(Not So) Scary Realities of Starting a Non-Profit

While many of the sports covered all had varying levels of supply and demand as well as opportunity, the essence of what made each program successful and attractive was similar across the board. Every organization relied on exposure, the appeal of limited competition and, most importantly, the support of donors and sponsors. This is because, without sponsors, non-profits would likely not survive.

According to IEG, the total sponsorship spending by business in North America in 2017 was likely to reach $23.2 billion. This, according to The Balance, is mostly due to consumers wanting “socially responsible products and companies, plus today’s employees want to work for socially responsible companies.”

Despite the fact that sponsorships may seem one-sided (with a company donating money, products and resources) it is, in fact, a business deal, as both sides enter into a relationship in hopes of helping out the other. That also makes the distinction between obtaining sponsors and merely fundraising more explicit.

Some of the reasons a company would agree to be a non-profit organizations sponsor are: to attract potential customers, boost company reputation and/or moral, distinguish the company from competitors, adding community value to the company, and, specific to sports, the ability to entertain key clients.

What some entrepreneurs and start-up nonprofits fail to recognize is that this is indeed a two-way deal. Sponsorships are a form of cause-related marketing, so entrepreneurs must be able to sell the promotional value in their organization, and how a monetary “donation” can work well for all parties involved. While companies are competing to one-up the others’ images, nonprofits are also competing for resources. Because of this, entrepreneurs must focus on what sets their business apart from others and how they can benefit companies differently than their competition.

The non-profit does gain expanded publicity and notoriety from being paired with an established and known business. However, the difficulty with sponsorships is that, often, it is for a one-time event and not a year-round way to have money coming into the organization. While it can pay for the resources needed to hold a fundraising event or provide equipment for the adaptive sports programs, it is still not a constant feed of money into the organization – and relying on sponsorships to support a non-profit business is extremely risky.

One potential risk is the possibility of either party involved doing something that hurts its reputation, because that, in turn, will affect how the other partner is perceived. Nonprofits should choose their partners wisely as to not have their credibility questioned and/or be ostracized by other potential partners.

According to Nonprofit Hub, these relationships, despite possibly being short-lived, are mutually beneficial. One thing is certain – if done correctly, sponsorships can have a significant impact on the success of a nonprofit organization.

Now, I know, this is an excessively long post and it’s only halfway through. With the research and writing I’d done for the last two posts, despite the final blog being canceled, I still felt it was pertinent to include information about non-profit startups in general, rather than by specific sports. Plus, I’d already written it so why let it go to waste.

So, buckle up, find your seat, finish getting concessions – because intermission is over.

When thinking about the possibility of being an entrepreneur and starting a business, the focus is to be successful. It can be daunting to put all efforts into making a business that will be popular, profitable and growing. But in the case of nonprofits, those goals are not always the same. A nonprofit entrepreneurship venture should be profitable, but the money coming in goes to products and services for those the organization helps, not to other things usually associated with making money. But in both nonprofits and for-profit ventures, there is one growing market that is quite often overlooked – people with disabilities.

According to Forbes, there is “a population that has clear persistent needs that are not being adequately fulfilled…spans the world, is growing and includes very motivated customers…since this population is currently being underserved and misunderstood by many businesses, many of the customers could be very grateful and loyal.”

So, in essence, one billion people – or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability, yet that market is almost completely untouched. Both nonprofits and for-profits benefiting this target audience are scarce to come by, as shown by the previous posts focusing on specific sports. And those that do are, well, sometimes disparaging, with a clear difference between the advertising and visibility of disabled athletes versus their professional or able-bodied counterparts.

What is essential to starting a sports-related non-profit is seeing the similarities, and not the differences, between the abled and the disabled. Inclusivity over exclusivity will help grow the business. Because adaptive sports is geared toward such a niche market, perhaps also market the significant additions volunteers and donors would provide the organization.

I think what sets sports nonprofits aside from other entrepreneurial endeavors is that it brings a unique human element to the business. The organization is for the disabled, run by volunteers and impactful in the surrounding community. At its core, and all it does, are people.

Looking at the eight key components of the practice of entrepreneurship, nonprofits still fit the mold. Identifying the impact on the world is simple – providing athletic opportunities to those quite often left on the sidelines. Start with the means at hand – while nonprofits are not known for having mounds of money, means don’t necessarily have to be financials. Leverage relationships instead, as gaining trust and supporters can help organizations raise funds. That plays into ideas like: taking small action, network and enroll others in your journey, reflect on what you learn and be honest with yourself.

For example, Special Hockey Lehigh Valley relies heavily on volunteer coaches, many of whom are high school students who play for local teams. They used their connections at the ice rink to get a discount on ice time. A local outdoor hockey festival chose to donate all the funds raised from the day – which this year topped $30,000 – to SHLV, all because they liked what the organization was doing and the impact it was having on the area.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *