Ten Nonprofit Funding Models
5. PUBLIC PROVIDER Many nonprofits, such as the Success for All Foundation, work with government agencies to provide essential social services, such as housing, human services, and education, for which the government has previously defined and allocated funding. Nonprofits that provide these services use a funding model we call Public Provider. In some cases, the government outsources the service delivery function but establishes specific requirements for nonprofits to receive funding, such as reimbursement formulae or a request for proposal (RFP) process. As Public Providers grow, they often seek other funding sources to augment their funding base. TMC (formerly the Texas Migrant Council), which supports children and families in migrant and immigrant communities, is an example of an organization that uses the Public Provider funding model. At its inception in 1971, TMC tapped into the federal government’s Head Start program to fund its initial work, helping children prepare for school by focusing on the bilingual and bicultural needs of families. As TMC grew, its leaders sought to reduce its dependence on this one funding source and to identify other government funds. TMC now receives funding from a variety of federal, state, and local government sources. TMC has expanded from Texas into seven additional states and is offering new programs, such as literacy, prenatal care, and consumer education. Nonprofit leaders considering the Public Provider funding model should ask themselves the following questions:
* Is our organization a natural match with one or more large, preexisting government programs?
* Can we demonstrate that our organization will do a better job than our competitors?
* Are we willing to take the time to secure contract renewals on a regular basis?
6. POLICY INNOVATOR Some nonprofits, such as Youth Villages, rely on government money and use a funding model we call Policy Innovator. These nonprofits have developed novel methods to address social issues that are not clearly compatible with existing government funding programs. They have convinced government funders to support these alternate methods, usually by presenting their solutions as more effective and less expensive than existing programs. (By contrast, Public Providers tap into existing government programs to provide funds for the services they offer.) An example of a Policy Innovator is HELP USA. This nonprofit provides transitional housing for the homeless and develops affordable permanent housing for low-income families. Andrew Cuomo (son of former New York governor Mario Cuomo) founded HELP USA in 1986 as an alternative to New York’s approach of paying hotels to house the homeless in so-called “welfare hotels.” HELP USA’s innovative approach to the housing crisis came about in an era when homelessness was a prominent public issue and government funders were willing to try a novel approach. Cuomo gained the initial support of government decision makers by positioning his solution as both more effective and less costly, which was critical during New York’s fiscal crisis. In 2007, HELP USA’s revenues were $60 million, almost 80 percent of which came from government sources, half federal and half state and local. The organization was operating in New York City, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Houston, and Buffalo, N.Y. Nonprofit leaders considering the Policy Innovator funding model should ask themselves the following questions:
* Do we provide an innovative approach that surpasses the status quo (in impact and cost) and is compelling enough to attract government funders, which tend to gravitate toward traditional solutions?
* Can we provide government funders with evidence that our program works?
* Are we willing and able to cultivate strong relationships with government decision makers who will advocate change?
* At this time are there sufficient pressures on government to overturn the status quo?