Finding Good Venture Ideas (part 1)

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    This blog was written by guest writer Jan Cohen.

    When most nonprofit staff and Boards think about earned income, they typically think about doing “something new”. The Risk Chart helps organizations to clearly see how risk increases as they go from “things and people they know” to those they have no experience with.

    It’s a good practice to screen ideas for a fit to your organization’s core competencies, track record, culture, and risk tolerance. Stay at the lower risk end of the chart on the first or second venture. Go for a track record with the “low hanging fruit” before venturing into higher risk areas.

    Today we will focus on the areas with the least risk of failure and greatest probability of success because they start with “what or who you know”.

    For the least risk, focus on Cross Selling. Make more “matches” to get more business from your existing customers utilizing your existing services or products. Talk with these people about their interests and needs. Sometimes you need to change the services in some minor way, i.e. time of day provided or location, so that these people can use and will pay for this service, but other times, they simply do not know you provide an additional service or product that they would use.


    • Children come to your Preschool or Daycare but parents don’t know you have Psychologists or Speech Therapists on staff and they can get assessments and/or therapy at your site while the child is already there.
    • Companies are your shredding/document destruction customers but don’t know you also are an EWaste collector and can take their computer monitors and other EWaste
    • You help parents find child care but they don’t know about your Nutrition Education classes
    • Childcare providers take your training classes both don’t know about your Toolkits or Activity Guides.
    • You collect, fix and sell furniture appliances etc for your thrift or resale store. You could advertise to donors and shoppers that you repair these items and let them bring theirs in.

    You can generate considerable revenue from cross selling without doing anything new! Think about it. Why not start here, with the “low hanging fruit”, where there is little risk?


    Jan Cohen has been a consultant, trainer, and social enterprise practitioner working in and with nonprofit organizations for more than 25 years, focusing on earned income strategies and business venture market research and development, start up, growth and management. FMI LinkedIn or email.