Four Top Strategies for Financial Sustainability for Catalyst Kitchens Members

March 6, 2019

It goes without saying that financial sustainability is critical to the success of social enterprise job training programs. Since our model is a complex hybrid between private enterprise and public nonprofit funding, it is important to know where one ends and the other begins. What steps can you take to ensure your food service business and job training program are sustainable and thriving?

Catalyst Kitchens has created a content series on financial sustainability to address this fundamental issue in 2019. This will include blogs, interviews with leaders in our field, and self-paced learning through video tutorials and easy-to-use financial templates.

To kick off our 2019 financial sustainability content series, here’s a look at four top financial sustainability strategies that we hope can inform your team’s strategy.


1. Community collaboration is fundamental.

Each community is unique, and one size does not fit all. Listen to your community and together you will find the right solution. Our programs are only as strong as their community support, so make sure that your program is providing a necessary service and is serving populations who need the support.  This principle holds true on the social enterprise side as well: is there a market opportunity for a new café in an up-and-coming area, or is your local hospital looking for a dependable food service provider? It is best to put the time into researching the current food industry landscape before determining the right business for your program.


2. Seek consistency in revenue streams and production lines.

Over 98% of Catalyst Kitchens member organizations entered the social enterprise space with some type of contract meal as their anchor business (for example, contracted meals for seniors, shelters, or childcare). This is because these are often annual contracts with a predictable volume of production. This type of business allows for scale and provides a consistent environment for training.


3. Diversify revenue streams.

Never allow your business to rely too heavily on a single contract or client. None of our member organization cover all the costs associated with their training program through profits from their businesses. Instead members work toward generating a modest profit from their business that can offset a small portion of the cost of training. Often food service business managed by nonprofits can break even or run at a loss, at least in the first 18-24 months.  Organizations plan to cover these losses through fundraising until the business is self-sustaining. Diversity of business and funding sources is key to make your program more sustainable.


4. Manage expectations.

Do this constantly with your team, board members, and supporters – especially when launching a new program.  Bring your board and leadership along for the journey. Onboard new board members and leadership about your program and why it is so critical to the organization and the community. Align your program goals with the strategic goals of the organization if your organization’s objective is poverty reduction or hunger relief.


Financial sustainability is the cornerstone of Catalyst Kitchens programming – stay tuned as we deep dive into this topic with our member programs!


The Financial Sustainability Content Series

This article is a part of our Financial Sustainability Content Series focusing on fundraising for social enterprise and how to manage a double bottom line in a nonprofit social enterprise environment. Our content series provide exclusive members-only content including educational video series from experts in the network, how-to operational guides, network-wide data reporting, and more. 

Interested in learning more about Catalyst Kitchens membership? Learn more here.


Other articles in this series include: 

Four Partnerships That Will Determine Your Program's Success

Find the Profit in Nonprofit Social Enterprise

Finding the True Cost of Training

Blog Category: 

Financial Sustainability

Renee Martin

Renée got her entrepreneurial experience in the (insanely) fast moving digital media sector where she launched and developed several startups. After that she pivoted to be a leadership consultant to nonprofits and social entrepreneurs. As Director, Renée oversees Catalyst Kitchens as a whole. She is responsible for social enterprise sustainability and program impact for both membership and consulting.