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No shortage of money

There is no money shortage.

It might not be where you’d like it, and there might not be people lining up to give it to you for whatever you think it would be well used for… but there’s plenty of money.

Whose money?

It’s usually best if the money comes directly from the people you’re serving – call them customers, clients, partners, or even beneficiaries. This gives you one set of people to focus on*, one main audience to talk with and listen to, one set of incentives driving what you do: meeting their needs and serving them better.

Changing the market

It may be – especially if you’re running a non-profit – that the direct consumers of what you offer don’t have the money to buy it in its current form. In this case you have a few options:

  • Do a better job of convincing your users of the value that you offer
  • Find ways to make it cheaper – strip your product down to the smallest possible offering that makes a difference to your customers, and sell that.
  • Work out the scale at which your original product becomes cheap enough for your target clients to buy. Then sell to people who can afford it now, and gradually move down the market as the product gets better and cheaper.
  • Develop a two-tier business model where one set of customers pays a high price for your product (possibly for a premium version) , covering enough costs to enable you to subsidise it for another set of customers. This subsidy can be direct (you sell the same product to beneficiaries for a lower price) or indirect (the premium product covers enough of your running costs that you can afford to sell a lower-spec product for a lower price. In the case of direct subsidies it can be difficult to draw clear lines about who gets a discount, and who pays full price.
  • Look for the other side of a two-sided market – this means that one set of customers is in some sense ‘buying’ the other set: donors ‘buy’ impact and transformation; advertisers ‘buy’ access to the attention of customers (see Google and Facebook); corporate-social responsibility departments ‘buy’ reputation and visibility. If the sound of this makes you uneasy, good – we need to be clear-eyed about this, even in the world of well-intentioned charity.

*Okay, your product might several distinct groups of people – but they’re all ‘customers’

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...