Is your revenue stream about to become a dry creek bed?

There’s nothing more dangerous these days than the assumption that a source of funds for your nonprofit will always be there. Nonprofits that rely on the same events, the same grantmakers, the same high net worth donors and the same year-end appeal campaigns are extremely vulnerable.

A 2007 article by Atul Tandon of World Vision still rings true today. Tandon warns against dependency on the “old reliable” funding sources. He notes that the latest trend, exemplified by Bill and Melinda Gates, of individuals bypassing the nonprofit “middleman” and going straight to the charity recipient has drained considerable resources from traditional nonprofits.

That’s happening everywhere, and not just with insanely rich individuals like the Gateses. Here in our hometown of Portland, we know a family that is quietly but quite successfully raising funds at local schools to support children in Kenya with developmental disabilities. Their appeal is straightforward and heartfelt, and difficult to resist.

Tandon strongly advises nonprofit managers to take a strong marketing approach to fundraising. Look for new ways to raise money. Don’t get dependent on grantmakers whose funding decisions might completely shift on short notice, leaving you without money you counted on to serve your clients. While Tandon’s article is fairly self-serving—World Vision is portrayed as emblematic of the new fundraising vision—it contains valuable advice. Diversify your source. Create new initiatives. Cultivate new individual donors, and find ways to engage your existing donor base. If you believe in your mission, take a hard look at your revenue streams, and make sure they’re not slowly turning into creeks.