Taking time to meet, share, and discuss earned income business plans

Taking time to meet, share, and discuss earned income business plans

Posted on February 13, 2014 by Mike Oxman, Managing Partner and Principal, No Margin, No Mission™

Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of four blogs designed to share lessons learned with the greater Sarasota nonprofit community about development of an earned income business plan. 

No Margin, No Mission is a social enterprise and national consulting practice that helps nonprofits diversify revenue, expand impact, and build a lasting future through entrepreneurship, innovation, and business strategy. 


Taking time to share valuable knowledge, learning, and insight with peers and colleagues isn’t always a top priority for nonprofit leaders and their staff. That’s why The Patterson Foundation asked No Margin, No Missionto lead a half-day Knowledge-Sharing Session in Sarasota at the midpoint of its 14-week Earned Income Business Planning Initiative with Easter Seals Southwest Florida, Meals on Wheels Plus of Manatee, SCOPE, and Southeastern Guide Dogs.

With some planning, a tight agenda, enthusiastic participants, and a room full of learners to share, listen, and ask questions addressing a set of common themes, the magic unfolded in unexpected ways. Out of thoughtful discussion, dialogue, and debate emerged new ways of thinking, innovative ideas, and opportunities for collaboration that didn’t exist at the beginning of the session. A sampling of the rich knowledge sharing that took place is outlined below by topic:

COMMUNICATION: What have you done to share your earned income business planning work with your organization’s key stakeholders?

  • “We’ve kept our Board and Staff updated on business planning progress each step of the way to ensure engagement and buy-in throughout the process.”
  • “Our earned income business planning work has been incorporated into our CEO’s annual goals, and in turn, will become a part of the organization’s strategic plan.”
  • “We are meeting weekly as a leadership team to discuss our earned income business planning work, which we never did prior to this initiative.”
  • We’ve started to message our business planning work to a key funder for our organization who is interested in social enterprise. Our hope is that we’ll receive some startup funding for implementation of the business plan once it is complete.”

“AHA” MOMENTS: What major insights or realizations have you had to date as part of the earned income business planning process?

  • “We realized our organization would need new resources, expertise, and staff to be successful in our earned income venture, which is why we’ll be hiring a sales manager!”
  • “Our business planning work showed us that we could develop other earned income offerings to complement the original one.”
  • “We now understand that we need to make a financial investment in order to generate revenue from earned income.”
  • “The target audience for our product may be someone other than the end user, such as the influencer, decision-maker, or purchaser.”

ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGES: What are you doing differently within your organization as a result of the business-planning project to date?

  • “Our eyes are opened to numerous other earned income possibilities and our Management Team is beginning to think of revenue beyond the realm of philanthropy.”
  • “Our Finance Team is modifying the general ledger to make our earned income venture a self-contained operation.”
  • “We have learned about our internal costs and external value, which has changed our approach to how we price the organization’s services.”
  • “We’re developing an infrastructure that can support our current and future earned income activities.”

LEVERAGING THE OPPORTUNITY: How is your organization taking advantage of this unique investment in its future? Have you had any early wins?


  • “Our Leadership Team has begun to apply business planning principles to other areas of the organization that have possible earned income opportunities.”
  • “We have already developed a proposal for a prospective client based on the work we’ve done to date on our business plan.”
  • “Business planning has exposed us to a new discipline that requires us to think about an entire process before we jump to tactics…which we now understand will save our organization much aggravation and duplication of efforts.”

CHALLENGES: What hurdles have you encountered in business plan development and how have you overcome them?


  • “Because earned income is a top priority for us, we’ve dedicated time each week for our team to focus specifically on business planning, despite everyone’s very full work load.”
  • “We are changing the mindset of our organizational leaders, staff, and board to validate the investment in an earned income business venture.”
  • “It is not easy trying to break the mold of providing our services for free, but we now understand the importance of increasing our margin to expand our mission.” 
  • “Business planning has taken us out of our comfort zone and has forced us to consider new ideas and different ways of thinking…this is scary, thought-provoking, and exciting!”

Want to learn more about earned income and related topics?

Look for our fourth blog scheduled for mid-March on Pitching to Investors, Funders & Other Key Stakeholders: Telling the Story & Making the Ask.


  • Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.


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