Nonprofit organizations across the Greater Hartford region are facing an increased demand for services despite limited government funding and declining donations. Some local organizations are proactively meeting this challenge by generating additional revenue through social enterprise: selling a product or service that complements their mission and supports the financial sustainability of the organization.
This self-supporting approach to revenue generation is new to many nonprofits in the Greater Hartford region. In response, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving's Nonprofit Support Program (NSP) launched the Social Enterprise Accelerator, designed to help organizations expand beyond traditional grants and donations when looking for new sources of revenue.
Last week, the Foundation announced a matching challenge. For every dollar of start-up capital raised by the ten organizations participating in the Social Enterprise Accelerator project, the Foundation will match dollar for dollar, up to 50% of the goal, not to exceed $40,000. The announcement followed individual "Fast Pitch" sessions on June 20 and 21, where each organization presented their business plans to current and potential donors and made a direct ask for financial support toward startup capital needs.
"The enthusiasm and effort that area nonprofit organizations have brought to the Social Enterprise Accelerator program has exceeded our expectations," said Nonprofit Support Program Director Melanie Tavares. "While the creative ideas these organizations have brought forward are truly exciting, we were even more impressed by their level of commitment to developing detailed and viable business plans. Clearly, nonprofits in Greater Hartford have an appetite for social enterprise and a need for new revenue sources; we are proud to help them meet that need."
This three-year program began in October 2018 with a series of four intensive workshops on social enterprise. Of the 49 agencies that began the program, 38 completed the workshop series, 32 applied and 10 were accepted for additional business plan development, implementation support and fundraising coaching through October 2021. The Social Enterprise Accelerator is provided in partnership with No Margin, No Mission, a national consulting firm dedicated to helping nonprofits increase their earned income and entrepreneurial capacity.
Community Child Guidance Clinic operates a school in Manchester for children ages 3-15 years of age of varying academic levels, learning abilities, and behavioral and emotional issues that serves students for districts throughout the region. One of the challenges for districts, students, families and staff is the cost and administration of transportation to the school. Currently, referring districts contract with different transportation companies to get the students to and from school. Due to safety concerns and lack of vehicle driver training in behavioral de-escalation models, districts typically have to utilize as few as one van or bus per student.
Recognizing these challenges, Community Child Guidance Clinic Chief Executive Officer Jamie Bellenoit and her executive team came up with the idea of using the agency's vans and teaching assistant staff to provide therapeutic transportation services to the districts they serve. By having trained staff who the students already know serve as drivers, more students can share vans, allowing for the need for fewer drivers, reducing expenses and also providing higher quality services to the districts, the students and their families.
"Participating in the Social Enterprise Accelerator program was a true example of synergy as we had an opportunity to work with our program partners, Hartford Foundation staff, and No Margin-No Mission to fully realize our vision," said Bellenoit. "Being a part of the nonprofit clinical and special education world, we simply lacked the expertise to develop a cohesive business plan and launch it. With the generous support of the Foundation and the expertise of Larry Clark from No Margin, No Mission as well as Sara Leonard, we now have the resources necessary to begin implementing our therapeutic transportation services this fall."
The ten nonprofit organizations continuing in the three-year program are:
Established in the late 1980s, NSP is key to the Foundation's capacity-building efforts, annually serving more than 200 nonprofits and giving $2 million in grants. NSP's close contact with Greater Hartford's nonprofits provides it with a unique understanding of the trends within the sector.
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding communities. Made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations, the Foundation has awarded grants of more than $758 million since its founding in 1925. For more information about the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, visit www.hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.