January 14, 2021

Want Money? Karen’s Basic Income Tool Kit

Rank your nonprofit’s ability to earn more money.

What lies between you and more funding for your nonprofit organization? Less than you think. Does something keep your nonprofit organization from reaching the next funding level? Here are eight key income building blocks to help you evaluate your nonprofit organization’s ability to step up and earn more funding. As you read, rank your organization from 1 to 5, with 5 representing the full use of that building block at your organization.

1. Quality Results

You create results worthy of investment, whether you label them outcomes, outputs, or products. You change lives. You offer donors the chance to participate in helping to improve lives.  If you can’t articulate the specific results of your work, ask your customers. Then, identify and categorize what you learn.  Results are the foundation of all income–they are the value you provide.

2 Well-known

Good word exists about you “on the street.” When people talk about your efforts, you hear a positive buzz. This is no accident or byproduct. You intentionally let people know about your value. You are never too busy to get the word out. For help, read Sarah Durham’s book Brandraising.

3. Focused 

You control the number of mission and income-generation ideas you undertake. (Uncontrolled, they swarm around you like mosquitoes at dusk, keeping you busy swatting but not making progress.) You focus on one, and no more than three, to energize you, your board, and your staff.

4. Asks

You ask people for money. One of the top five reasons people donate is because you asked them. While passive asks –such as mentions in your newsletter–help, they are insufficient. You need to make specific requests for financial support from individuals regularly. “Will you donate to the annual appeal?” Your marketing efforts (#2) encourage people to give. When you fail to ask, your potential donors assume you don’t need the funds.

5. Board Credibility

When you mention your board members, people nod and indicate their respect. People want to be part of your organization because they know that your board members take things seriously if they don’t create a nominating committee to look at board member recruitment. The Executive Director is one of the group’s leaders.

6. Community-Wide

You have a strategy to grow a community of supporters every year. A neighborhood school’s community is the families it serves and its neighborhood. If you’re a parenting education program, your community includes parents and all people in your service area who care about children and families. Who is your community? How do you engage them? How will you reach more of them?

7. Sustainability

You have a strategy to thrive. Your “business model” identifies reliable income that will fund you long into the future. Your model works in the real world. When local foundation leaders talk about you– they do so with respect for your nonprofit’s ongoing position in the community.

8. Partnerships

While you might do it alone, you recognize that partners allow you to leverage resources, bring new dimensions to your work, and provide your customers with better outcomes.  You find partnerships to start or improve every year.


How did you do? Now, total your score and compare it to the categories below.

34-40  High

28-33  Moderate

20-27  Neutral

16-19  Conservative

Choose one of the blocks to improve in the year ahead. Then, print this page out and store it in your tickler file. Retake it next year. How have you grown? For more help raising revenue, read the first chapter of Let’s Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.

If you want to know even more about nonprofit revenue, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’d love to help you raise more money to help your nonprofit thrive. Schedule a time for a free discovery chat here. -Karen

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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