Case studies: a sustainable income strategy
This could include trading goods and services, contracting, using loan finance, focusing on planning and financial management systems - or a combination of a number of these. The organisations featured do not pretend to be experts, but instead offer their experiences to provide learning points for others.
- Using patient capital as a funding option
- Working with beneficiaries to design on-mission products
- Community resource raising for local services
- Using your supporters to survive financial crisis
- How to earn money from on-mission activities
- A local charity moves into trading to provide a stable counterpoint to legacies and gifts.
- A Community Interest Company responds to individual budgets.
- Young people using enterprise activity to develop a sustainable funding mix
- Grants, loan finance and community investment allows local ownership
- Innovation increases capacity for social contibution
- Adapting to a changing funding environment
- Diversify and develop though trading
- It began with a single grant
- Loan finance to overcome grant reliance
- Examining full cost recovery
- Loan finance for property purchase
- Loan finance to increase trading
- Managing financial crisis
- Managing growth and contracting arrangements
- Social enterprise combining product, process and profit
- Case studies about infrastructure and support organisations diversifying their income
- Case studies on improving procurement and commissioning practice.
Cockpit Arts, a social enterprise and the UK's only creative-business incubator for designer-makers, partnered with Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to make loans and business support available to its studio holders. This has helped studio holders to grow their businesses, in turn generating income for Cockpit Arts. It has also resulted in a strong social as well as financial return on investment through increased employment and training opportunities.
Dowload the case study (PDF 226 KB)
As a workers cooperative, Brightkidz has been able to earn its own income and remain independent through mission driven trading. Brightkidz has achieved steady growth by working closely with beneficiaries to develop new products, making strategic use of all start up funding and building up strong relationships with core customers. Diversifying its product range has allowed Brightkidz to be more financially stable, while ensuring all products support its core activities has protected against mission drift.
The steering committee behind new community charity Bold Vision share their experience of setting up and fundraising for a local resource, from researching options through to bringing in gifts of money, time or skills. This case study picks up on a few of the possibilities and issues anyone thinking about setting up their own community resource may need to consider.
Arts organisation London Bubble Theatre discovered that their community was key to overcoming financial difficulties after being 'defunded' by major grant supporters. Jonathan Petherbridge, Creative Director, explains how they looked to their supporters to help lift them out of crisis in this video case study.
Kids' City, a children's charity based in South London are a great example of how to earn income from mission-driven activity in a competitive and dynamic environment. They also highlight:
- The importance of market research and stakeholder involvement in developing services, branding and key messages
- Continually developing the organisation to make effective use of resources and to keep up with technical developments
Download the case study (pdf 715kb)
Bath Cats and Dogs home is a great example of how an organisation has grown using income primarily from legacies and individuals. However, recognising that it can be difficult to predict cash flow they have begun to diversify their funding with charity shops and trading, building this diversity into a well integrated strategy that makes the most from their assets and volunteers.
Download Bath Cats and Dogs Home case study (PDF 778kb)
This new Sustainable Funding case study examines how Cool2Care are following a sustainable income strategy. It looks at how being a Community Interest Company affects their work, how they are meeting the needs of their customers – families who need care for disabled children. The article also looks at how they are responding to changing public services including working with individual budgets.
Download Cool2Care Case Study (pdf 226kb)
envision was set up by a group of university leavers in June 2000 with the aim of engaging young people in community projects.
Using a mixture of enterprise activity and creative personalisation of services they have built on their strengths and successes to grow their organisation.
This case study explores how they challenged stereotypes of young people whilst pursuing an ambitious strategy for sustainable growth. Date: July 2009
Download: envision case study (PDF 3.82MB)
Torrs Hydro, a community owned company that generates electricity from a small hydroelectric plant in New Mills, Derbyshire.
Read about their plans to ensure a sustainable income stream can enable continuing community benefit. Date: June 2009
Download: Torrs Hydro case study (PDF 3800 KB)
Women Like Us started as a single innovative idea between 2 individuals and has developed into a £1m turnover organisation employing 45 staff, in just 4 years. Its income streams reflect its dual aims - to support women to return to work and to operate as a competitive business.
Read how diverse income streams can help to strengthen the financial resilience of an organisation, thereby increasing the capacity for social contribution. Date: July 2009
Download: Women Like Us case study (PDF 4354 KB)
St Sidwell's is a thriving community centre in Exeter which develops the capacity of local voluntary groups and makes a valuable contribution to social cohesion.
Adapting to the changing funding enviroment, St Sidwells has built earned income to constitute 65% of their funding mix, has a sustainable strategy for continuing to earn income and healthy reserves. Date: June 2009
Download: St Sidwells case study (PDF 2852 KB)
The British Postal Museum and Archive cares for the visual, physical and written records of over 400 years of postal heritage.
Discover the challenges the museum has faced to stay on mission and reduce dependence on a key funder. Date: November 2008.
Download: British Postal Museum case study (PDF 2168 KB)
Discover how Learning Links (Southern) has grown from a single grant funded project to an organisation with a projected income of £1.6million for 2008/09.
This growth has been achieved through seeking out appropriate contracts, launching trading ventures, working in partnership for the benefit of the wider local community whilst keeping to the mission.
Date: October 2008
Download: Learning Links case study (PDF 1.43MB)
WebPlay (an educational arts charity) has grown from a turnover of £20,000 to £500,000 in the UK alone through selling its projects directly to individual schools, generating 30% of income through trading (not contracting) with the public sector.
Loan finance provided financial stability, enabling WebPlay to focus on scaling up operations and create an earned income strategy.
Date: August 2008
Download: WebPlay case study (PDF 1.47MB)
In recent years, BTCV has relied on the efforts of its trading arm to keep it out of deficit. Many of the charity's projects and activities were being conducted with inadequate funding - but project staff did not have a reliable and accurate system that allowed them to appreciate and measure full costs.
Date: November 2007
Download: BTCV case study (PDF 466kb)
SHARE Community is funded through a diverse range of donations, grants and contracts.
Considerable growth over the past few years, combined with the decision to take out a loan to finance the purchase of their main premises, has acted as a catalyst to developing new income generation ideas.
Date: March 2007
Download: SHARE Community Case Study (PDF 177kb)
Faced with a shortfall in grant funding, Global Action Plan decided to increase their income from trading.
They used a loan from Venturesome to bridge the income gap in the short-term and to establish a longer-term growth path which uses a mixture of both grant and loan finance.
Key themes include: Loan finance as a catalyst for growth, an example of using non-asset based (unsecured) loans and trading to develop a sustainable funding base.
Date: April 2007
Download: Global Action Plan Case Study (PDF 168kb)
CEO of WebPlay Sydney Thornbury talks about what she did when her organisation faced a cashflow crisis. If you are facing a similar situation, watch this video now to get some valuable insight into how she dealt with her organisation's predicament. In this video Sydney talks about how she went about understanding her problems, planning for the worst, and assessing her ability to fight for her organisation's survival.
Date: February 2011
Watch the video
Birmingham Settlement provides an engaging example of an organisation coming out on top following a major financial crisis. This case study demonstrates how being unclear about costs and outputs fundamentally threatens an organisation's sustainability. It includes examples of undergoing a complete organisational review, paring back services and increasing partnerships to maintain focus on organisational mission.
Date: May 2007
Download: Birmingham Settlement case study (PDF 215 kb)
Over the last 5 years TACT has grown threefold in terms of both income and staff. Driven by a firm belief in the quality of its delivery, this planned growth has been achieved through a combination of contracting and a series of mutually beneficial mergers. Operating on a social enterprise model and utilising loan finance, TACT now has children placed by over 60 local authorities.
Date: October 2007
Download: Adolescent and Children's Trust case study (PDF 176 kb)
Established in 2004, StreetShine's long-term financial aim was to be grant-independent. They used a grant and loan from Glimmer of Hope UK and a grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to kick start the project. A detailed business plan is helping them to achieve their funding and social missions.
Date: April 2007
Download: StreetShine case study (PDF 173kb)
Advice and support
- Funding and finance
- Coping with cuts
- Addressing needs
- Managing change
- Planning for the future
- Involving people
- Public Service Delivery
- Governance and leadership
- Compact Advocacy programme
- Campaigning and influencing policy
- Collaborative working
- ICT (information and communication technology)
- Climate change
- People, HR and employment