Five ways for a non-profit organization to earn more income

Last week, a new client asked me the following question, “How can we earn more income and gain more control over how we can spend it?”

This resulted in a productive and impactful discussion. I thought it would be useful to share the highlights with you, and link to other articles and presentations that explain some of the principles in more depth.

Non-profit organizations need to increase their income, and have more control over how this money can be spent, in order to increase their social and environmental impact, and to reduce their financial risk. This is all part of becoming a sustainable non-profit organization.

Inductive and deductive reasoning can help us to solve complex strategic and social problems

Strategy emerges from how we think about the complex problems facing our organizations. These problems might relate to our environment, the challenges faced by our beneficiaries or something inside our organization. To become better at developing strategies, we must learn how to think more clearly and avoid cognitive biases.

My ability to think strategically has benefited immensely from understanding the differences between inductive and deductive reasoning, and understanding when and how to apply them. Inductive reasoning involves ‘bottom up thinking’ – constructing theories from details. In contrast, deductive reasoning involves ‘top down thinking’ – starting with a theory and assuming details that must be true if the theory is valid.

We all have our preferences for one of these types of reasoning when solving complex problems that affect organizations and communities. Nevertheless, it is beneficial to master both types of reasoning so that we can use them when the need arises.

This article summarizes what I have learned so far while diving into this topic. It is a detailed and technical article that will interest people who want to enhance how they use reasoning to solve problems.

Does your organization have FOGO?

Now that the lockdown in South Africa has started to lift, I’m noticing how many people are struggling with FOGO – an acronym for ‘Fear of Going Out’. 

They have established a safe bubble during lockdown, and are anxious about venturing out and confronting the turbulent world that awaits them. This tendency seems to be the antithesis of FOMO, which we all know as the ‘Fear of Missing Out’.

This article explores the characteristics of FOGO in organizations, and what you, as a leader, can do about it.

I encourage leaders to realize that their organizations must venture out before it’s too late. The cost of inaction may be irreversible. This unusual moment will come to an end, sooner rather than later, and we will all have to enter the uncertain world outside.

Summary of four project budgeting methods

A month ago I wrote an article on the four methods for developing project budgets which I’ve seen non-profit organizations use in South Africa. I believe its best to be adaptable and have all these methods in your project budgeting ‘toolkit’.

This 1-page Strategy Brief summaries these four methods. There is a link to the full article at the bottom of this Brief.

Recent events have made our decisions simpler but not easier

Over the past month, I’ve been helping organizations to adapt to the Coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdown. I’ve helped them to reassess and refine their strategies and how they work. I’ve also helped organizations to downsize. This has been a painful process for everyone involved.

On the positive side, I’ve seen organizations use this opportunity to implement changes that have been overdue for some time. And some organizations that provide ‘essential services’ have even scaled their services to meet their growing demand.

But I’ve heard more sad stories than I’ve heard success stories.

I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon during this time. It has seemed easier than usual to identify the constraints influencing our organizations and to make the required strategic decisions. In contrast, it has felt emotionally harder to make and implement these decisions. I’ve seen how leaders have suffered, and how they need time to grieve, reflect and heal.

This is the phenomenon that I’ll explore in this article.

Perspectives when assessing or designing a strategy

A while ago, we pitched to develop a strategic plan for an international non-profit organization. As part of our proposal, we needed to describe how we see ‘strategic planning’ and how we should adopt multiple perspectives when looking at organizations. A colleague and I drew this framework over a coffee chat at our local spot. It was then neatened up and integrated into our proposal.

I thought I’d share this short framework with you since you may find it thought provoking.

Four methods that non-profit organizations can use to develop project budgets for their funding proposals

This article will help you to think more broadly about developing project budgets for your funding proposals and donors. It will highlight four budgeting methods to include in your toolkit. This will help your organization to be more prepared, versatile and likely to build (as opposed to consume) its financial reserves.

Non-profit organizations tend to rely on grants for their survival. Fundraisers must be skilled at developing a narrative for how a project will achieve its impact, and how the anticipated activities and costs will serve this purpose.

I’ve worked with several organizations that routinely get the full funds they need for their projects. I’ve noticed they tend to use a variety of methods for developing project budgets. They have also developed innovative products, and have used marketing and PR to bolster their bargaining power.

In this article I will discuss four methods of developing project budgets. I will also discuss the issue of cost structure and bargaining power since these concepts are relevant to this conversation.

When are business ideas good ideas?

In the past month, I’ve had several conversations with non-profit organizations and social enterprises about when a business opportunity is a good opportunity.

This got me thinking more explicitly about this topic. I also debated it with my colleagues.

We concluded that while there is definitely a need for these organizations to explore opportunities to generate revenue, too many organizations are rushing blindly forward without proper consideration or due-diligence.

This short presentation captures my ideas on the subject. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Enterprise and supplier development (SED) for non-profits and social enterprises

I frequently have conversations with non-profit organizations and social enterprises that are working to establish and strengthen small businesses.

We often discuss how these organizations can enter into a commercial relationship with larger businesses (“corporates”) to speed up their Enterprise & Supplier Development (ESD) efforts.

This short presentation explores three opportunities for collaboration and provides some useful background information. There are others opportunities (e.g. establishing an investment fund, or providing consulting services), but these are more specialized and less common, and therefore not discussed.

These opportunities are created by South African legislation, specifically the Amended B-BBEE Codes of Good Practice.

Identifying Simple, Complex and Wicked Problems

I’ve been helping organizations to solve some very difficult problems over the past months. This got me reflecting on the different categories of problems that are confronting social enterprises and non-profit organizations, both within themselves and the communities they’re striving to serve.

In this article I’ll discuss the difference between Simple, Complex and Wicked Problems, and how to identify them. I will provide many real-life examples.

Those of us who work in the social sector have an intuitive grasp of these problems.

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