Creating an earned revenue stream

CJ Hayden

CJ Hayden

Over the past few weeks we have featured a question and answer session with C.J. Hayden, a social venture advisor to entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and activists. This week C.J. offers suggestions for how to grow your own earned income stream and resources for more information.

Saad & Shaw: What suggestions  would you offer to non-profit leaders who are seeking to develop an earned income revenue stream?

CJ Hayden: Look first at business models that would align well with your organization’s primary mission. For example, it makes sense for an organization like Delancey Street to operate a restaurant, because it provides employment and job skills training for the population they serve. But if you operate an animal shelter, running a café would have little to do with your mission. You might want to consider offering veterinary services instead.

It’s not always possible to develop an earned income stream that also directly serves your mission. But if you are considering an unrelated business, look carefully at whether you have – or can afford to hire – the type of expertise you’ll need. Succeeding with enterprises like a thrift store or print shop will require knowledge and experience you may not have in your organization.

Also, your enterprise is more likely to become a success if your existing audience includes many people who are potential customers for your products and services. An animal shelter that decides to offer veterinary services would have a built-in customer base made up of their animal-loving donors and people who adopt from the shelter. But if they chose to open a café instead, they would have to expand their outreach considerably in order to turn a profit.

One word of caution – while social enterprise can be an excellent option for long-term funding, launching a venture is not a wise solution for an immediate funding crisis. Just as with a for-profit business, your enterprise will require some level of startup funding and may take time to become profitable.

Saad & Shaw: What resources are available for people who want to learn more about social enterprise?

CJ Hayden: Social Enterprise Alliance, SEA also has a Bay Area chapter, and their annual conference is coming to San Francisco in April 2010.

Social Edge, A project of the Skoll Foundation designed to support social entrepreneurs and social enterprise.

Venture Forth: The Essential Guide to Starting a Moneymaking Business in Your Nonprofit Organization, by Rolfe Larson. A practical, step-by-step guidebook to selecting, planning, and launching a social enterprise.

Find out more about C.J. at

And as always, have a FUNdraising Good Time!


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