DC non-profits learn from entrepreneurs

Local non-profit organizations have tapped into lessons learned from entrepreneurs to survive recent political changes, said the president and CEO of Volunteers of America Chesapeake.

Non-profits need to find new forms of revenue and in order to help people most effectively, many non-profit leaders have had to think entrepreneurially, said Russell Snyder.

Volunteers of America was formed in 1896, and stands today as one of the largest national non-profit organizations, building affordable housing that accommodates 2.5 million people in 46 states, balancing donations from private parties and the federal government.

“Based on what’s happening with the new administration, a lot of us are thinking about different ways to make alternative earned income, or other revenue sources,” he said. Many of these organizations are expecting big cuts in federal spending.

Leaders are investigating newly-developed social enterprises such as vertical farm hydroponics.

“It provides jobs creation, it provides training, it provides therapeutic, but it also provides a bottom-line gain which helps offset some of the cuts in government funding that’s going to be created,” said Snyder.

“Our job is really to present that business case, where we can lower the local community’s cost, or the local hospital’s cost, to be able to then provide a service to help folks back on their feet again,” he told What’s Working in Washington.

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Volunteers of America is also working to provide more proactive solutions to social issues. The organization is looking at long-standing area homeless shelters in order to make them into “a more impactful community solution,” Snyder said.

“Really, what I think is needed, is that the non-profit community, we need to work together more,” he said. “I don’t think the non-profit community, over time, has really thought about their strategic partners like the corporate community has done so well. So that’s the next phase in my view.”

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