Sustaining Nonprofits Through Entrepreneurship

Betsie Gambel 1.3.17By: Betsie Gambel, President

Early in my career, I immersed myself in nonprofit work, particularly as a volunteer, chairing countless fundraisers in the city. In those days, the pool of women who were “professional volunteers” was much larger than it is now. Today nonprofits are challenged with the changing face of volunteerism.  As a rule, no longer do they have the luxury of volunteers with a lot of discretionary time.

To that end, nonprofits are considering alternatives to the labor intense special events that traditionally fueled their organizations. Yes, galas, and auctions, walks and runs are still popular, but nonprofits are looking for other sources of funding. This trend has led to npo’s becoming entrepreneurs in order to sustain their organizations.

The interest in this topic is robust, and New Orleans Entrepreneur Week has taken note.  On Thursday, March 23, from 2-4 PM at the Center for Philanthropy, a panel will discuss “Entrepreneurial Approaches to Nonprofit Sustainability.”

These entrepreneurial organizations will discuss how they are sustaining their organizations outside of the traditional special events.

Attendees will hear from:

Melissa Sawyer, co-founder and executive director of Youth Empowerment Project, incorporated a Work and Learn Center/ bike repair shop providing training to underserved youth.

Keith Twitchell, president of Committee for a Better New Orleans (CBNO), led the organization in the development of the Big Easy Budget Game as a way to further its core mission while providing a recurring source of income by replicating it globally on a fee basis.

The New Orleans Mission, led by CEO David Bottner, established Mission Media Productions, whereby individuals living at the Mission are trained in film, broadcasting, online media and the arts. Mission Media Productions offers paid production services to the local community.

Al Kohorst, vice president of social enterprise for Volunteers of America, oversees Fresh Food Factor which contracts to provide healthy meals to schools, senior care and other organizations; Repairs on Wheels; and the vehicle donation program.

As you can see, most of these businesses harken back to or enhance the organization’s mission, offering an even stronger effort to help the nonprofit succeed.  While they may not have abandoned traditional fundraisers altogether, these entrepreneurial successes afford them another way to sustain and even grow their organization. And that ultimately means helping improve the quality of life for our community.