Kevin Bryant, Director of Client Partnership, BDI

QUICK SHOT: Be prepared! 3 unique examples to help nonprofits survive in today’s economy

Learn from 3 nonprofits who are thriving

By Kevin Bryant, Director of Client Partnership

Are you like me? When I see a good deal on an item that may come in handy, it’s pretty hard to pass up… My wife sometimes rolls her eyes as I slide an oversized pack of SPAM into my Costco shopping cart, but as the Boy Scouts – and I! – like to say: “Be prepared.” 

Similarly, in fundraising, how should nonprofit organizations prepare as the economy continues to tumble and donors consider tightening up? 

I turned to some of the smartest fundraisers in the industry at the recent Citygate Network Conference in San Antonio for their insights. What they are doing to prepare for an election year and a rapidly changing culture war is smart and faithful. Read their expert tips to help nonprofits survive in today’s economy… 

Example #1: Stock the portfolio

I started with one of the most entrepreneurial fundraisers in the state of Texas, Bob Sweeney of Dallas LIFE Homeless Recovery Center, which is known for a variety of program-driven businesses that train and sustain their clients. His answer to how this nonprofit organization is preparing was surprising: “We’re starting an Endowment Fund.”  

Often used by churches, hospitals and universities, these tax-deductible, donor-generated funds are typically invested for growth and sustainability but are flexible and liquid for organizations that may need to act quickly and responsively.  

“Even in turbulent times, building this fund tells our board and our donors we are here for the long term, we’re planning for the future and will remain good stewards of their resources,” says Sweeney. 

This is a great example of a nonprofit organization diversifying and reserving capital as a way to prepare for economic market shifts that could happen quickly.  

Example #2: Seek out business ventures

One of my favorite survival foods is chocolate, and this next tip comes from one of the most astonishing (and mouthwatering) fundraising endeavors I’ve encountered. It’s a great example of a nonprofit organization preparing for the economy through a business venture.

City Rescue Mission in Jacksonville, Florida, has developed an entrepreneurial venture, CHARIS Chocolates. According to Director of Resource Development & Social Enterprises, Angela Washington, “Our increased investment into our Charis Chocolate product line not only benefits the lives of those we serve, but acts as a sweet symbol of our brand.”  

This delightfully delicious but unusual fundraising source was originally gifted to them by a chocolatier heading into retirement. Seizing the opportunity, the nonprofit learned the secrets of production, and then enhanced it with their own special ingredients. Today, they sell an amazing product that is distributed online, on-premise and in multiple restaurants throughout the city.    

(Shhh… I’ve bribed Angela for samples by providing this link: CHARIS Chocolates – City Rescue Mission Jacksonville (

Example #3: Cultivate resources in-house

One of my colleagues reminded me of the innovative steps our very own client partner, Gospel Rescue Mission of Muskogee in Oklahoma (GRM) has taken to prepare.  

Traditionally, “food offer” appeals in the fall are an essential tool for Mission fundraising in both acquisition and cultivation. However, this organization looked for another way to prepare and bring in the resources they needed, especially in this unstable economy. Their solution? Hydroponic growth technology!  

Blooming and booming this year is the Mission’s first harvest from their Fresh Start Garden. This freight container garden system that grows fresh vegetables year round is GRM’s answer to food insecurity in their community.

The self-contained, computer-controlled environments monitor temperature, water level and UV light. Plants are grown on racks from floor to ceiling. According to Executive Director, Rich Schaus, “In 320 square feet of container space, you can grow two-and-a-half acres’ worth of produce, two to four tons in a year’s time.”

Not only does it provide farm-to-table nutrition for shelter guests, but it’s also impacting the community. Individuals or sponsors can sign up for a produce subscription bag, and the charity will give a matching bag free of charge to a person or family in need.

“Fresh Start not only includes our vegetables, it includes a fresh start for many of our neighbors who have trouble getting a job because they have felonies, addiction or bad work history,” said Schaus, “They now have a place to work for better than minimum wage.”

The Sun Will Shine

As we’ve seen, hiding in the basement bunker isn’t an option for these charitable thrivers and survivors. While these nonprofit organizations prepare for the economy, they’re serving others with creativity, hope and amazing intellect and talent. 

It’s their faith that drives them, and their fresh ideas that are growing beautiful relationships with their donors. May these examples inspire us to prepare and commit to serving those in need, regardless of these uncertain times. 

As your team continues to prep your nonprofit for what lies ahead, BDI is here for you. Our thought leaders will continue to share important updates and major trends in nonprofit marketing, fundraising and philanthropy. If this email was forwarded to you, sign up to receive our newsletter now, and get the fuel you need to boost your organization to the next level. 

  • Kevin Bryant

    Kevin Bryant, Director of Client Partnership

    Internationally recognized as an ECHO and ADDY Award winning creative talent, Kevin is a fundraising veteran with clients including; The North American Mission Board, Salvation Army, American Red Cross, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Precept and Guidepost Ministries, and Samaritan’s Purse. Having worked on both the agency and client side, he’s dedicated to building a bridge between the two to make programs and partnerships successful.

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