Too many of Hampton Roads’ 4,339 public charity nonprofits are in survival mode, competing for fewer donor dollars.

Compounding this decline, the federal tax law changes that do so much to help our small businesses fall short in delivering relief to nonprofits. Rather, these laws allow individuals and couples to claim a lump sum deduction without itemization and introduce higher thresholds for standard tax deductions on charitable contributions. In fact, the Joint Commission on Taxation estimates that, due to tax law changes, giving to charitable non-profits will shrink by $13 billion or more each year.

Confronted with the aforementioned challenges, dwindling institutional grants and individual contributions, many non-profits have and are exploring alternative methods of funding so that they may continue delivering services critical to community progress and growth.

One method used in Hampton Roads is the development of for-profit social enterprises (retail) that help to build capacity and increase unrestricted funds.

Hope House, Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters are both well-established examples of nonprofits successfully diversifying revenue streams via for-profit retail ventures; whereas, VersAbility Resources and Eggleston have married their mission to their market-driven businesses.

This concept requires equipping nonprofit leaders with the education and skills needed to create, manage and grow a retail division. It incorporates learning all elements of retail operations including inventory control, visual merchandising, pricing structure, product marketing, and many others.

With the launch of the Certificate in Retail Operations for Social Enterprises, the Center for Retail Excellence will fulfill this retail-specific competency gap. Beginning Oct. 1, the seven-part program is tailored to those already operating social enterprises as well as nonprofits considering a revenue generating retail venture.

There are a wide range of retail categories that may fit a nonprofit’s mission while also contributing to their financial needs. These include, but are not limited to: Gift shops, thrift shops, and coffee shops, as well as businesses that create and sell art, home décor, and beauty care products. Other retail-related service-sector opportunities include construction, moving services, and landscaping services.

Although not feasible for every nonprofit, creating or expanding a social enterprise offers an additional revenue strategy to combat the challenges that tax changes on deductibles and thresholds may cause. If executed effectively, this additional income opportunity will help fuel vital services and support our community’s overall health and well being.

Tiffany McGee is the Retail Alliance Foundation’s director of development. Contact her at tmcgee@retailalliance or (757) 455-9339. This expert column article is also featured on Inside Business.