Finding Good Venture Ideas (part 2)

Sections of this topic

    This blog was written by guest writer Jan Cohen.

    As we discussed last time, when most nonprofit staff and Boards think about earned income, they typically think about doing “something new”.

    This 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 are venturing up the Risk Chart to New Services/Products for Existing Customers or Markets. The focus is logical extensions of, or easily added, products or services for customers or markets who you have experience with and know. Consider what else that you offer might be of interest to them, that they would pay for. Although the service or product is new to you, the customers/markets and their expectations are known. You have a track record with them and they find your services or products useful to meet their needs and interests. If you ask, then listen carefully to them, you can create or adapt services/products, if they meet your business criteria and goals, with key knowledge of what this market wants.


    • You offer EWaste pick up for customers who donate clothing and household goods. You participate in your State’s reimbursement program as a Collector or Recycler.

    • Your organization which offers continuing education (CEU classes) for daycare providers creates a manual and a class on how to successfully “run the business”.

    • Your doggie daycare begins offering grooming/nail trimming and/or overnight stays.

    • Your “Meals on Wheels” service expands to add delivery cases of Ensure or Depends.

    • Your childcare or adult day center, which serves hot lunches, offers preordered nutritious frozen dinners for pick up at day’s end.

    There are many services, products, and business extensions that you can focus on and build success with before moving up the Risk Chart. Start exploring by asking your customers what else they, and others like them, might want from you! Some of their suggestions will be easier to implement than you might have expected, without additional risk of attempting to satisfy unknown markets.


    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 LinkedInor email.