Who Benefits From Your Nonprofit’s Work?
“Cui bono” is Latin for “who benefits?”
Cui bono is an extremely important question in the nonprofit sector. In most cases, the question of who benefits is directed at the end-user of your nonprofit: What are your program’s outcomes? How does your nonprofit benefit society?
But that question often is not directed toward the for-profit businesses that also benefit from your positive outcomes.
By digging deep into cui bono, you will be able to find new funders for your nonprofit organization. By understanding the secondary and tertiary benefactors of your nonprofit’s intervention, you will figure out who has a vested interest in your success and then be able to monetize that information.
For example, a small nonprofit focused on medical transport is driving low-income individuals who could not afford the trip to various medical facilities to get the treatment they need. Even with volunteer drivers, the nonprofit is having a hard time generating the support it needs to keep the lights on. By skipping medical treatments, these individuals—often cancer patients—were putting themselves at great health risks. These individuals definitely will benefit by having access to transportation.
But who else benefits?
The hospitals and medical centers that are billing insurance companies and Medicare for these services do. They lose money when people cancel their appointments. It’s a big hit in their productivity and what they can bill for. It greatly benefits them when a patient is 100 percent reliable.
Not only do the hospitals benefit by having an increased show-up rate, but so do the pharmaceutical companies that sell the drugs the doctors give their patients. If a patient does not show up for his or her chemotherapy treatment or pick up his or her prescriptions, the hospitals use less and therefore buy less from the pharmaceutical companies.
This organization never thought to reach out to medical centers or pharmaceutical companies to ask them to make tax-deductible donations, using the argument that this organization’s positive outcomes basically will let them earn back their donations via increased medical billing and sales.
Sometimes it’s a blind spot for organizations, an inability or unwillingness to see themselves from this much wider perspective. For-profits and nonprofits share many of the same supply chains and inhabit the same ecosystems.
Understand how your organization fits in with various supply chains and how the outcomes your nonprofit generates affect another company’s inputs. These are the types of organizations and companies that are willing to invest in your ability to produce more outcomes to feed their own need for inputs.
Another example is school catchments—the geographical border of a particular school’s population. Let’s say several nonprofits begin providing additional services at a school. After time, the school improves in quality—the extra interventions start working. Who besides the students and their parents benefit?
Anyone with a vested interest in buying and selling the properties within the improved catchment borders—real-estate agents, bankers, mortgage brokers, developers, the city via the title transfer tax, moving companies, etc. They all stand to benefit from rising property values that are being created via your nonprofit’s ability to produce a national-champion robotics team at the school or improve the school’s overall math scores.
Armed with this knowledge and the ability to convey it, nonprofits can explain to their various for-profit counterparts, in a language they can easily understand, how they fit in with each other in this shared ecosystem.
Nonprofits do nothing but add value in the supply chain. In fact, nonprofits, by their own design, cannot extract any benefit from the value they add to the supply chain, therefore they must reach out to others in the supply chain that value the same inputs and outputs to support their works.
Tivoni Devor, MBA, has spent his entire career in the nonprofit sector. While working for diverse institutions in many roles, Tivoni has often found himself developing earned revenue models and designing strategic partnerships. Tivoni currently works as manager of partnerships and outreach at Urban Affairs Coalition, where he helps social entrepreneurs leverage fiscal sponsorship to jumpstart their nonprofit endeavors. Tivoni lives in Philadelphia, with his wife Jennifer and daughter Ava. The thoughts and content of his columns are his and his alone.