By Rolfe Larson, Joining Vision and Action

Nonprofits are hardly new to the venture development world. Your organization already engages in venture activities if, for example, you charge fees for some services, you make publications available for sale, or you sublease space to another organization. So the typical “why” is pretty obvious: to increase and diversity your funding base and expand your impact.

venture development

The Wheelly Good Coffee Cart project in Kingston, Australia, helps youth connect with employment. Image by Chris Eastman.

There are several other good reasons to learn venture development skills. Nonprofits today operate in a dynamic world. Needs change, funders discover new interests, competitors emerge from unexpected places, and new service opportunities arise. Venture development can help you manage the inevitable changes by giving your organization skills to evaluate opportunities and risks from a business perspective.

Social enterprise development can also reduce your risks. An important part of the venture development process is gathering information –- about your organization, your constituents, your allies and competitors, and the environment you operate in. Venture development provides a guide to gathering the right information and framework for analyzing it. In this way, you can make decisions based on data rather than impressions.

In many ways, managers of a nonprofit venture address the same issues faced by their counterparts in the for-profit sector. You must determine what customers want, find a cost-effective way to provide it, and persuade them that your product or service is the better choice among similar offerings. To stay in business, venture revenues must exceed costs.

Staring and growing a venture is usually a long-term proposition. That said, often, with careful research, planning, intuition and creativity, nonprofit managers can use ventures to inspire staff, serve constituents in new ways, and provide the nonprofit with additional dollars to carry on its good work.

A good way to start thinking about making money as a social enterprise is first to figure out your objectives. To help you get started, below is brief worksheet for identifying your purpose, your capacity and your concerns, when exploring venture development.

[et_bloom_locked optin_id=”optin_11″] Click here to download your worksheet. [/et_bloom_locked]

Rolfe Larson is a Denver-based social enterprise advisor for Joining Vision And Action (formerly JVA Consulting). JVA helps organizations achieve greater impact and financial sustainability, typically through market research, feasibility studies and business plans. Their new suite of affordable SE consulting products is called the Social Enterprise Navigator series.