Balancing the Books (Literally and Figuratively)

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I like books--books you pick up with pages you turn. I read e-books on business topics, but for pleasure and learning, it's got to be the real thing.

Books have been on my mind a lot recently. First, I have a coffee table with four piles of them needing to be sorted or read.

Second, I’ve been observing up close two nonprofits that deal in books: one is a children's literacy group specializing in getting books into the hands of kids and engaging them in the pleasures of reading aloud; the other is a theater company. The first has just closed up shop, the second has turned itself around and is looking to grow.

Common to both, of course, is the need for revenue. The literacy group lost substantial support from a big corporation and just couldn't work out where the dollars would come from to make up for their lost income. The theater group is trying to figure how it can break out of its current revenue pattern and go to the next level.

For a for-profit, in one sense, these questions are easy to answer: increased sales. For a nonprofit, though, there are more than a dozen discrete sources of revenue to choose from, and it can be challenging to work out which is likely to be most profitable. The choices nonprofits usually make are often random - they often choose the revenue streams they do based on a chance relationship or a good looking bet.

There are, however, deep connections between a nonprofit’s programming and the revenue streams most likely to provide rich rewards. These connections provide a logical and sound basis for determining, at least in part, which these revenue streams will be.

This is the subject of the Foundation Center webinar I'll be presenting on September 14. We’ll be exploring these connections between programming and revenue sources and looking at new ways you can identify secure funding for your mission. You’ll gain a new understanding of the different behaviors and characteristics of the various revenue streams available to nonprofits, of how income diversification works in a nonprofit, and of how to identify the most likely and substantial sources of revenue for your organization. You’ll also receive a framework for thinking about where a nonprofit's most profitable sources of income can be found, as well as a description of the case study organization I’ll be using, and a worked example of the framework. I look forward to working with you next month!

Now, back to sorting those books.

If you’re interested in how your nonprofit can become stronger, join me for my September 14th webinar, "Keep Your Cash Flowing: Diversifying Revenue Streams".


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Richard Brewster is the sole proprietor of Nonprofit Leadership, which offers consulting and training services to the board and staff leaders of nonprofits. He is also executive director of the National Center on Nonprofit Enterprise (NCNE).