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A New Vertical Worth the Pursuit: Nonprofit Sector

One of the fastest growing ways to sell to State, Local & Education is through cooperative purchasing contracts whether it be OMNIA Partners, TIPS, E&I, GVMVT, etc. Many people know this, but do not realize that there is another category of businesses that can buy off cooperatives that have few contract options available to them: the nonprofit sector. At first glance, your reaction to that statement may have been “Nonprofits, Michelle, really? Do they have any money???”


This issue, we are going to dive into this sector and see if it is a vertical market worth pursuing, but first I want to clarify that not all nonprofits are charities so keep that in mind as we move forward.


Personally, I have always known about nonprofits and their ability to buy furniture off of cooperative contracts. I have trained many people that they need to not forget about nonprofits when they create their strategy for cooperatives. However, it wasn’t until Lisa Merder, Vice President, Workspace Solutions Advisor OMNIA Partners, mentioned to my team that nonprofits were a fast growing category within OMNIA Partners that I actually sat up and took notice. Per Lisa, “Creating the Nonprofit Vertical as its own standalone sales sector is an amazing opportunity for OMNIA Partners to show value to our nonprofit members and will uncover unexplored opportunities for our suppliers and agencies. Agencies were not aware that they had a cooperative available to them.“


So, let’s start with some mind-blowing stats on the non-profit industry (from Zippia. “26 Incredible Nonprofit Statistics (2023): How Many Nonprofits are there in the U.S.?” Zippia.com. Mar 13, 2023, www.zippia.com/advice/nonprofitstatistics.com)


  • There are 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the United States.

  • Nonprofits employ 10% of the U.S. workforce.

  • The total U.S. nonprofit annual revenue is $2.62 trillion.

  • The nonprofit sector is the 3rd largest workforce in the United States behind retail and manufacturing.

  • In third quarter 2022, the nonprofit sector contributed an estimated $1.5 trillion to the U.S. economy.

  • 5.7% of the United States GDP comes from the nonprofit sector.


Wow, right!!??? I also love this vertical because there are nonprofits everywhere in the US so it is a category any market could pursue as a strategy. They publish annual reports (data!!!) and are relatively open about what they are going to be doing with their money due to the accountability to their supporters.


Now, not every nonprofit is going to be the right target for you just like every commercial customer is not the right fit for you. So, how can you create a strategy to pursue nonprofits in your area?


  1. Do some research on which nonprofits are in your market. Some great tools for this may be Charity Navigator, Non-profit times, ASAE The Center for Association Leadership, Council of Nonprofits, Nonprofits First or just plain old Googling of some key words which get you a lot.

  2. If you are a rep or dealer, make a list of the manufacturers you work with that have a cooperative contract and which contracts they have - I prefer a table of manufacturers and contracts for an at-a-glance

  3. Use the member lists that the cooperatives provide to cross reference which nonprofits (#1) are already members of the cooperative you have access to (#2) BUT remember…most cooperatives have a very easy onboarding program for new members as long as they qualify for the cooperative, so you can add a nonprofit to any cooperative relatively easily.

  4. Research the nonprofits to see what kind of money they have available, do they have any upcoming moves, renovations, relocations, new buildings etc.

  5. Make a short list of the nonprofits you want to pursue.

  6. Engage your cooperative sales team for your area to discuss the accounts and create a strategy to pursue.

As with anything, visibility and accountability need to be in place:

  1. Make sure you have visibility to the progress you are making. Could be as simple as putting it in the CRM and tracking or having a post it on note on your computer with the names of your targets.

  2. Make sure you have accountability to follow up with emails, sales calls, demos, marketing etc. What is everyone’s role on your team to try to secure this and have meetings to discuss progress.

If you are not already working with or targeting nonprofits, I believe this can be a good new vertical market for you to consider if you do your research using the steps above.


One last thought: Nonprofits are held accountable for their spending on non-cause related items so create the right offering based on your product offering/solutions and contracts. Happy selling!



ABOUT MICHELLE WARREN

Founder, President - Catalyst Consulting Group


Michelle is a leading force in the commercial furniture industry with 27 years of experience. Holding executive positions on the manufacturing and dealer side, she is known as a strategist with a passion to distill difficult topics for easy learning and selling. Her talents resulted in unprecedented sales growth throughout her career and ultimately led her to the public sector; demystifying how to position product sales to the government. Her success and easy to understand approach lead her to open Catalyst in 2021.

Michelle has been recognized as an innovator in strategic selling to the Federal Government, State/Local Government, Higher Education and Cooperative Purchasing. She is also known for her willingness to mentor and elevate women in the furniture world.

On a personal note, Michelle has never met a dog she didn’t like. Her beagle, Zoe is her pride and joy. She loves meeting people (and dogs) and making connections happen. She is a serial networker at heart. Michelle resides in Dagsboro, Delaware.


If you’re interested in connecting - reach out at: [email protected], connect on LinkedIn or visit www.strategic-catalyst.com to learn more about her work.


As seen in Delve | May 2023 V.38

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