A group of nonprofit organizations is softening Northeast Ohio's hard economic punch by sustaining the organizations' missions through profit-making ventures.
New revenue-producing sources are being developed through the Cleveland Community Wealth Collaborative, one component of a partnership between the Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Case Western Reserve University and Community Wealth Ventures Inc.
The Mandel Center and Community Wealth Ventures also teamed up to host a workshop for local nonprofit leaders, who are participating in the 10-month business planning program of the Cleveland Community Wealth Collaborative. During today's workshop at the center, Julius Walls Jr., the president and CEO of Greyston Bakery -- producer of the famous brownies used in Ben & Jerry's brand ice cream and some other 20,000 pounds of ice cream mix-ins daily, among other bakery items -- gave the keynote address. Greyston Bakery is known nationally for its socially responsible, as well as enterprising, goals.
The new partnership between the Mandel Center and Community Wealth Ventures already features several projects under development ranging from the Cleveland Botanical Garden creating "Ripe from Downtown," a line of salsa and fresh produce from the organization's city gardens, to The Gathering Place creating a children's book to help preschoolers understand a parent's or grandparent's cancer.
In addition to the Cleveland Botanical Garden and The Gathering Place, the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center is expanding its education and training for professional audiences, Saint Martin de Porres High School is expanding its corporate work study program, Volunteers of American of Greater Ohio is developing the Veterans Workforce Training Program, and Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio is branching out into new Northeast Ohio communities with its fee-for-service arts programs. All are participating in the Community Wealth Ventures program of coaching, workshops and business plan development.
"The initiative will build upon the Mandel Center's track record of preparing current and future nonprofit leaders to transform their agencies into high-performing and successful organizations," said Susan Eagan, executive director of the Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations.
Eagan added, "The goal is to assist nonprofit organizations with creating or growing ventures. By helping these ventures succeed, the collaborative will help participants produce unrestricted income to support their mission-related work."
The payoff can be big, according to Patricia Nobili, executive director of the Achievement Centers for Children and a graduate two years ago of the 10-month business planning process.
During workshops and coaching, Nobili and a team from the Achievement Centers put together a sound business plan for Achieve Consulting. The consulting service draws upon the Achievement Centers' strengths in educating autistic children and targets a need to train educators in ways to help the one in 150 children with this learning problem. The consulting business started with one consultant last year and now employs one half-time and three full-time workers.
"Besides the revenue benefits, we are getting our name out in the community," Nobili said.
Achievement Centers puts the revenues back into the organization to assist families and children who may have been left behind for financial reasons.
Success begets success, according to Nobili. The organization has branched into other ventures using a similar model. Its newest revenue stream is using its Camp Cheerful sites as places for corporations to do team-building activities.
The organization went beyond expectations of breaking even with the two ventures and realized $55,000 in new revenue in the second year to supplement its $8-million budget. Next year, the third year for the enterprise, she predicts profits will double.
In future years, Nobili said the plan is to launch consulting services in other disability areas to assist local school districts and educators in helping children in their local classrooms. For children with special needs that go beyond the mainstream classroom, the additional revenue supports the preschool through fourth grade program for autistic children.
Also building on what it does best is Care Alliance, 1350 St. Clair Ave, an organization that provides healthcare for the homeless and people in public housing.
Community Wealth Ventures Collaborative alumna, Jenice Contreras from Care Alliance said they debated a number of ventures from tattoo removal to a travel clinic. But with a new state-of-the-art dental office and facilities, the organization decided to expand those services.
This spring Care Alliance has quietly launched the for-profit Avenue Dental Services to implement an off-hours dental practice that captures professionals living or working in downtown Cleveland. Avenue Dental Services is open from 4-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Saturday mornings, 8 a.m. to noon, for people who can pay for their services. Overseeing the operations are Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine alumni Drs. Paul Grande and Nicole Harris.
"As nonprofits, we are in the mindset of pricing things in a way that is affordable for everyone and not in the mindset to make money," said Contreras. "It's a different market and many of us don't have that expertise."
Contreras said if anyone asks her if you need to spend 10 months writing a business plan, she answers, "Yes." It is important to really think through every component of starting a new business and how it relates to the non-profit mission work.
"It was a lot of work," she explained, "but I know we have a solid venture." Avenue Dental Services is currently taking new patients. The formal launch for the practice will take place on August 6.
For nonprofits interested in generating revenue sources for their organizations, the Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations will sponsor several community workshops:
All workshops are from 8:30 a.m. to noon. For information, call 216-368-2304.
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