Frequently Asked Questions

Please contact us if you have additional comments, questions or concerns.

Any nonprofit community service organization in Ontario with the capacity to engage in earned revenue activity related to administrative and infrastructure assets or another business concept is invited to submit an expression of interest. Organizations must be able to send a team of 2 to 3 people to one of the Earning Capacity Regional Institutes. Nonprofits seeking to build up or grow earned revenue streams will need to consider any limitations related to external contract /funder requirements.

This project partnership is funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation under its pan-provincial/systemic change grant stream. The Foundation is investing in the potential for nonprofits to increase their financial vibrancy and the potential for supporting new models and methods of community service.

Organizations successfully completing the project will have a strategic enterprise plan aimed at generating new income using in-house resources while contracting for services with other nonprofits and small businesses. With income that is totally discretionary, groups will have the freedom to act creatively on new services, engage in new partnerships, invest in board and staff training or build reserves for longer term stability. The training and coaching supports provided through the Earning Capacity project are valued at over $3000 per organization.

Successful applicants will commit the time of at least two senior managers and possibly a board member/key volunteer to direct project work. This includes preparations for one Regional Institute, active participation at the 2 day Institute, continued participation in the follow up webinars and potential use of the Earning Capacity project’s coaching resource. A time estimate for the hours outside of the Institute would be 10 to 15 hours reading and discussion. Of equal importance is the championing by the organization’s team with their board, management and staff colleagues in the development and implementation, or next stage of growth, of their enterprise plan. Up to 7 hours customized coaching and four 1.5 hour webinars are available to assist organization teams to continue developing their enterprise.

Any incorporated nonprofit human service organization located and working in Ontario is eligible. Charitable registration is not required.

A diversity of nonprofits will be involved in the Earning Capacity project. This includes organizations in any field of direct human services, such as immigration/refugee support, employment and training, social/recreational, seniors' supports, aboriginal services, services to persons with disabilities, etc. operating in rural, northern or urban communities.

To fully benefit from the Institutes and other Earning Capacity project enterprise development supports, groups will need to have assessed their internal administration capacities and identified the potential for extending these into revenue centres or their capacity to support a different business activity. A basic business concept that sets out the services to be offered, the potential (or current) market, and board and management commitment to building/growing enterprise activity would be required as part of the Expression of Interest process. A social enterprise readiness assessment tool will also be provided to applicants to be completed as part of the application process.

Due to funding limitations, the project was only able to provide four training Institutes. Two have already been held. Of the final two next April, the one in Toronto is solely for francophone groups, but the other in Kingston is open to all up to the 8 group limit.

Any head or back office service for which there is market potential, including accounting/finance, HR management, ITC/tech support, marketing, space rental have been identified as the focus of the Earning Capacity project. Applicant groups may have additional creative options they can explore beyond these.

Groups should always consult their legal counsel for detailed information and advice about nonprofit social enterprise activities. The CRA allows charities to engage in enterprising activities under certain circumstances. The Canadian Social Enterprise Guide provides basic information on the legal context for social enterprise.

As the governing body and ultimate authority in any corporation but especially for nonprofits/charities, the board should be fully aware of and support new or growing earned income activity. Starting and continuing enterprise efforts is a long term venture and is of strategic importance to the financial vibrancy of the organization.

The Earning Capacity Institutes are intended to assemble 7-10 nonprofits each committing the time of 2 senior managers and ideally a board champion as part of their enterprise team. Total Institute group size for effective discussion should not exceed 25 individuals. It is expected that the teams, with the support of the Earning Capacity coaches and peers, will work together and with other colleagues in house over the course of the project to build their internal organizational capacity for enterprise development and planning.

The information on the application form, Expression of Interest and related attachments will be held in strictest confidence by the Earning Capacity project consultants and the screening panel. None of the information provided will be shared with other parties without the express permission of the providing organization or at their own initiative. At the end of the project, this material will be destroyed.

Criteria include: 1.) A readiness assessment demonstrates organizational capacity and identifies business functions for earning income. 2.) A business concept indicates the key elements of an enterprise initiative with an estimation of market potential. 3.) A strategic plan or evidence of direction for multi-year enterprise/earned revenue development approved by the board and senior management. 4.) A mix of nonprofits from a variety of regions and nonprofit sectors, including groups who have an enterprise idea and those with operational earned income initiatives.

Institute and webinar discussions will only involve the degree of disclosure each group deems warranted. As an objective is to determine Regional potential for complementary and collaborative enterprise offerings, some sharing is to be expected. A written statement at each Institute will commit all participating groups to nondisclosure and non-raiding.

The three Earning Capacity project partners will be working to develop longer term capabilities and resources to support earned income development. The current project is limited to 18 months. One feature of the project will be the cultivating of mutual support and enterprise collaboration between current groups with the potential for mentoring others in the future. Successful applicants will also be informed throughout the process of additional supports available to them through the social enterprise sector.

The individuals participating in the Institutes are expected to convene and work with their colleagues in house to pursue the enterprise development work. Post Institute distance coaching (via teleconference) will be provided to enterprise ready teams. Each team will determine, with the Earning Capacity coach, who should participate in the coaching once needs are clearly articulated. The coaching will help teams to address both governance and operational challenges and opportunities. This may require participation of other organization staff. These sessions are not intended to be educational opportunities for expanding enterprise awareness throughout the greater organization. Their purpose is to support the development process initiated by the Institutes. Up to 7 hours coaching will be provided to each participating organization in addition to the four follow up webinars.

The consulting team is collecting information on existing models and best practices for earned income enterprises from a range of sectors and jurisdictions as part of a central resource bank. Institute participants will receive materials to review in advance of the Institutes and will also benefit from ongoing environmental scanning by the consultants, partners and fellow participants. There are some excellent sites for information on nonprofit social enterprise. SEOntario.org is one created by Earning Capacity project partner, the Canadian CED Network. Social Enterprise Canada is also a good resource. You can download the Canadian Social Enterprise Guide for free from this site.

As part of the project’s final reporting, ONESTEP will communicate to all participants on groups with active earned income enterprises and, with permission, seek to link them for greater impact.

The selection of back office services as potential income generators was selected as activating these as revenue centres would be innovative and stimulate lateral organizational thinking around enterprise opportunities not linked to or involving clients as the workforce.

However, organizations are free to propose an enterprise activity using but not focused specifically on the administrative capacities.

The key distinction would be pursuing business planning for earned income that does not involve a client workforce. Options such as training and education, event planning, surplus space rental or similar enterprising activities could fit. The business concept would be the determining factor.

As with any organizational change, union awareness of and openness to new ventures is a sound management practice. If union positions are impacted, any revenue generating work would still be conducted within the terms of the collective agreement. The idea is not speed-up but rather new approaches to building organizational revenues sources.

• April 5/6, 2016 - Learning Enrichment Foundation, 116 Industry St., Toronto (français seulement)
• April 7/8, 2016 - Kingston (anglais seulement)
Both institutes will run from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM for each of the two days.

Each of up to three team members you've identified as appropriate to be involved in the Institute and coaching should complete their own social enterprise readiness assessment, based on their unique insights into the organization. These assessments help our coaches to identify areas of organizational capacity and strength as well as issues and opportunities for coaching. The information will remain strictly confidential and the assessment will be seen only by the coaches and review committee. The completed forms should be e mailed to ONESTEP as part of your expression of interest submission.