The Canvas Kit
FOR NONPROFITS

The Canvas Kit for Nonprofits guides you through a step-by-step process to visualize revenue models and rapidly prototype new ones.

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Get out of the building —
and into the real world.

No time to waste. The eBook is a highly readable PDF to take into the field as you test assumptions in your business model.

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Can your nonprofit adapt to the future?

It's not an easy question to answer. In a world of uncertainty and constrained resources, all nonprofits must think and operate differently with their revenue. But with so much hype out there about sustainable revenue models as a key to adaptability, many nonprofits still struggle to make that a reality. Nonprofits need real actionable steps to make it happen.

The key? Start with your business model

Why? Because adaptability means two things: Operating with the right infrastructure to maximize outcomes, and having the right business model to sustain it. Whether you call it business models, revenue models, or financial models, all nonprofits still deal with money one way or another.

Still reading? Great! Let's talk about the original Business Model Canvas first. This is a one-page visual tool that demonstrates the 9 key elements of any enterprise. Dr. Alex Osterwalder first developed this idea for his dissertation at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, and then later refined the canvas in his best-selling book "Business Model Generation." The canvas has been praised in both business and the social sector as the fastest way to convey any organization's "business" logic so that clear strategic decisions can be made.

The Nonprofit Canvas Kit is a rapid planning kit that goes one leap further. For nonprofits to visualize their revenue models and quickly prototype new revenue strategies, I designed the kit to take into account the unique elements of nonprofits. This meant redesigning the canvas to better fit the logic of nonprofit organizations. I also integrated various tools from human-centered design to help you generate an accurate canvas.

What makes this different?

The Nonprofit Canvas Kit was designed to make you "get out of the building" and test your assumptions. Here are the main parts of the kit which will help you create an accurate canvas:

The Process

A fluid step-by-step process to clarify your challenges and complete an accurate canvas.

Tools and Methods

From human-centered design for better fact-finding and insight generation. Go beyond surveys. Better tune into the world around you before spending funds on potentially wasteful programs, services, and other internal activities.

The 3 Behaviors

3 essential behaviors to support deliberate creativity, visual thinking, and strategic clarity during the process.

Scenarios

Common nonprofit contexts. These scenarios help you emulate real situations where you might produce a canvas.

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An accurate canvas helps you communicate the true costs of your operations. Clearly and effectively. Use that canvas to inform the design of your future revenue strategies.

The Complete Contents

The Nonprofit Canvas Kit includes everything you need to start and finish a canvas.

Tools + Methods References

From human-centered design and various design fields to acquire a deep understanding of your environment and stakeholders. Prepare to move around! This is key to creating an accurate canvas of your nonprofit.

Scenarios

Scenarios are realistic contexts in which a nonprofit might create a canvas. For example, major tech upgrades, a move into cloud technology, or changes made to programs and service offerings.

The 3 behaviors

To make group collaboration as painless as possible, a quick guide on the 3 essential behaviors to make the creation of a canvas successful.

Worksheets

Printable worksheets to collect, document, and communicate your findings. Digital files are included so you can edit them to your liking.

The Process

The essential and repeatable steps in going through one round of a canvas.

The eBook

Everything contained in a portable and beautifully designed PDF.

Printable Templates

Visual thinking and sensemaking is critical in the process. Letter-sized and poster-sized collaboration posters are available in digital format.

Trigger Questions

Taking into account the unique dimensions of nonprofit operations, each canvas block includes explicit core questions for nonprofits to focus on.

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Still not convinced? Read on to see why visual thinking and rapid prototyping is important in the nonprofit sector today.

Start prototyping and planning

You can't afford to wait months or years for the "perfect" plan. The Nonprofit Canvas Kit helps you see where to make the best investments in the shortest time possible.

Understand your stakeholders

    See how your beneficiaries, donors, and other key partners relate to your organization.

Realign your "social" value proposition

Get a reality check: Is your value proposition really aligned with your stakeholders?

Make better strategic desicions

Engage in better conversations on how you might approach future opportunities.

Protect against mission creep

    Create continual "snapshots" to track how your organization grows — because not all growth is good.

Troubleshoot resource challenges

Know where to make the best investments with staff, technology, and other systems.

Prepare for new programs or services

See how a new program or service might fit into the overall picture.

Test assumptions

    Programs and services can have long cycle times before results are measured. Before wasting resources, test and validate what you think you know about your organization first.

Discover unmet needs

Uncover hidden insight about your stakeholders that could add new value to your activities.

"I work for a nonprofit. How do I know if we need this?"

Here are some symptoms to look for:

  • You're unsure which programs or services to expand, reduce, or eliminate.
  • You're still stuck using 3-5 year plans.
  • Your resources are scattered and unfocused.
  • You need to move beyond traditional fundraising.
  • You need to understand the true impact of overhead.
  • You've drifted out of mission.
  • You don't know how a particular change or upgrade will affect you.
  • You're unsure whether your programs or services are achieving impact.
  • You don't know how your stakeholders have changed.
  • You want to collaborate on new programs or services.
  • You can't decide which activities are of real value and actual waste.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Q.

    What makes the Nonprofit Canvas Kit different?

    First, it takes into account the obstacles and challenges that are unique to the nonprofit sector. Second, I eventually modeled the kit based on deep insight, simplicity, and actionability. You can say that it's an evolving hybrid approach that blends many principles from design thinking, applied creativity, human-centered design, and lean startup principles. My aim is to present a simple but structured process for nonprofit leaders to understand their operations, their environment, and then generate all possible options for change using the canvas as a blueprint.

  • Q.

    Do we need to change our nonprofit culture?

    At first, no. This question is actually pretty loaded with many complex layers and variables to consider. Culture change is important if it'll help the organization emerge out of inertia. The primary focus with the kit is strategic process innovation — deep fact-finding and insight generation where any nonprofit can get started right away in charting a new direction.

  • Q.

    What are the prerequisites for using the kit?

    Just an attitude for change, renewal, and growth. Yes, that sounds simple enough, but the best learning is experiential.

  • Q.

    Is this an app?

    No, it's an ebook that guides teams into visualizing their current business model, and then collaborating on ways to improve it or create a completely new one. There's a high focus on the nonprofit organizational logic and coming up with at least one paper prototype of a canvas.

    Involving stakeholders and working together like this couldn't be more important than now. It certainly involves a lot more than just reducing the work into an app. Read the sample to find out more.

  • Q.

    We're an X sized organization and we work with Y cause. Can we still benefit from this?

    Yes. All organizations of any cause deal with revenue in one form or another. Even if you're a new organization, the kit can expedite any planning process.

  • Q.

    Does this replace our strategic planning process?

    No, it's not meant to replace your strategic planning. Every nonprofit has their own unique strategic planning process (hopefully). The kit was designed more as a crucial "plug-in" to inform your overall strategy with greater depth.

  • Q.

    What if I don't like it?

    Let me know how I can make things better. I really want the this to work out for you. All purchases come with a 45-day window for a refund. Remember: Once you cancel, you cannot get new updates and future additions to the guide.

  • Q.

    Why did you make this?

    Many struggling nonprofits feel that they've run out of options. Or maybe a lack of resources wouldn't be worth the trouble to research other possible solutions, anyway. My goal is to help them see the other possibilities. You would be surprised with what new options can be generated, and acted upon, if the time was taken to understand the marketplace, the environment, your organization, and then synthesize all of that insight together. This internal strategic capacity is nothing new. What's new, though, is the process and the tools to grow that kind of capacity.

    In the sample PDF, I've nailed down 3 rising and irreversible trends that highlight why I created the Canvas Kit. Check it out!

Let's recap

  • 45 days risk-free
  • Free lifetime updates
  • Automatic future discounts
  • 100% money-back guarantee
  • Adapt and stay ahead

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About The Author

Hi, my name is Bryann Alexandros. I care deeply about strategy and innovation for nonprofits.

But I think the answers are found in remaking the way nonprofits think and collaborate internally so that they can design better social impact. I believe in the 50,000 ft view, but all 21st century changemakers have to start at ground zero: The core skills needed to reach those heights.

Heading in the same direction? Great! Follow me on Twitter (@balexandros) and subscribe to the blog for more actionable tips.