Earned Income Stream Primer

Pictured: an actual stream

    Like many of you, I’ve had sustainability on the mind recently. It’s grant season, but a healthy organization has a mix of income streams including grants, individual giving and earned income streams. Earned income can be a boon to any nonprofit looking for more unrestricted income. Pursuing these streams does come at a cost, both of time and of resources, but depending on the organization it may be worth the investment.

    Usually I like to go in-depth, but this list will be quick and dirty:

1) By-products

        The best way to explain this one is to give an example: Dismas House, an organization here in South Bend that helps former convicts reintroduce themselves to the community, sells the artistic creations that their clients make during art therapy. It happens over the course of their normal program, adds a little income and gives a sense of satisfaction to the arts. If there are products or services that your programs produce over their normal course of business, they may be potential income streams.

2) A monetized version of your program for private use

        If your program provides something that people other than your clients might want, one option for earned income is to offer it as a paid product or service in addition to offering it to your normal clients.

3) Rent out space/equipment

        If you have space or equipment that you own but are not always in use, you may be able to gain some extra income by renting them out when not in use.

4) Fee structures

        This is an option many find unpalatable, and sometimes I do as well, but it is an option. If you have to in order to continue operations or to operate sustainably, consider offering your program services for a sliding scale fee. This is the trickiest option, since every program and every organization will need to use a slightly different pay model in order to best serve its constituents and the needs of the organization.


    There are more, but these are the methods I believe will be of the most use to organizations that are considering new earned income streams. Best of luck!