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In Nonprofit Business, Revenue Generation Begins with Five Questions

Customer acquisition and revenue generation are two issues that cause most business owners to have sleepless nights. Nonprofit businesses are no exception. The thing about nonprofits is, unlike for-profits that have products and services to sell, nonprofits rely on their missions and the goodwill of others to stay afloat financially.  

The language might be a little different, but the issue is the same: just as for-profit business owners look for creative ways to acquire and retain customers, the nonprofit leader looks for new and innovative ways to acquire and retain donors.  

An unfortunate misconception that many new nonprofit leaders must quickly come to grips with is the fact that the money doesn’t raise itself. Despite the many benefits that being a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) corporation brings, giant sacks of money that arrive regularly, without any effort, is not one of them.  

So, how does a nonprofit attract “customers” (aka donors)? First and foremost, the nonprofit leader can’t be afraid to build relationships or ask for money. Both are required for successful fundraising and fiscal sustainability for a nonprofit business. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had this conversation with both new and seasoned nonprofit CEO’s: If you’re afraid to ask for money, simply put you’re in the wrong business. Fundraising requires fearlessness, so even if it’s your least favorite thing to do, do it anyway. Practice raises money.  

Equally importantly, the nonprofit leader must be able to articulate their organizations’ mission, impact, goals, and how donated funds will help reach those goals. This is what we call a “case statement”. With nothing tangible to sell, the nonprofit’s mission and impact become its products. Fundraising outcomes will always fall short in the absence of a solid case statement. Think about it: if you can’t tell someone why your nonprofit is worthy of investment, or how such investment in your organization will result in positive impacts in the community, why should anyone give a dime to your cause?  

Whether writing a grant or sitting in front of a corporate partner or major individual donor prospect, an effective case statement will help the nonprofit leader demonstrate their organization’s value, impact, and attractiveness as a potential investment In my experience, a good case statement answers the following five questions: 

  1. 1.What is your organization’s mission and who does it serve? 

  1. 2.Why and how does your organization’s work matter? 

  1. 3.What are your/your board’s goals for the next 1-3 years? 

  1. 4.What does your organization need funding-wise to accomplish these goals? 

  1. 5.How can donors help? 

A good case statement will go a long way for your nonprofit business and its ability to attract revenue in the form of charitable donations, grants, and corporate sponsorships. If you can’t answer these five questions clearly and concisely – and close the deal by asking for a specific dollar amount take a deep breath, start at #1 and build it from there. Remember: practice raises money.  








Launa K. Wilson is a veteran nonprofit professional specializing in governance, management & fundraising. She is the owner of Launa Wilson Consulting LLC based in Riverside, CA. Ms. Wilson can be reached at launa@launawilson.com.