Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been working with an international children’s charity as the seek to reposition themselves in a competitive sector.

Sure – children’s charities mostly want the same thing – to create a better future for children. Their exact parameters might vary, but overall, they are heading in the same direction. And yet competition still matters here; because every charity doing great work needs to attract the income it needs to do more of it.

We’re still working on their repositioning. Together, we’ll be working out what it is, exactly, that makes them special.

But there is another way to generate new income, and it doesn’t rely on donations alone; nor does it mean trying to ‘beat’ another competitor charity for the same availabel .

Start with ‘why’

Donations – private and institutional – continue to be the ‘bread and butter’ of most charities, and, for many, this will continue to be the case.

But, the more I spoke to them, the more I realised that they hadn’t considered alternative income streams that could work for them – income that could even have the dual purpose of raising money whilst at the same time helping them to achieve their purpose.

The best way to do this is to start with ‘why’.

What’s the ‘why’ of your organisation? I’m pretty sure it’s not ‘to raise as much money as possible’. Of course not, although that might be a ‘how’. No, the why is all about your overall purpose, e.g.:

  • To raise awareness of human rights abuses
  • To create a better future for children around the world
  • To change the way home care works

Here are three examples of organisations that have created new income streams by starting with their ‘why’.

Amnesty International

New income stream: Online MOOC (Massive Online Open Course)

Supports purpose by: Educating on human rights abuses

Charities with significant specialist knowledge are ideally-placed to benefit from the knowledge economy. Amnesty has now created a number of online courses, which both spread awareness of human rights and their brand, whilst earning them income. The courses are free to take, but income is generated by the optional award of a certificate to students who want them, for which they pay a small fee.


Wellbeing Teams

New income stream:
Online membership site (subscription e-learning)

Supports purpose by: Spreading best practice in social care

Wellbeing Teams is a client of mine, a social enterprise working to deliver a new model for home care. They are a home care provider themselves, but their purpose is actually to transform home care – whatever it takes – not simply to ‘corner a market’. With that in mind, they share much of their knowledge openly, enabling other providers to learn from their model, making even more change happen. For organisations that want to learn more, and have a structured approach, a yearly subscription-based e-learning package (membership site) is available. This hosts videos, team activities, and live webinars; all handled automatically through a card payment system that takes payments on an annual basis. To learn more about membership sites and how I can build them for you, please get in touch.

Alzheimer’s Society

New income stream:
Online store

Supports purpose by: Building dementia awareness

Alzheimer’s Society’s strategy includes key workstreams around raising dementia awareness, so their wide range of branded merchandise enables supporters to show their support and start conversations. Many charities have taken to selling branded items, but the simplicity of this income stream is no barrier to its effectiveness!

Where to start?

All three of these ideas start with the ‘why’ – they aren’t just about making money, they’re about supporting an overarching purpose. Start by identifying your organisation’s ‘why’, and take it from there.