To see the other installments of Cash Confessional, click here. This series is completely volunteer-based; if you’re interested in keeping track of your own spending and having it featured, email Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week, we’re mixing things up a bit and gaining some insight into the inner workings of a non-profit with Digi-Bridge’s CEO and Founder David Jessup, Jr. Founded in 2014, Digi-Bridge is working in Charlotte to ensure all schoolchildren have access to the tools and resources they need to succeed in the digital age.
In addition to carrying out mission-aligned advocacy work, the organization offers a variety of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) programs for youth.
What does it take to enable Digi-Bridge to bring these resources to kids in our area?
Industry: Nonprofit (Education technology)
How long have you been in business: In February we will celebrate 5 years!
Your age: 31
Start of idea to opening doors: About 90 days
Employees: 2 full-time employees and 35 part-time contractors.
You’re a nonprofit, but do you actually bring in money?
Yes. A nonprofit can indeed bring in a profit. In 2018 we brought in $50,004 in profit from fee-for-service offerings. This does not include “nonprofit” income from grants, donations and sponsorships.
From day one, we were bringing in grant dollars.
We did not begin focusing on earned revenue streams until 2016 when we recognized the need to sustain certain aspects of our work.
When Digi-Bridge earns a profit, where does that money go first? What are your priorities?
All profit supports general operations and mission advancement. Most recently, we’ve been spending profit on the purchase of new hardware and software needed to grow our footprint.
Are you, personally, making money from the business?
In April 2018, I was put on payroll. Prior to that time, my earnings were sporadic, at best, and contingent upon my ability to meet the goals I set for the organization each quarter. It’s worth noting that this was all my doing.
Our incredibly supportive board of directors wanted me to go on payroll sooner, but I advocated for additional staff roles before we fully committed to my salary.
How many business partners do you have?
I serve as CEO and report to a board of directors. The board has traditionally seated four members.
Quick annual revenue breakdown
Last year, we brought in about $325,000.
- $252,000 grants and sponsorships
- $50,000 fee-for-service “earned” revenue
- $23,000 individual giving
Looking to give? Give here.
Rent: $2,250/mo for an office and three co-working memberships (we host a number of our courses at coworking spaces)
Neighborhood: Our home base is Hygge at Camp North End. We currently host programming in Charlotte, Ballantyne, and Davidson.
What are the hard costs associated with staying in business?
- Payroll and contract wages
- Liability insurance
- Hardware and software
This adds up to roughly $30,000/month.
How did you secure the funds to begin your business?
Seed funding from a national foundation that has a local office here in Charlotte.
The most unexpected expense you have to pay as a business owner?
Liability insurance – we spend an incredible amount of money to protect the board, staff, and scholars.
The most fun thing you get to buy?
Easy- Lego robotics kits!
The weirdest thing you’ve spent money on?
Misuse of a photo – In the earliest days of the organization, I was managing everything and stole a photo from a Google Search. I placed the photo on our blog and a law firm tracked it down using scanning software. They settled for $850.
If I mentioned the name of your business around those closest to you what would they say?
Most people think I’m a teacher, which is the highest compliment. Friends usually ask how they can help. Best friends require me to share blocks of time where I promise not to talk about work.
If you could go back in time and create any other business that currently exists what would be?
We are small and can innovate and iterate quickly. Difficulty retaining top talent. We are a sandbox for innovation, but the work isn’t going to improve your life financially.
- Within our strategic plan, we have three priority areas. The goals, and each priority, are as follows:
- Advocacy: passage of K-12 legislation providing all public-school students with access to computer science education during the academic day
- Consultancy: provide at least five (5) CMS schools with consultancy to build a competition programming and robotics squad
- Coursework: grow to six (6) fee-for-service program sites and eight (8) granted program sites
Big dream goals:
- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools identified as a national model for K-12 integration of computer science education during the academic day
- Organization receives multi-year funding to grow out-of-school course offerings to serve all K-8 youth in Charlotte
- All K-12 youth have access to a connected device at home
Money diary: a week of spending at Digi-Bridge
I started my day with the city’s digital inclusion steering committee at 7th Street Market. Digital Charlotte bought my coffee ($0). I then hopped to a second meeting uptown and left my car in the garage at 7th Street Market ($12). I beat myself up for approximately 15 minutes after inserting the card. My friends at Google Fiber bought me lunch ($0). After lunch, I boosted a post on social media ($25).
Total spent: $37
I started my day with a call from our insurer. We needed to renew board insurance ($598).
Total spent: $598
A teammate registered for one of SHARE Charlotte’s upcoming workshops ($59). A teammate purchased credits for Peachjar – the tool we use to disseminate information to schools ($450). We purchased a plug-in for the website to alleviate troubles related to exporting information ($99). We paid our web designer for support with the plug-in ($45).
Total spent: $653
I purchased snacks for a school meeting ($10). I boosted another post on social media ($25).
Total spent: $35
I approved an invoice for one of our contractors ($510). I also approved an invoice for the sponsorship of a school sports team ($450).
Total spent: $960
Picked up some snacks and drinks for courses ($100).
Total spent: $100
Total weekly spending $2,383
What you learned
We spend a considerable amount of money communicating our message. The board insurance renewal crept up on us and so I need to make sure it’s included as an anticipated expense for 2020.