When Diversifying Revenue Streams, Mission and Vision are Key

May 10, 2023


Gilman Partners and Ignite Philanthropy co-hosted a nonprofit roundtable for Executive Directors, CEOs, CFOs, and development professionals around the region. Facilitated by our Nonprofit Practice Co-Leaders, Michele Plessinger and Barry Elkus, the Ignite team members who joined us were:

  • Scott Provancher – President & CEO
  • Tara Noland – Senior Vice President, Non-Profit Services
  • Julie Witten Lloyd – Associate Vice President

We took a deep dive into the reasons for nonprofits to diversify their revenue and how these initiatives have better equipped the organizations to fulfill their missions. Here are some key takeaways:

  • There is a general feeling of uncertainty around planning for 2024. COVID relief funds dwindled some time ago and we currently face a shaky economic landscape. One participant said, “The pandemic-induced stress is long gone, but so is the money.” Another stated that grassroots fundraising isn’t what it used to be.
  • Intentional community-centered messaging is vital for nonprofits. Donors love to feel connected to a community of giving. They want to know how hard nonprofits are working and how successful they are in their initiatives. Communicate to your donors about how the community-at-large is benefiting from their donations.
  • In-person events are back, but it takes a more creative approach to fundraisers these days to get people to attend. In general, people are more casual post-pandemic. As the world focuses more on experiences, nonprofit organizations should make experiences part of their events, too.
  • It’s important for individual donors to understand why their giving is crucial, especially for government funded organizations. Participants shared that individual donors may assume their gifts aren’t necessary because the organization receives government funding. But if money only covers certain programs or aspects of the organization, many still rely on individual philanthropy to fill the funding gaps.
  • Nonprofits have seen a tsunami of challenges in the past few years and are now focusing on planning their future revenue model. Nonprofits have always had to appeal to both the head and the heart of their donors, but now must tie this to outcomes and what their money did. Capital campaigns are becoming increasingly less focused on facility needs and more on the mission and vision of the organization. As one leader stated, “Money follows vision.” By adopting a visionary framework and staying mission-focused, these organizations can re-define what a strategic capital campaign looks like.
  • Cash is no longer king. One leader stated that donors to his organization are giving the same amount by volume but less by cash. Many nonprofits are now accepting stocks, bonds, and even company equity as a source of funding.
  • One nonprofit leader shared that they are focusing on funding their endowment. Because there will likely be a massive wealth transfer in the next 5-10 years, they are engaging with donors now. This isn’t an immediate solution to provide liquid capital, but it can help lead to long-term organizational sustainability.
  • Development Directors are in high demand. As nonprofits get out of triage mode and start focusing on the future of fundraising, many are elevating the level of development professionals on their staff. Executive Directors/CEOs should clearly define their strategic plan and tie philanthropy’s role into it to support the strategy and overall mission of the organization. Job descriptions for these professionals should be clear so that candidates know what is expected of them.