August 31, 2023

Are You Missing This Nonprofit Income Stream?

Have you ever felt that your nonprofit income development is missing something? Maybe you’re gearing up for the year-end appeal, submitting applications, exploring earned revenue, sponsorships, and more. Doing the whole array of fundraising activities can be exhausting. You may even feel discouraged.

The video explores the eighth nonprofit income stream, how to think about it, and why to pursue it.

Transcript of Are You Missing This Nonprofit Income Stream?

When it comes to nonprofit income development, do you wonder if something is missing about what you’re doing? Yes, you’re doing all the standard things, annual appeals, and grants, and donor stewardship, but yet you don’t feel like you’re making the traction you want. And so, therefore, you wonder, am I missing something?

Let’s talk about what that might be.

A number of years ago, I wrote the award-winning book 7 Nonprofit Income Streams, and, it discusses each of the seven streams that nonprofits actively can seek and basically how to get those.

But since that time, I’ve been thinking that there was an 8th stream that I didn’t include in the book. This 8th stream has the potential to become your favorite. It’s valuable, low labor, and it has a tendency to uplift you and your supporters whenever you get it.

To understand the stream, let’s talk about what the other seven streams do—what most fundraising does. Most fundraising is about identifying an income stream whatever the kind it is, and actually getting it into your funnel. So you’re pursuing it. That looks like this.

What happens is because these 7 streams are so well known, and there’s so much demand and competition is that many funders kind of began to do this. They put up a shield. They don’t take your calls. They don’t accept applications. They don’t—they don’t want to meet with you. They have literally avoided you at networking meetings. You can see them smiling, and they’re waving, and they’re moving away from you.

The 8th stream is fundamentally different. Instead of you seeking donors and seeking funders, they are actually seeking you. Its people who are actively looking for you for whatever reason. A foundation calls you or emails you at the end of the year and says, “Hey, can you spend $100,000 before yearend? We have a challenge.” So they’re already bought.


At the end of last year, I wanted to give some money. I had my parameters in mind. I was not interested in being sold. I wanted to buy and picked out two or three organizations, settled on one, wrote them a significant check. And I promptly got bombarded not with the thank you note, that was fine. It didn’t count that as bombardment, but I got emails, and mail, and calls, and text messages. And I was like, please stop. And this is like in January. I blocked them every way I can.

When I made a mid-year gift, not as much but a significant gift, I chose their competitor who has had the respect for my approach to send me a thank you but also occasional emails, occasional pieces of mail much less irritating because I am deciding what I want to buy. I don’t want to be sold.


The second example might be even in your own files, but here’s another one: the domestic violence shelter in one community in Florida received a $70,000 bequest, and when they checked their records, they found that years ago they had sold the person who gave the bequest one t-shirt.


Perhaps you applied for one of the Mackenzie Scott Yield grants. They’re a million dollars, and there are 6,000 applicants, which gives you roughly, if you may, if you applied, a 4 percent chance of getting a million dollars–which is not nothing.

But wouldn’t you have rather been found by the Yield Foundation, Mackenzie Scott, and her folks–than actually have to apply because you probably have that money already working for you.

So, if you feel like you’re missing something in your fundraising, it may be time to think back and think about who it is who might be wanting to buy what you have and not want to be sold.

It is a lovely source of revenue. It can be windfall gifts. It can be unsolicited major gifts, but it can just be some really nice new donors who come to you who really like you and want to support your work.

How are you helping them to navigate and find you? And what do you do to confirm their interest and that you should be the one they consider or actually choose?

There’s more on my website. I am actively working on a database of windfall winners as well as unsolicited major gift recipients, and what’s emerging is a really interesting pattern that shows us that nonprofits can actually take specific steps to help those who are seeking you and seeking the work you’re doing, to find you and invest in you.

What’s Next

You don’t have to figure this out by yourself.

For nonprofits that qualify, we offer the Quick Impressions Analysis and the Careful Look (as part of our advising service.) 

Follow this link to discover more about unsolicited major gifts.

Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.


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