Autism Nonprofit Generates Revenue 7 Ways
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Dr. Julian Maha founded KultureCity about three years ago, shortly after his son was diagnosed with autism. The diagnosing physician, Maha says, told him his son would likely have to be institutionalized. Motivated by that challenge, Maha set out to create a nonprofit that would actually drive greater impact in the lives of those affected by autism.
Maha really believes he is completely reinventing the model for nonprofits. Last year, Microsoft MSFT +1.03% launched Windows 10 with the #UpgradeYourWorld campaign I covered here. KultureCity was one of ten nonprofits recognized by Microsoft as part of that campaign, suggesting that Maha has created something different from typical nonprofits.
Maha asserts that the innovations he’s implementing at KultureCity make him “a true social entrepreneur.” He says, “ We are on a mission to fundamentally change the culture of how autism is viewed by society and to show the world that these individuals not only have potential but the means to achieve that potential.”
One of the key innovations that Maha has created is a diversity of revenue sources. He identifies seven different revenue sources:
Angel Donations: large donors who fund overhead and provide an operating budget.
Public Donations: funds raised from ordinary individual donors.
Cause Marketing Products: KultureCity works with companies that create specific products that give back to the organization.
Corporate Partnerships: Maha explains, “We collaborate with companies that have products used by the special needs community. These partnerships then make us the de facto nonprofit partner of the companies.”
Marketing Placement: KultureCity provides children with autism with “lifeBOKS,” a kit to help prevent wandering and related tragedies, like drowning. Marketing offers are packaged with the kit, providing the sponsoring companies with targeted branding opportunities that tend to garner good social media results, according to Maha.
Business Incubator: The organization is now incubating businesses that help create jobs for people with autism and other special needs individuals. “Donations are used towards taking an idea from concept to market,” Maha says.
Sensory Friendly Initiative: KultureCity helps make tourist attractions, businesses and community organizations sensory friendly. In return, these places hold fundraising events.
While it is clear that you could describe each of these as being a form of donation, there are seven distinct strategies for these donations.
Dr. Julian Maha with his wife Dr. Michele Kong, courtesy of KultureCity
KultureCity generated almost $500,000 of revenue last year, more than double the $183,000 it reported in 2014. The organization raised only $20,000 in 2013, its first year of operations.
There is a lot of work to do, Maha acknowledges. “For instance, work environments are not optimized for their success, and the culture is one that limits them because of their diagnosis. We are trying to change that by inspiring the community to see their potential and also to give the right tools to autistic individuals to help them not only succeed but be accepted fully by society.”
Maha sees the reinvention of the nonprofit model as being key. “The biggest challenge is to help society understand that the traditional nonprofit model is broken and in dire need of revitalization. Nonprofits need to be judged on their impact and also their ability to empower the populations that they serve. In addition, nonprofits also need to utilize their resources in a way that maximize impact and decreases organizational overhead.”
KultureCity’s social media presence suggest the company is playing above its weight, that is it may be having more impact than its revenues suggest it would. As of this writing it has almost 33,000 Twitter followers and 41,000 likes on Facebook, significantly larger numbers than most nonprofits of their scale in my experience covering the space.
Maha never loses sight of the fact that his purpose isn’t to remake nonprofits for its own sake, but rather to change the world for people with autism, giving them a “chance at a brighter future.”
On Thursday, April 7, 2016 at noon Eastern, Maha will join me for a live discussion about his innovations in nonprofit management and the impact that is having on his constituency of people affected by autism. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
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