proposals in which you answer the question about sustainability.

5) New Donor Acquisition Program

Consider starting a direct-mail campaign to add new donors and thus increase your income. Working with the right vendor you can do a targeted mailing. Some vendors are quite sensitive to the needs of nonprofits and can develop an attractive product at a reasonable price. And no, direct mail is not a thing of the past! It still produces results and is cost effective if done well.

6) Online Giving

If you are not already collecting online donations, you should provide easy ways for donors to give online and designate your most visible program as the object of their restricted gift. Social networking may be a good resource for your nonprofit if you have youthful staff or volunteers. Young people have forged connections online that elude their elders. Enlist their help in developing an online giving strategy.

7) Corporate Sponsorships

Can you partner with corporate and business sponsors, especially for funding events such as galas, golf tournaments, or charity runs? Think of the people you serve and those who support your organization and identify with its mission. If you can discern among your constituents untapped customers for a product or service, you can go to a company marketing that product or service and offer an opportunity to reach those customers by associating the company’s brand with your program.

8) Employer-Based Fundraising

Can your agency qualify to participate in employer-based fundraising campaigns such as the United Way or other federated campaigns, for example those of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies? In addition, canvass your constituents for employees of large corporations. For many companies, the key to a significant grant is an employee with a personal interest in a specific nonprofit.

9) Government Funding

Do some research to find out if local, state, or federal agencies provide funding for the programs you are operating. Some nonprofits, having discovered government funding in an area related to their mission, have enhanced or expanded programs into new territory to take advantage of a funding opportunity. This is especially apropos with the current availability of stimulus funding. Contact your State Senator to learn more. Almost every State Senator has a legislative aide dedicated to helping their constituents learn about and secure stimulus funds.

We welcome your comments about this post on the LAPA blog.

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