Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Nonprofit What If: The Lunch Truck, Stimulating Possibilities

During the economic downturn, to help offset their below par dinner revenues, several outstanding high-end chefs purchased lunch carts and serve a limited menu of their specialty dishes. The Wall Street Journal reported one chief grossed $400,000 his first year of operations. While you might add a lunch truck to boost your revenues, another successful way to use this concept is to play Nonprofit What If.

The rules of Nonprofit What If are simple. Take a concept being used successfully elsewhere and consider how you can apply it at your nonprofit for fun, profit and mission enhancement. Consider the benefits. And, if you are inspired, find others who are using the model to learn more. Ready to begin?

Round #1: What if you provided some of your services via a truck instead of a fixed facility? Depending on your needs, your “lunch truck” might range in size from a van to a semi.

• You bring services to customers
• Because they are in their neighborhoods, your staff regularly learns about the community issues that face your customers
• You can schedule services in five outlying areas one time per week, instead of creating permanent 40 hours a week sites with too little demand
• Immunity from rent increases and utility bills
• Your vehicle becomes a moving billboard to help spread your brand and increase community recognition
• You can tap into funding sources in new geographic areas.
• Its green. Even in a truck, if you drive 15 miles to a site, it will be less energy expensive than 30 or 300 customers driving to your existing site.
• You can respond to changing needs and begin, end and expand services as needed.

Intrigued? Want to explore the concept further? The Animal Rescue Coalition of Sarasota provides a mobile spay/neuter clinic. The Suncoast Workforce Board developed a portable computer classroom called the Mobile Career Opportunity Center. Google these organizations to check out their “bring the services to the customer” models.

If this is not the perfect concept for you, keep watching this blog. We’ll continue to explore other “hot concepts” and help you apply them to your organization.

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