On July 26th, 1956, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser gave a speech declaring that the Suez Canal was being nationalized. At the same moment, Egyptian forces raided and took control of the important trade route.
While in many ways it was disastrous for the British politically, one of the biggest blows was what it meant for them economically. At that time, ⅔ of England’s oil was being imported via the canal. With the canal now closed to their ships, their oil dependent country was suddenly brought to its knees.
When we talk about revenue streams for City Movements, it’s often attractive to want to rely on one revenue stream. The inherent risk though is if your one stream suddenly disappears overnight, your organization could be like the British and be on the brink of crises. While multiple revenue streams can take more effort, the diversity provides stability. With multiple streams, a major fluctuation in one stream becomes painful, but rarely detrimental.
At Love Our Cities (and as an extension, our local city movement "Love Modesto”), we have six defined revenue streams. Three of these revenue streams account for 80% of our overall revenue: Events, Church Partners, and Golf Tournament.
Many city leaders see the word event and want to hide in a cave. The idea of putting on an event seems overwhelming. For us, it’s uniquely woven into our DNA.
Our Love Modesto city wide volunteer day is the backbone of our organization. It is a day when the entire community is invited to volunteer on projects all over our city. Last year, in Modesto alone, we had over 7,000 participants spanning 110 projects, including a morning rally prior to the day that drew over 4,000 people. In 2017, our city partners hosted 20,000 volunteers across 40+ cities.
The event provides various sponsorship opportunities (you can see our breakdown of sponsor levels here) from all sectors in the city. Businesses, churches, and nonprofits all are willing to support a project that they care about.
This city-wide volunteer day not only produces event sponsors, but is a huge catalytic event that builds momentum and is a convener that makes us known in our city. Locally, this day has led to our involvement in many other initiatives and access to funding and grants. One of our city partners recently received a $200,000 grant to help fight gang violence in their community. Their board attributed success in receiving the grant, in part, to the visibility from the city wide volunteer day and how it made them known in the community.
While fundraising isn’t the reason we put on these events, it provides a tremendous opportunity to cover our operating expenses for the year.
Last year, Event Sponsors accounted for 30% of revenue. This year, with the addition of Annual Sponsors, we forecast Event Sponsors to account for 40% of revenue.
While Event Sponsors is our fastest growing category, Church Partners are our backbone, both financially and spiritually. We truly believe that we are an extension of the local church, and we approach churches with the idea of being a key resource for their local missions outreach. We help provide volunteer opportunities throughout the year and we are a neutral convener that the church can work through to address larger needs in our community with government, business, and nonprofits.
At our annual Love Modesto volunteer event, we group all of our Church Partners together on one banner and hang it on stage so the community can see that the event is backed by the church community and the church community is working together. It is a visual expression of church unity in our community.
Each church supports us at a different level, depending on size of church and availability of resources. Some of our partner cities approach churches more systematically, asking for a donation per volunteer that participates in their events. Other cities ask churches simply to be an Event Sponsor. There are multiple models, but church partners are always a main pillar in our funding strategy.
While you might say that this is another event, which is true, the difference is this is the only event that we do that is strictly a fundraiser. Every other event is geared towards a specific initiative or cause (neighborhoods, schools, foster kids, etc.). Our annual Golf Tournament is our way of raising awareness of our organization and a chance to deepen relationships with business owners.
It takes some juice to put on an event like this, but with a good volunteer team and a couple of years under our belt, we’ve found that the process has become easier, the sponsors are more eager to respond, and the day becomes a lot of fun.
Last year was our 3rd Annual Golf Tournament and our net profit was $30,000. While we were pleased with this amount for our 3rd year, we know that there is room for growth as well.
The reality is, each situation is unique, and resources will look differently for you than us. We’ve adopted strategies from other organizations that have been home runs for us. Some have failed, other’s we weren’t allowed to do because of the state we’re in (thanks Cali!). We’re also small, so it’s not like any of these have produced millions of dollars, but they’ve worked well, provided us some stability and diversity, and have allowed us to do the work that we love with some great funding partners.
What strategies have you found to be successful?