Photo: Mike Oxman and Larry Clark

Client Spotlight: No Margin, No Mission

Posted on August 15, 2019 by Vicki Dean, Rough & Ready Media

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in Rough & Ready's client spotlight

Dozens of Southwest Florida nonprofit organizations have boosted their bottom lines by working with national social enterprise consultants through a partnership with The Patterson Foundation.

No Margin, No Mission was founded by Larry Clark and Michael Oxman in 2011 and started working with The Patterson Foundation in 2012.

“We launched No Margin, No Mission based on the premise that nonprofits could benefit from having a business strategy to bring products or services to light as a business or social enterprise,” Oxman said in a recent interview.

Through an intensive initiative called Margin & Mission Ignition, Clark and Oxman lead four learning labs with 30 to 60 area nonprofits. If the agencies make it to the end, they apply to work with No Margin, No Mission.

After a thorough review, the consultants choose between three to six nonprofits to work with. That includes guiding the organizations through a Fast Pitch presentation similar to the TV show “Shark Tank” to raise the necessary startup or growth capital for their venture.

“Then we do four months of business planning, four months of implementation,” Clark said. “So eight months on a weekly basis and then three years of monthly coaching after that.”

Most of the nonprofits have goods or services that they can sell. Oxman and Clark guide them through the process of identifying assets or implementing ideas that surface during the four learning labs.

As part of the initiative, some agencies go through a total rebranding or tweak their existing websites to add an e-commerce sales portal. Over the years, Oxman and Clark have referred numerous clients to Sarasota-based Rough & Ready Media, headed by Michelle Greene.

Oxman cited several examples where Rough & Ready stepped in on branding or added a website component, including UnidosNow, the Literacy Council of Sarasota, Humane Society of Manatee County and Peace River Wildlife Center.

Prospect Riding Center decided to offer recreational horseback riding to supplement the organization’s mission of providing equine therapy for clients who have special needs.

“In a very quick period of time, they decided to go through a rebranding initiative for the organization, hired Rough & Ready, and wow,” Oxman said. “What Rough & Ready came up with versus what they had for their organizational brand was just lightyears away. We’ve seen this whole metamorphosis of Prospect Riding Center as a result of this initiative that has just blossomed.”

Clark and Oxman were in Sarasota recently to get another group of nonprofits started in The Patterson Foundation’s Margin and Mission Ignition program. On top of those new organizations, they are also continuing their ongoing work with several other nonprofits in various stages of the initiative.

It’s a labor-intensive process both for the consultants and nonprofit teams, but the results are long-lasting and rewarding.

“With this work that we do through Margin & Mission Ignition and with The Patterson Foundation, it’s all about either launching or growing a social enterprise or an earned income venture to help boost revenue and mission impact,” said Oxman, who is based in Chicago. “The two have to be really aligned. Without margin, it’s really hard to do that good mission-focused work for the long term that nonprofits do.”

The consultants continuously monitor and adapt their approach along the way.

“It’s been a great partnership,” Oxman said of The Patterson Foundation’s Margin & Mission Ignition efforts. “They approach this community in such unique ways. They really helped us grow and cultivate and develop our practice over the years.

The synergy between the foundation and the consultants has garnered nationwide attention along the way.

“We’ve all been kind of learners in the process,” said Clark, who is based in Seattle. “We have this mantra of leadership, willingness, readiness, capacity, and culture. We look at everything we do through those lenses and look at all the organizations that we work with through those lenses. It’s a great model. It couldn’t be a better scenario as you’re thinking about getting resources out into the community.”

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