Although the focus of this workshop will be on fees charged for typical literacy services, the issues we discuss today can equally apply to any business venture that an agency might be interested in pursuing. During the workshop, we will present a framework that can help agencies in the planning stages of embarking upon a commercial venture.
An interesting term that some people might choose to use is “entrepreneurship” because we so often talk about small business owners as entrepreneurs. Actually, entrepreneurship refers to adding value by recombining or redistributing resources, which is what we are trying to do when we incorporate fee-for-service into our agencies. Thus, some not-for-profits are extremely entrepreneurial while others are not.
Traditionally, charities and not-for-profit organizations have not charged for the services they deliver, and community-based literacy agencies are no exception. Providing literacy instruction, either by volunteer tutors or paid instructors, has always been and will continue to be the cornerstone of what we do.
Not-for-profits and charitable organizations, including literacy programs, exist to serve their clients who would not otherwise have access to the service(s) being provided. At the risk of generalizing, client groups of Canadian charities cannot afford to pay for the services they receive. This raises a variety of questions, such as:
Let’s look at these issues one by one, starting with why we would charge for some of the services we provide.
The Canadian charitable sector has experienced many changes over the past 10-15 years. Faced with the challenges that have accompanied these changes, charities are asking themselves, “Can we continue to operate as we have been doing, or must we look for a new direction?” One of the new directions that has been considered by a number of organizations is to become involved in business ventures, including charging fees for the services they have traditionally offered at no charge. Why have we been going in this direction?