Case Study: 3 Day Startup Helps San Antonio Nonprofits Explore New Funding Opportunities

Many nonprofits operate in a state of financial haze — simply because nonprofit leaders have more domain knowledge about creating impactful programs than they have about funding their organizations. In changing economic times, reliable philanthropists and donors can suddenly close their wallets, resulting in an unsteady stream of funding. When dollars are tight, many nonprofits enter crisis mode in hopes of making up for the lack of cash flow.

About the 3 Day Startup Sustainable Nonprofit Program

3 Day Startup (3DS) is a world-renowned entrepreneurship program where university students start companies through a learning-by-doing model. 71 programs at schools such as Harvard, MIT, and more have helped students start over 55 companies that have collectively raised $15 million in investment capital. The 3DS organization is an earned-income nonprofit and has developed similar entrepreneurship programs focused on social entrepreneurship, collaborative consumption, and edutech. 3DS brings this expertise to the nonprofit sector with the 3DS Sustainable Nonprofit Program — a rigorous, three day workshop designed to exercise skills in cross-disciplinary collaboration, brainstorming and ideation, and group productivity. The 3DS team and committed mentors from the community guided the work of the chosen nonprofit teams during the intensive program. The objective of the program is to teach nonprofit teams how to create revenue generating funding models to increase their social impact and move their organizations towards self-sustainability. The hands-on program culminated on day three as teams presented fully developed earned-income ideas to funders and fellow nonprofit leaders at the 2013 Rackspace Technology Summit.

How Most Nonprofits Raise Funds Today

Almost all of the the participating 3DS nonprofit teams indicated that more than 83 percent of their funds came from donations and grants. “We had a very successful gala last year, but we tried to mount a membership program and host smaller events that did not end up bringing in much funding. Some collaborations were very successful; others ended up draining more time than they were worth,” says Sheila Black, Executive Director Of Gemini Ink.

The problem with the current state of nonprofit fundraising is that it lends itself to instability. When money is tight, programs are slashed or never launched and this compromises the mission of the nonprofit to serve its beneficiaries. “We participated in 3DS to come up with more funding ideas to support new future programs,” says Patrick Currie, Executive Director of Boy with a Ball San Antonio.

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