Has anyone done a business model exercise for a small not for profit community theatre and arts centre? The organisation is funded 50% by grants but this is now under threat.

The organisation is governed by a voluntary board of directors who are keen to consider ways of commercialising the organisation.

Currently the grant providers determine most of the activities provided. This leads to a triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. I say profit on the basis of having to try and match costs with revenue. Most activities are not commercially viable.Without grant aid the current operation would be unsustainable. Obviously such an organisation does not have a profit driven culture and this will have to change.

If anyone has experience of such a venture and has used a business model exercise to consider alternative strategies/models, I would be grateful for you sharing any insights which deem relevant.

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Hi Philip I try to use the canvas for cultural institutions in Istanbul mostly raising awareness for management related issues. I guess the outcome might be different depending on the country not only related with business perspective but also related with the cultural policy perspective. But in general we can talk about a fundraising effort for NPO's rather than revenue/ profit generation. please feel free to share if you have reached some positive changes or if my experience might be any help for your efforts,

To all who have contributed to this discussion I am very grateful.

I have been surprised by the number and quality of contributions to date. From my clients perspective Mike's suggestion of considering funders ans customers as 2 customer segments has created a direction for the organisation to explore in more depth. What is the job to be done for the funders and how we might leverage that is an ongoing discussion. To date some additional funding has been achieved by considering what extra can be provided for funders. This to date has offset reductions in funding from other sources.

It is very interesting to see the response when you introduce topics such as "the job to be done" or the "problem to be solved". It creates a whole new dimension to the participants who are a mix of Directors and Staff in the organisation.

I am hopeful that this discussion will continue as in the current condition of western economies I am convinced that many NPOs are struggling to maintain funding levels.

So again thank you to everyone and thank you Mike for the breakthrough idea.

Best wishes for 2013



Having implemented an incubator in the social and solidarity economy sector in Geneva, I used more than 100 times the Osterwalder and Pigneur Canvas. But working also with not for profit organizations, we ended to create a more adapted canvas that you can find at the site www.socialbusinessmodels.ch (in construction).

The main difference is the approach, starting with the "Why", mixing Business model and Logic Framework.

Sorry, it's in french for now.

This is something I am working on. I believe that the business model for ALL non-profit theatres, professional or amateur, needs to be reworked from the ground up because of exactly what you have run into: the grant funding is drying up. A model that relies on 50% unearned income is not sustainable. I would be very happy to work with you on this.

Hi all, not sure if this conversation has continued since last year...but I work almost exclusively with social enteprises, non-profits and arts organisations...have adapted the BMC (without changing any element) to incorporate both commerce and impact into the business model.  Has worked very well, and I have written it up in a short document which you can find here:  http://knode.com.au/wp-content/uploads/Knode_BusModCanv4SocEntDesig....  I'm also working with a few people to develop some training materials on this for social enterprises and other non-profits - if you're interested, please let me know: ingrid@knode.com.au 

I appreciated the various thoughts on this thread - all good food for thought. 

Hi Ingrid, your work looks very interesting on a quick glance. I work for a non profit recreation centre in Ottawa Canada that regards itself as a social enterprise. When I first discovered BMG and the business model canvas I was mostly interested in exploring business models with impact but that seemed to fizzle under the BMC popularity in business circles. I am very interested to read your work on this topic.

Great Stephen - I'll be really interested to see if you have any feedback or reflections on how it relates to your own work on business models with impact.

Yes, I liked your overview and natural true thoughts obviously such an organisation does not have a profit driven culture and this will have to change. It is must be change.

I am actually looking into an old  movie theater downtown in my town. It has been out of use for quite some time and is pretty run down. A friend and I have an idea to start a non-profit that focuses on bringing the community together through art. We want to create more geared towards the young community but involves anyone. Our dream is to turn the theater into an art space. Use the actual theater for movies, plays, music, but the lobby for possibly a coffee shop and space to display art.

Hey, just wondering how your idea is working out so far. If you go back to page two of this thread you will see that you wrote almost word for word about what I wrote. It's really interesting to see someone with the exact same idea. I would like to talk to you some more about it. Maybe we can collaborate and bounce off ideas. What do you think?

We have a good idea of current fees for music lessons and we were able to determine the break-even point and that we could create enough inventory of lesson times to meet that point and more. What we do not know is the customer segment sizes.

I am curious to know how this project has progressed over the past four years, any updates?


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