The nonprofits you work with (or the nonprofit you work at) need to not only look at grants, but also other funding sources. Yes, grants can be awesome, but the fiscal health of a nonprofit should not be fully reliant on grants.
- a nonprofit may not be grant ready
- a nonprofit needs a diversity of funding
- a nonprofit continually needs to increase awareness of its program
- a nonprofit may need funds quickly
- a nonprofit may need to boost its confidence and create momentum with any kind of money.
These are all great reasons for needing to expand your diverse funding streams, but what if you need money NOW?
How do you prioritize what to do?
Let’s look at some other revenue-generators besides grants.
Products (Goods) & Services
Products are actual goods which are tangible.
Some examples are:
- Merchandise (i.e. T-shirts with your logo on it)
- Plushies that you created
Services are types of skills based and are intangible.
Some examples include:
- Cooking classes
- Specialty skill workshops (online or virtual)
- Dog walking
So how do you know what type of product or service to create?
For the urban garden, they might sell plant-based cookies for a product, and they might also offer cookie-baking classes as a service. They could poll their members and schools and ask what types of cookie classes people would want to have. They could also livestream some of the classes to build momentum for their products. Who knows, eventually they could sell a cookbook and offer specialty couple cooking classes, retreats and more! But start small and see what people will pay for and once again, make sure it matches your mission!
One of the nonprofits I work with is in marine conservation and a big-ticket product idea has been to sell rash guards with their really cool logo on it. For services, they could offer marine habitat tours or educational workshops.
For the animal rescue center or a nonprofit that caters towards children, a plushie stuffed animal might be a good product (especially if you have an animal in your logo). A service could be to provide dog walking, grooming, or other services where the animal rescue nonprofit has experts.
Whether you offer a product, service, or both think like a business.
If you were a business what goods would make sense for that business to sell?
Don’t have any ideas?
Here are 7 steps to create quick money-generating products or services.
Step 1: Start a Brainstorming Session
Get your board of directors, staff, or peeps together and just start brainstorming. Get together and start coming up with ideas (skip to #3 to get ideas flowing!).
Schedule out a time and really take the time to think about it! Remember, no idea is a bad idea YET. When you get to step two and three you can start narrowing this down. For now, brainstorm away!
Step 2: Identify Products and/or Goods Aligned with your Mission
Make sure you first break out your mission statement, so you stay on target! This is also important for tax purposes. Remember your nonprofit has tax-exempt status if you are a 501(c) organization.
In order to NOT pay taxes on goods and services that you produce, they must align with your mission. As a disclaimer, I am not a lawyer or an accountant so make sure that you check in with your state to see if your product or service is exempt.
The more aligned your nonprofit’s good or service is, the more likely it will be to be exempt from taxes.
Step 3: Identify Expert or Low-Hanging Areas for Products and/or Services
What are some areas that your nonprofit already thrives in? For example, if people at your nonprofit make amazing plant-based cookies already and you are always being asked to share them, then that might be a good product to sell!
Or what would be easy to do; i.e. low-hanging fruit? If you find a place that has amazing rash guards and you can send them your logo and they manufacture everything and dropship (i.e. you keep no inventory and only market the items) then that might be easy and something that people are already asking for.
As a side note, this is what I figured out for my book The Beginner’s Guide to Grant Writing. Originally, I was thinking of keeping inventory and having to ship every time I had an order, but then there was Kindle Direct Publishing on Amazon. So, any time someone orders a book on Amazon, KDP actually prints it and ships it out. Of course, they keep a percentage of the sale, but it is worth the printing, shipping, and market platform costs! That is drop shipping. It rules.
Step 4: Conduct Market Research
Find out what your followers/partners/peeps would buy. This doesn’t mean you have to do a full-on Kickstarter campaign. Instead of ordering 5000 plushies before you do any research, maybe create a social media poll and ask your followers if they would buy that product!
Also, see what else is selling out there! Are there 5 million plant-based cookies? Figure out how to make yours unique. That can be done by Step 5…
Step 5: Tell the Story on How the Profits Benefit the Nonprofit
Remember it’s not just that the consumer feels healthier by eating a plant-based cookie or feels warmer in a rash guard. Yes, those features are important to discuss, but more importantly is the impact that it has on your nonprofit. By eating that healthy cookie not only will the consumer feel better, but they will also help keep an urban garden operating and create a healthier environment for the world. This is where your nonprofit has a unique factor.
So tell the story! Where? That leads to step six:
Step 6: Create a Landing Page for Products/Services and Sell in Advance
Most nonprofit’s have websites or social media. It is important to have a place where people can read your story, or if you are sharing videos then see your story. Create a place that discusses the features and benefits of your product or service.
Then also include a place where people can buy your product in advance or book your service in advance! This is brilliant because it gives you the capital to make that order or arena.
If you are selling a dog plushie where the profits go towards an animal rescue center, then create plushies around existing dogs you serve. You could even call the plushy designs after dog’s names. Then show how the profits go towards helping build more dog kennels or what not. This is a great way to build that awareness and get Step 7…
Step 7: Share the Process To Create Awareness and Momentum
While you are building out your product, you’ve created a pre-sale landing page or a simple sign-up sheet and start collecting money for your orders. That way you can invest the capital from pre-sales into your inventory. Plus, you start creating buzz and momentum about your product!
This actually acts as a great way to build awareness about your nonprofit. The product is something people can talk about. Just always make sure you connect it back to your mission somehow.
The ultimate goal is to really increase lasting support for your nonprofit. Yes, you wanted to make money quickly, and now you know how… but this last step will go from just creating a product or service and go to creating a movement. Remember, share posts, videos, and testimonials.
To wrap up,
- Start a brainstorming session
- Identify Products and/or Goods Aligned with your Mission
- Identify Expert or Low-Hanging Areas for Products and/or Services
- Conduct Market Research
- Tell the Story on How the Profits Benefit the Nonprofit
- Create a Landing Page for Products/Services and Sell in Advance
- Share the Process to Create Awareness and Momentum
Remember, your products or services don’t just have to be sold individually. Go to corporations, government agencies, education centers, etc. and see if you can get bulk orders. The best way to find these organizations it to look for some that have similar mission statements.
Maybe they have a company event coming up and want to give out gifts to all their employees. How awesome would it be if they could find a gift that aligns with their mission? Believe me, companies are always looking for products to buy and give as gifts or giveaways. Or maybe they need professional development in an area where your nonprofit can offer a service.