Industry Expertise · July 21, 2020

6 Revenue Streams for Nonprofit Universities to Consider

For small nonprofit universities, revenue is an ongoing challenge. Tuition and enrollment numbers can vary from year to year, and grant funding isn't always assured. What's more, smaller institutions don't have the same level of endowment funding as larger universities.

Thinking about your campus with the perspective of an entrepreneur and exploring alternative ways for generating income can help address the challenge. Here are six revenue streams for nonprofit universities that can diversify your income streams and help boost your organization's financial security.


1 Corporate training

A global digital transformation is changing the skills companies need in their employees. Many employers are offering training to re-skill existing team members as well as onboard new hires. 

Schools can partner with employers and become their training provider. Seek out companies in your area and work with human resources teams to design a curriculum. A member of your faculty who is familiar with the industry could lead the instruction, or they could offer to advise a member of the company's executive team.

2 Continued education

In addition to forming corporate training partnerships, universities can offer training programs directly to the public. For example, consider giving local residents looking for new opportunities a chance to learn skills that can help them in their job search. 

This type of revenue stream can attract non-degree-seeking students who need training or access to a certificate program. By offering professional development services that enhance and accelerate careers, colleges can generate new income streams as well as gain exposure for their degree programs.

3 Rentals

Your campus likely has facilities and equipment that could be useful to companies or members of the community, and renting them out could create another source of revenue. For example, local youth leagues may rent sporting facilities for practice. Companies may want to rent classrooms for workshops. Or home-based businesses may want to rent your commercial kitchen during off-hours. 

Take an audit at your buildings and assets. Consider how these resources could provide value to local organizations, businesses and community groups that may need a place to meet and have the funds to rent out space.

4 Services

When you offer rentals, you may also be able to offer services that go along with them. If a company is renting a classroom for a workshop, you may be able to offer catering for the event. If you rent out an auditorium for a conference, you could also offer event planning. Or if you rent camera equipment, you could provide the option to hire someone to operate it. 

Many students would likely embrace an opportunity to help with these services as work-study employment or even volunteer work. It could be a great opportunity for them to gain real-world experience in a field that interests them.

5 Meals

Today's university dining often rivals local restaurants. If you have the capability, open your cafeterias to the public to help boost your profits.

While students will have a meal plan, you can offer plated meals or carry out on a per-person basis. Having an open cafeteria is also a perk when people rent you facilities and want to grab a snack or meal.

6 Surplus sales

Other revenue streams for nonprofit universities arise at the end of the school year when it's time for students to move out of the dorms. Instead of trashing, storing or moving large objects, students often appreciate the option to donate them to the school. This keeps items out of the landfill and gives schools a chance to offer them for sale on campus or through an online auction. 

Be sure to market your surplus sales to the community. Items may also be of interest to students who are moving in for the next school year as well as to local residents.

Finding the right fit

The nonprofit revenue streams that are a fit for your university will be based on what your campus has to offer and the needs of the surrounding community. Think about the requests your school regularly receives, such as rental inquiries or corporate training, and monetize ways to fill them. Those income streams could be a great place to start diversifying your revenue. The more vital a part of your community you become, the more exposure and financial security you can gain.

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