Giving ‘Till it Hurts (But Not ‘Till it Bleeds)

by Meredith Maslich

Before I started Possibilities Publishing Company, I owned another company. It was a non-profit consulting company and I would work with non-profits to help them with fundraising, and board development, and most other challenges associated with running a non-profit.

By the second year, things were going great. I had more work than I knew what to do with and had brought on several contract staff and it looked like the sky was the limit. I had growing client base covering a diverse range of important causes and I loved the work I was doing. Over time I started working with smaller and smaller non-profits – ones that were often overlooked by other consultants – because I thought they deserved the same services as the bigger guys. So for the next 4 years I concentrated my work on smaller and smaller non-profits, and it was emotionally and professionally gratifying, but unfortunately not financially gratifying at all. Not because I was trying to get rich, but I was trying to pay my rent and buy food. They all had the best of intentions, and so I routinely offered discounts, extensions, and payment plans, until PPCoFundRaiserseventually, I couldn’t afford to stay in business and I closed up shop.

The sad part of this story isn’t that I went out of business. It’s that because I went out of business I couldn’t help anymore non-profits.

When I started Possibilities Publishing Company, I knew that I wanted to have a way to work work with non-profits again. But I also knew that I couldn’t let emotional decisions outweigh smart business decisions again. Of course, the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but it can be tricky to find the balance.

Of all the things I had to do when I started this company 18 months ago, setting up Possibilities Publishing Fundraisers, seemed like the easiest, so it was one of the first things I did. I looked at the tools and knowledge that I had at my disposal and I created two options.

First was the Featured Non-profit program, where a non-profit can partner up with one of my books for a month and they’ll receive a portion of the profits from any books sold that month. 80% of the profits to be exact.

And second, if a non-profit wanted to publish their own book I would publish it for them with no upfront costs and then give them 80% of the revenue from the book into perpetuity.

Both have obvious strategic advantages for my company, which is the only way to make a corporate giving program work.

After the first few months two things became clear – one is that it has provided exposure to the books and my company to new audiences, and the other is that I’m losing money on it.

So I’ve tweaked the Featured Non-Profit program a little bit. First, I’m going to shift it to more of a real partnership model and do a 50/50 split on the profits. And for at least the next year, I’m only going to work with four non-profits a year, basically once a quarter.I think this is not only going to make it more sustainable, but also more meaningful.

The thing I love most about publishing is that I’m helping people achieve their dreams by publishing their books. But I have to make sure that I remain profitable, otherwise, as I know only too well, good intentions alone aren’t going to be enough.

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