Future of Nonprofit Revenue is in the Mesh

This is the first in a series of posts on the future of the social sector. Let me know what you think.

Strengthening the revenue line is the daily struggle of most nonprofit executives. We host galas, write 30 page grant applications, and try to identify our next major donor but what if the key to giving your nonprofit stronger financial viability was hiding right in your storage closet?

Lisa Gansky, the pioneering author of “The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing” , says that Mesh companies create, share and use social media, wireless networks, and data crunched from every available source to provide people with goods and services at the exact moment they need them, without the burden and expense of owning them outright. Gansky reveals how there is real money to be made and trusted brands and strong communities to be built in helping your customers buy less but use more.

One of the darling companies of the mesh movement is Zipcar. By making it easier and affordable to have access to a car, only when you need it, Zipcar is lessening each participants’ environmental impact and the expense of car ownership.

So what does that mean for nonprofits? You have an office full of equipment and tools that you are not using at this very moment but will need to have at some future time. For example:

-The extra laptop that the summer intern uses

-The projector that is only used for the monthly board meetings

-Nametags for your yearly gala

-Reflective vests and traffic cones for your annual walk/run

What if that equipment becomes a monthly revenue item for your nonprofit by renting it out through companies like Snapgoods or Zilok? You can post your equipment for rent and renters can browse listings and schedule and pay for rentals from you, a definite benefit for time-strapped nonprofits.

Nonprofits have a built in network of supporters like donors, volunteers, clients, or nonprofits you collaborate with. You could advertise your available equipment to these supporters through your regular mailing list or social media presence. Snapgoods is even optimized to leverage your network. You can also describe in your listing that the rental fee will support the mission of your organization, making you more marketable to values-driven consumers are who want to reward socially conscious businesses with their purchases.

Tools to put you on the leading edge of this trend:

SnapGoods- SnapGoods connects people so that they can rent or borrow gear from within their network or neighborhood.

Zilok- a centralized online rental marketplace. Zilok allows anyone, whether individuals or professionals, to rent or offer for rent anything in a few clicks. They provide both individuals & professionals a platform to offer in seconds any item for rent, so people have a quick and convenient access to anything they could possibly need on occasion, for rent.

Craigslist- Free local classifieds and forums - community moderated.