The Nonprofit Business Model Design Primer (FAQ)


(Updated June 28, 2018: This is an evergreen post on getting started with the Nonprofit Business Model Canvas for strategic planning endeavors. Bookmark this page for updates!)

Questions answered:

  • Where can I download the Nonprofit Business Model Canvas?
  • Do you have any introduction videos?
  • What courses do you have available?
  • Do I need to buy the book?
  • Do you support using the online generation tools of the canvas?
  • How do I use this for nonprofit strategic planning?


I had a group who did not know how to use the business model canvas. But within two hours, that changed. They were able to understand all nine blocks, plot their data, and tell the story of how their organization or startup idea really functioned and operated.

The key was in showing, rather than telling. Visuals help us communicate complex topics so that everyone understands your idea and so that the choices can be made.

The Nonprofit Business Model Canvas (nBMC) helps you do that. It's a visual framework for understanding the basic nine building blocks and seeing how the nonprofit's time, energy, and money flows through it all.

It's a remix of the original Business Model Canvas by Alexander Osterwalder and Strategyzer. I reauthored it to give a better fit the logic of mission-driven organizations. This is a reiterative project.

Q: Where can I download the Nonprofit Business Model Canvas?

If you're a nonprofit leader, staff member, or consultant/practitioner in the field (or you're just curious), you can download the nonprofit version of the canvas below.

Download the nBMC

Q: Do you have any introduction videos?

This rapid prototyping tool is predicated on the fact that strategy needs to come before budgeting. Strategic thinking is an inherent act of creative inquiry so you need to understand WHY you're taking a step in a new or modified direction, before you start funneling resources there.

For something as complex as nonprofit revenue models, the canvas is a common visual for common ground before you get to any formal planning.

With that said, I uploaded some videos to help you get started with the nBMC so that you can align new (and maybe risky ideas) with your north star.

Watch them in this order:

Eight Powerful Ways to Visualize an Innovative Nonprofit Business Model (2018)

The Nonprofit Business Model Canvas [Better Version + WALKTRHOUGH]

Using Epicenters to Solve Nonprofit Business Model Problems

Use the Nonprofit Business Model Canvas to Pitch New Ideas


8 Questions for Testing Assumptions in Your Nonprofit Business Model (+ 4 actions)

The entire playlist can be found here

That's it! I don't want to make this too long. I want you to start using this right away.

Q: What courses do you have available?

BMC Mastery is focused on telling the story and reading the flow of the original business model canvas. This knowledge can be applied to the nonprofit version.

View BMC Mastery


Q. Do I need to buy the book?

Yes, but only if you're absolutely new to business models etc. While it's more catered towards the for-profit side, the core thinking and material is transferable to the mission-driven side of things too. It's a good manual to have on your shelves.

I've had the books for years, however over time, I've seen why sometimes the manual has become inactionable for many. I'll touch on this another time. Just know that the canvas is the real meat of things. :)

Q. Do you support using the online generation tools of the canvas?

I have mixed feelings about using online tools that generate prototypes. It depends on your goals. If you're by yourself, you can absolutely generate prototypes on your own.

Serious business model design is a multi-disciplinary task. Everyone from CxOs to front-line staff need to get involved. Everyone's got data on the business model!

You also need to do some pre-collaborative work. Ask: What problems are you trying to solve? Do you have consensus from the top that those really are problems you need to focus on?

One massive reason why these DIY business model design projects fail is because the tools are isolated from the broader task of framing your challenges, and then choosing the focus, before generating ideas to attack it. (aka business model prototypes)

Steve Blank, Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur and author of The Four Steps to the Epiphany, says "get out of the building" which means you gotta go out in the actual world and deeply empathize with customers and clients, but you need to do this with your own crew/team.

Q. How do I use this for nonprofit strategic planning?


Fill out the canvas to the best of your ability.


If you already have your own planning processes in-house, then use the canvas to inform your own action plan.


Done with your canvas? Are you a leader or decision-maker? Everyone's strategic planning process is different. With that said, now that you have a conceptual model of your business model, you can now take the next step. I'm simply one consultant out of many, but take a look at my services page to see if you and I will be speaking the same language.

You may also contact me using this form. Just let me know your situation and we'll take it from there.

Got a question that needs answering? Leave a comment below!

Bryann Alexandros