Entrepreneurial nonprofits begin earned-income journey to heighten mission impact

Entrepreneurial nonprofits begin earned-income journey to heighten mission impact

Posted on July 14, 2015 by Michael Oxman

Five months ago, nearly 150 nonprofit leaders, board members, and staffers from Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, and DeSoto Counties convened in Bradenton to attend the launch of Margin & Mission Ignition, an initiative of The Patterson Foundation designed to help nonprofits in the region build entrepreneurial capacity, boost revenue, and heighten mission impact.

During that initial lab, the message presented was clear: nonprofits interested in pursuing an earned-income initiative must be willing to:

(1) devote the substantial time, energy, and commitment required to plan for and implement a successful revenue-generating venture; and

(2) demonstrate their preparedness for it through alignment in the areas of organizational leadership, willingness, readiness, capacity, and culture (LWRCC)

Having taken this message to heart, the following seven entrepreneurial nonprofit organizations applied for and were selected to participate in the 18-month Margin & Mission Ignition journey, which includes both business plan development and implementation:

Charlotte County Habitat for Humanity

Friends of Sarasota County Parks

Legal Aid of Manasota

Lighthouse of Manasota

Pines of Sarasota

Realize Bradenton

Senior Friendship Centers

Within days of being informed about their acceptance into the initiative, each organization participated in a full-day launch session at their location to officially kick off the 14-week business-planning phase of the engagement.

Not only were the sessions educational, interactive and engaging, but they were also highly productive. Why? Each daylong session was carefully planned and incorporated the following "ingredients": 

Ingredient #1: Well-organized with tight agendas…but flexible and fluid

For all kick-off sessions to be as productive as possible, it was imperative that there be a clear set of goals, specific topics to cover, complementary activities, and ample time. At the same time, it was important to recognize that each organization and team is different -- which means there needed to be flexibility and fluidity in the agenda.

Ingredient #2: The right participants, ready for earned income

With the tremendous emphasis that was placed on earned-income preparedness as part of the three initial educational labs, it was clear that the Margin & Mission Ignition participants were not only aligned in their organizational leadership, willingness, readiness, capacity, and culture, but they were also highly enthusiastic, engaged, and ready to take action on development of their business plans.

Ingredient #3: Participation by leadership, staff, and board…without exception

Participation from each organization's leadership, staff, and board was critical to ensure full team engagement and understanding. In the earlier Margin & Mission Ignition educational labs, this was a requirement to be eligible to participate in the launch. Without full engagement, understanding, and buy-in from at least one of each of these internal stakeholders early in the earned income journey, there would be a greater likelihood for those individuals to feel disengaged from the process or not fully vested in it, potentially leading to pushback and/or failure down the road.

Ingredient #4: Technology required to get (and stay) connected

The use of technology can increase team connectivity, project effectiveness and overall work efficiency. With this in mind, we asked each group to sign up for a subscription to LivePlan, the cloud-based software we use as a template for business plan development. We also asked each group to ensure our team meeting space had strong wi-fi connectivity to allow for access to LivePlan, as well as the Internet, during the full-day kickoff session.

Ingredient #5: Roll up your sleeves and get down to business

To get the most out of each kickoff session, we wasted no time getting to work. We immediately began using LivePlan and started the process of business planning. We discussed and articulated each team's earned-income offering, captured it in writing within the software and then moved on to a thoughtful SWOT Analysis exercise to consider the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of their revenue-generating venture. Working through one section at a time, significant progress was made and development of the business plan was well underway. As a result, each team was vested in a common understanding, method, and sense of accomplishment to pave the way for the journey ahead.

Ingredient #6: Your homework for next week is…

With much momentum and a solid jump-start to their business plans, the key was to end each kickoff session with homework in LivePlan that would keep the thinking, writing, and development process moving forward. With the onsite, face-to-face launch meeting complete, each team would move to a weekly 1-hour virtual meeting format (thanks to laptops and GoToMeeting) for 13-weeks of continued consultation and technical assistance with their consultant from No Margin, No Mission. Homework would be assigned and completed each week, which in turn, would be reviewed for comment and feedback.

Ingredient #7: Follow-up communication with key stakeholders

As a wrap-up to the kickoff sessions, we presented each team with a special set of three Margin & Mission Ignition earned-income poster boards, courtesy of The Patterson Foundation, to reinforce the basic and most important tenants of earned income. Armed with these visual tools, in addition to the business-planning progress that had been made during the kickoff session, each team was charged with providing communication updates to their key stakeholders as a way to inform, educate, and engage them in the earned-income initiative.

Want to learn more about earned income and related topics?

Read all of our Guest Blogs for The Patterson Foundation.

Visit No Margin, No Mission’s Web Site and Resources page.

Contact moxman@NoMarginNoMission.org or lclark@NoMarginNoMission.org.

Follow No Margin, No Mission on Facebook and Twitter.



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