Build Something

There are frequent stories about our country’s need for growth and job creation.  We are told that people want meaningful employment that is unlikely to be outsourced or given over to automation or robotics.  This gives your nonprofit another opportunity to give back to your community.

Building a building or business creates an economic benefit for a community.  Building a new product, adding a new service to an existing portfolio, and writing a phone app are other examples of things that create an economic benefit for a community.  Sometimes the activities create economic benefits that reach further than just their community of origin.

When something is built, it adds to the economy in many ways.  It creates new jobs.  The increased economic activity strengthens the local economy.  The tax base of the community expands.  The growth in the economy adds to the community’s vibrancy, optimism, and sense of well-being.

By starting a new program or adding new services, your nonprofit becomes a builder.  Since the new program or services will be mission centric, they will be beneficial to your clients and, by extension, your community.  Your new program strengths your mission and adds to the sustainability of your nonprofit and community.

The new program or services will be one more way your nonprofit is meaningfully, measurably, and durably changing your clients’ lives and your community.  Your new program or service provides double value for your community (new benefits for clients and additional economic activity in your community).  Your current donor and community support demonstrate how much appreciation there is for your program.  That gives you some insight into how much your new program or services will be supported.

In addition to the client benefits, you can use the economic impact to persuade your donors and community to fund the development and deployment of your new program or services.  You will need to build the business case for support.  The prospective supporters will want to know how much it will cost to develop and launch the program or services.  They will also need to know what you estimate the economic benefit will be (number of jobs created, potential income and other tax revenue from those jobs, the additional services your nonprofit will be purchasing to develop and operate the new program or services, etc.).

The formula is simple.  The economic benefit funds the development and initial launch of your new program or services.  The expanded impact the new program or services have on the lives of your clients will provide the expanded support necessary to cover the ongoing operating expenses.

Before you begin the process of building something new for your community and clients, you will want to test-drive your ideas with representatives from each of the groups who will be supporting your initiative during development, launch, and ongoing operations.  Their input will help to ensure that your new program will be more than viable, it will have a high level of sustainability.

Next Step:

Ensure your new initiative has strong community and donor support

Build both economic and client impact cases for your initiative

Share your plan with both groups of supporters (economic impact and client impact)

Ensure you have adequate support for both phases before beginning to build

Your community may be willing to consider a significant increase in an existing program as a build.  For example if beginning to serve an underserved demographic group would require your staff to double, the community and the demographic group might be willing to treat the expansion like a build because of the significant economic impact and the number of new clients served.

The preceding example makes another point.  The number of people served or hired is less important than gathering support for the initiative.  This implies that success depends as much on your advocates as it does on the benefits the initiative provides.

Take It Further:

Look for other opportunities to leverage your nonprofit’s activities to attract support from nontraditional sources

Include the economic benefit of the lifelong impact your program has (client self-sufficiency, client upward mobility, etc.) when seeking support for operational funding and talking to non-traditional sources of support


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