Innovation: How Nonprofits Expand and Grow

By: Peggy JenningsPeggy Jennings

Nonprofits understand the need for money to fulfill their mission. With traditional donations dropping, nonprofits are forced to develop sustainable revenue generating initiatives. But how is that accomplished? One way is to ensure that you are doing the most you can with what you have. In our experience, there are several ways that nonprofits can be innovative in how they achieve their revenue generation goals:

Expand what you do – take knowledge you already have from your mission-driven operations and create new programs. Examples:

  • A nonprofit whose mission is to support disabled persons with employment opportunities created a new program to receive, repackage and sell local produce in a retail storefront
  • Animal rescue operations were expanded with a retail operation for dog and cat grooming
  • Job placement services for homeless adults were bolstered by initiating a culinary training program also offered to the wider community

Change the way you fundraise – refresh that annual gala or golf tournament with an event that will attract new donors to your cause. Examples:

  • Symphony created a triple-play win by hosting a music / food / wine event
  • Healthcare unit sponsored a series of dance marathons at local high schools
  • Art for students entity raised funds with a “300 plates” event – student artists created small art pieces that were then auctioned off to the public

Use your assets wisely – what do you already have that can be re-purposed? Examples:

  • Junior league chapter remodeled their office space to be more efficient and now rent their excess space to tenants
  • Animal shelter supports local nursing homes and care centers by providing pet companions to residents, generating donations from new donor base
  • Opera recycles stage sets to create new staging for first-run productions

Theses nonprofits along with many others have successfully implemented sustainable initiatives. By using the resources you have available you can achieve sustainability and further pursue your mission.

The Importance of Understanding Millennials in the Workplace

LauriBy: Lauri Dahlberg, PHR, SHRM-CP

Our work places are changing. For the first time ever, there are four generations in the workplace.  One in particular is unique, and based on their sheer volume and drive, they will change the way we do business.

Millennials are currently the largest generation on the planet, with 75.3 million in the workplace. If you think that’s a lot, then stop to think about this:  that generation is projected to increase to 80.1 million in 2036. And to further illustrate this point, try this on: Millennials will make up half of the workforce by 2020.

Are you wondering why you should care? Well, Millennials come with their own unique perspective, expectations and ambition.  They were shaped by historical experiences that showed them loyalty to corporations isn’t the best (parents laid off, Exxon Valdez oil spill); authority figures can’t always be trusted (Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, Enron); and public places aren’t always safe (OKC bombing, 911, high school shootings).  Due to these experiences, many Millennials have chosen to build their own path and not wait for things to happen.  Their mentors/idols include people who took ideas and made billions (think Mark Zuckerberg with Facebook and reality tv stars like the Kardashians).

More than that, they’re changing the workplace dynamic. Millennials have a strong desire to make the world a better place. Millennials are more globally aware and focused than any other generation, according to New York Times in Education. They are also more networked and more aware of things going on real-time, thanks to technology.  Since many of them grew up constantly connected, they are incredibly transparent, showing the good and the bad through social media and in conversation.  But it doesn’t just stop with them – they expect others to be transparent too.

If you manage Millennials, it’s important to understand where they’re coming from and what drives them. Millennials hunger for growth, development and advancement.  They want what they do to have meaning and to make a difference.  They enjoy working in teams and succeeding with other people.  They have a strong need to be autonomous (micro-managers need not apply), and want to find a better, faster way to get the job done.  Most importantly, they want to be kept “in-the-know” and given information, even if it isn’t necessarily relevant to them (see note on transparency above).

Millennials will soon outnumber Baby Boomers and Generation X. Due to predicted workforce shortages, employers will need to shift their current way of doing business to accommodate the style of the Millennial. How do you do this? Here are a few tips:

  • Provide training that is hands-on.
  • Allow work to be accomplished in groups or teams.
  • Allow Millennials to review a process and then make recommendations on how to improve it.

Millennials are among us – many in leadership roles already. It’s time we take them for who they are and harness their positive qualities to improve our organizations.  Encourage their entrepreneurial spirit and transparent drive … or they’ll find a different workplace that will.

Status Quo for the Nonprofit Industry?



Hi, what’s new?

Nothing much.


This could be a conversation with a teenager.  Or, perhaps with fill-in-the-blank nonprofit. In a recent blog post, Kate Barr, Executive Director at Nonprofits Assistance Fund, outlined the challenges facing our nation’s nonprofits according to Nonprofit Finance Fund’s 2015 State of the Nonprofit Sector report. Then, she compared this report to others from over the last 25 years. And guess what? She noticed many of the same challenges plaguing our nonprofits in 1990 are the same today.

What she also noted is that resilience is a common characteristic of the sector, too.  We agree.  Give her post a read; it provides great perspective.

We are grateful to have Kate’s optimistic outlook and keen observation as she judges Resourcefullness Award submissions in Minnesota this fall.