In Scramble for Revenues, Nonprofits Look to New Ventures

With the economic recovery still struggling to gain traction three years after the financial crisis, a growing number of nonprofit organizations are exploring and/or launching profit-making initiatives as a way to boost income, the Washington Post reports.

At consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton's recent conference in McLean, Virginia, small charities received management and fundraising advice, with a particular focus on earned-income ventures. One panelist, Mike Curtin, CEO of D.C. Central Kitchen, advised nonprofit leaders to approach their work like a business, adding that if they didn't they "[would] not...be successful."

Far from a new idea, earned income has fueled the growth of large nonprofits like the Girl Scouts and Goodwill. At D.C. Central Kitchen, Curtin helped launch a venture to help make ends meet when the stock market nosedived in 2008, buying blemished produce at a discount from local farmers and reselling it at cost to local restaurants. More recently, the Latino Economic Development Corporation, which provides low- to moderate-income Latinos in the region with educational and financial tools, sold its financial services center to an El Salvador-based credit union for $30,000, but kept a 10 percent stake in the center worth an estimated $10,000.

As in the for-profit sector, not all ventures will be successful, noted a number of panelists at the conference. "There's a lot that goes into it," said Community Wealth Ventures director Summer Spencer, who moderated the panel. "You really have to do an assessment."

Vanessa Small. "In Down Economy, Nonprofits Explore Profit-Making Ventures." Washington Post 09/04/2011.