Nonprofits are not adorable, cute, little organizations that help the needy. At least that’s how chief executive of D.C. Central Kitchen Mike Curtin puts it when people try to shame his nonprofit’s earned-income ventures.
“We’re a business and if we don’t approach it that way, we’re not going to be successful,” Curtin said to nearly 60 nonprofit leaders at a recent conference hosted by Booz Allen Hamilton at its McLean headquarters.
The panel discussion is one in a series of conferences that Booz Allen has organized since 2007 to provide small nonprofits with management and fundraising insights.
Panel members spoke about their successes, failures and challenges with launching an earned-income venture, which is the sale of goods and services by a nonprofit.
It’s not a new concept. Girl Scouts sell cookies each year, Goodwill sets up retail stores and even the National Zoo sells its animal dung as a gourmet fertilizer called Zoo Doo. But with an economic downturn that had many local nonprofits searching for new revenue streams, some are finding promise in selling products and services related to their mission.