From L–R: Mike Oxman and Larry Clark from No Margin, No Mission

Margin Mission Ignition 2017 – The Process Continues to Evolve

Posted on September 21, 2017 by Michael Corley
“Earned Income. For many, this term conjures visions of easy money. For others, this term implies moving away from mission in the pursuit of dollars. Both are incorrect.”

Recently, four nonprofit organizations fulfilled the requirements to embark on an 18-month earned-income journey titled Margin & Mission Ignition. This is the third consecutive year The Patterson Foundation (TPF) has fully sponsored and supported the Margin & Mission Ignition initiative and the fifth year of helping nonprofit organizations develop earned income strategies.

In short, the Margin & Mission Ignition initiative offers participating nonprofit agencies three intense phases of consulting, coaching, and technical assistance to launch or grow an earned-income venture. Working with the experts from No Margin, No Mission, a national consulting firm and social enterprise, teams engage in 14 weeks of individualized business planning coaching, followed by 14 weeks of individualized implementation coaching, and ending with a full year of post-business plan implementation support to track and monitor progress. The purpose is to train nonprofit teams to write meaningful business plans and then implement them.

Since we learn and improve each time we do this, this year’s process for identifying organizations with the greatest likelihood for success evolved from last years approach, relying heavily on assessing their Leadership, Willingness, Readiness, Capacity, and Culture – just as we did when the 2016 cohort was identified, which evolved from the process for the 2015 cohort. In addition, this year we were intentional in employing TPF’s approach of Connecting, Learning, Sharing, Evolving and Strengthening.

So how did the “Fab 4,” as they have come to be known, get to be part of Margin & Mission Ignition 2017? We began by hosting an Earned-Income Educational Lab (Lab #1) – Boosting Nonprofit Entrepreneurial Capacity, Revenue & Mission Impact Through Earned Income -- open to any organization having a profile in The Giving Partner. (We use The Giving Partner profiles to review nonprofit organizations.) We sent multiple email invitations to the Executive Directors and Board Chairs of each of the 400+ nonprofits listed in The Giving Partner.

Lab #2 – Exploring Your Organization’s Earned Income Possibilities -- was held a month later and was open to those organizations that expressed an interest in continuing after Lab #1 and completed a brief phone call with the consultants from No Margin No Mission. Lab #2 featured representatives from the three organizations that had previously completed the Margin & Mission Ignition process and who shared their experiences; the common refrain, “It is a lot of work. A lot. But it is worth it.” In addition, Sara Leonard, of the Sara Leonard Group, began the discussion about how and when to raise startup or growth capital to fund each organization’s earned-income venture.

Lab #3 – Advancing Your Organization’s Earned Income Ideas, Understanding, and Action -- was held a month after Lab #2 and was available to those organizations that wished to continue the process and had completed the assigned homework. The purpose of Lab #3 was to dive into each organizations’ earned-income idea, share expectations of what would be needed to be successful throughout the coaching process, and explore each agency’s readiness to pursue earned income.

Finally, Lab #4 – The Essentials of Earned Income Business Planning -- was held almost a month after Lab #3, and its focus was to confirm each organization’s Leadership, Willingness, Readiness, Capacity, and Culture, and dive deeply into all the various components of a business plan, including identifying customers, market demand, competition, etc. In addition, Sara Leonard continued sharing her expertise about raising startup and growth capital. Upon conclusion of this Lab, any willing organization had the opportunity to complete an Advancement Packet for consideration to participate in the complete 18-month Margin & Mission Ignition initiative.

The process, which began with 75 organizations at Lab #1, concluded with four organizations advancing to the full 18-month journey.

The process is challenging by design. TPF has learned over the years that organizations must be fully committed-- from the board, to the executive team, to the staff, to the volunteers, to the donors--in order to be successful at earned income. Each of these groups must be willing to embrace change and examine current ways of doing things. Frankly, earned income is not for every agency, and the process is designed to identify which organizations are ready and which need more time to prepare.

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