Business Model Canvas – a version for non-profits

A few weeks back, Shawn Callahan of Australian narrative-knowledge consultancy Anecdote asked me to help in devising a modified version of Alex Osterwalder‘s Business Model Canvas. The aim was to produce a business-model tool, suitable for one of Anecdote’s clients – a large non-profit organisation – who were undertaking a major strategic review.

Our challenge was to keep the same structure as the original Canvas – so as to be able to use it with the Business Model Generation book – but adapt it for the somewhat different needs of a non-profit context.

Alex kindly checked our work – thanks Alex! – hence in accordance with the original Creative Commons license, we’re publishing the end-results here.

Using Alex’s original Business Model Canvas poster as a base, we amended only the text, so as to keep as close to the original as possible:

The full-sized poster (6ftx4ft, 182.88×121.92cm) is here [PDF, 432kb].

For our purposes, in a non-profit context, we needed to change four of the segment-headings:

  • Customer Segments to Co-creators
  • Customer Relationships to Relations
  • Cost Structure to Value-streams – outlay and costs
  • Revenue Streams to Value-streams – returns

The reason for changing the Customer Segments heading was that we’re not dealing with a simple supplier-to-customer relationship: there may be many different groupings who may have ‘customer-like’ relationships to the organisation, but often in radically different roles. After quite a bit of casting-around, we finally settled on CK Prahalad’s term ‘Co-creators‘ as a generic for all of these relationships and roles.

The change to the Customer Relationships heading followed directly from the above: since we were dealing with a much broader range of relationship-type than solely those of customers, we used ‘Relations’ as the generic.

We changed the Cost Structure and Revenue Streams headings to reflect the fact that we were likely to be dealing with a much broader range of value-costs and value-returns than solely in monetary terms. For example, an action in breach of the organisation’s vision or values might well be considered a higher ‘cost’ than than that of a monetary cost; and likewise ‘value-return’ would typically need to be monitored and measured primarily in terms of the organisations vision and values. In effect, money is simply one specific case of a generic class of ‘value’, and – in a non-profit context – should not be treated separately from any of the other relevant forms of value.

We changed quite a bit of the detail-text to reflect this overall difference in definition of ‘customer’ and ‘value’ or ‘cost’ – see the poster for the exact details. We aimed to make the text as generic as possible, though in a few places it does reflect that specific client’s needs. Even so, we believe it should be usable as a base-template as a Canvas for other non-profits – or even for the non-financial aspects of for-profit business-models.

Over to you, anyway: Share and Enjoy?

4 Comments on “Business Model Canvas – a version for non-profits

  1. OK. So you are telling me you have a plotter capable of printing 182.88×121.92cm? I did last year and was SO POPULAR. Very happy not to have one this year…

  2. I am returning to the executive of a small non-profit group whose membership is aging and is in real need of some re-vitalization. The way that we are approaching this now (and in the past) is to give out more flyers so that we can attract new members (especially those not collecting a pension). This has been moderately successful but we are still struggling to stay viable. It seemed to me that we have lost our focus and can’t really articulate what we can offer people.
    This canvas should be able to provide us with a focused approach to understand who we are, what we offer and how we deliver value. I am going to try to complete the canvas with our executive to at least start the conversation. It should also give an idea about how well it (the canvas, not the executive) scales. Stay tuned!

    • Hi Bob – Hope this will help your group, certainly.

      Perhaps the important point here is to point you to Alex Osterwalder’s website for his book Business Model Generation. From there you can download the very-generous 72-page sample-text, which includes the full description of the original Canvas. (I would also strongly recommend buying the book, too. 🙂 ) If you then use the methods described there, but with this ‘non-profits’ version of the Canvas, you should probably have what you need as a tool for your purpose.

      You might also find it useful to have a look at a worked example for a (fictitious) charity in my series on the related Enterprise Canvas model – see ‘The Enterprise Canvas, Part 7: Patterns‘, second example. (There’s a cross-map between Enterprise Canvas and the standard Business Model Canvas about halfway down in the article The Enterprise Canvas, Part 2: Market and Supply-Chain.)

      Hope this helps, anyway, and best wishes.

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