A Catalog, You Say?
* Is there a team of folks who can be relied on to help the project as it gets going? Any new venture makes additional demands on the organization that need to be supported internally. Among those who have to buy in are membership, marketing and administration.
* Do you have the funds to invest in a business, or do you have a source of donor seed money to get the business up and running?
* Is there strong name recognition for your organization among the segment of the market that’s likely to be your customers?
* Does your organization have a strong sense of its brand identity?
* Is there a current database of names of members, donors and other affiliated persons?
* Have you thought through what distribution channels you would use? For a real business, you need to think about how you can combine at least two of the following: retail, online and catalog.
* Is there a person or group of people with an entrepreneurial spirit that can serve as the catalysts and actual workers to get the business up and running?
* Are there folks with expertise on the outside who can be called upon by your organization?
* Has someone outside your nonprofit with experience in other successful, similar ventures taken a look at the business plan? Have you taken his or her comments into account?
If all you’re looking to do is supplement revenue by selling merchandise, you don’t need to take all of these questions into account. But it’s still important to create a business plan and to gain buy-in from your organization.
Move ahead … with caution
Once you know how you want to proceed, consider the merchandise. Some questions to answer before product development are:
* Who’s the target customer for these products? What are the demographics involved with this group?