Ten Nonprofit Funding Models
IMPLICATIONS FOR NONPROFITS In the current economic climate it is tempting for nonprofit leaders to seek money wherever they can find it, causing some nonprofits to veer off course. That would be a mistake. During tough times it is more important than ever for nonprofit leaders to examine their funding strategy closely and to be disciplined about the way that they raise money. We hope that this article provides a framework for nonprofit leaders to do just that.
The funding paths that nonprofits take will vary, and not all will find models that support large-scale programs. The good news is that all nonprofits can benefit from greater clarity about their most effective funding model, and it is possible for some nonprofits to develop models that raise large amounts of money. As mentioned earlier, almost 150 new nonprofits (not counting universities and hospitals), surpassed $50 million in annual revenues between 1970 and 2003.
On the other side of the equation, philanthropists are becoming more disciplined about their nonprofit investing. A growing number of foundations, such as the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and New Profit Inc., are investing in their grantees to improve both program and funding models. We hope that this article helps philanthropists become clearer about their funding strategy so that they can support their programs more effectively.
As society looks to the nonprofit sector and philanthropy to solve important problems, a realistic understanding of funding models is increasingly important to realizing those aspirations.
Notes 1 In a November 2008 Bridgespan survey of more than 1001 nonprofits, leaders were asked which of eight different and often conflicting fundraising tactics would play some role or a major role in their approach to addressing the downturn. Nearly half (48 percent) of respondents said that six or more would. 2 For example, see Thomas Malone, Peter Weill, Richard Lai, et al., “Do Some Business Models Perform Better Than Others?” MIT Sloan Research Paper No. 4615-06, May 2006. 3 For an early framework looking at “donative” vs. “commercial” nonprofits, see Henry Hansmann, “The Role of Nonprofit Enterprise,” Yale Law Journal, 89, 5, April 1980. 4 William Foster and Gail Fine, “How Nonprofits Get Really Big,” Stanford Social Innovation Review