Financial Modeling for the Social Sector

Build sustainable financial models to scale your impact

Course Details

  • Price: FREE
  • Time: 4 hours/week
  • Duration: 7 weeks
  • Partner: Dr. Erik Simanis

What You’ll Learn:

  • Distinguish between an operational unit and a head office and the financial relationship between the two
  • Estimate the reach and size of your operational unit and identify what costs at scale means to your organization
  • Understand how to think about and calculate the funding requirements for building and maintaining a capacity that allows you to innovate, learn, and grow your organization


To achieve social impact, leaders in the social sector must find the right business model to achieve sustainability. In this course, you’ll learn how nonprofit organizations, social entrepreneurs, corporate entrepreneurs and social change leaders can use financial modeling and creative approaches to market-based funding to scale their work. You’ll gain a series of  templates and instructions so that even beginners to finance can begin to calculate their funding requirements and project future growth.

Format and Timing:

  • Team-Based Course: We strongly encourage (but do not require) that you form a team of 2-8 people to take the course with. It works best to find friends or coworkers who can meet in person. Need to find team members? You can post to the discussion forums a month before the course starts.
  • Platform: Teachable (+Acumen developed the course. We host this course on the Teachable platform.)
  • Timing: You can work through the materials at your own pace. There are no deadlines or required times for you to log in.

Course Syllabus

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  • 5 reading guides highlighting case studies and examples
  • 5 discussion guides to help you discuss important dimensions of your financial model with your team
  • Video tutorials from Erik Simanis, Partner at TIL Ventures
Section 1: Bottom-Up Financial Modeling Framework
  • Video: Bottom-Up Financial Modeling
  • Reading: Start With the Numbers
  • Reading: Product and Service Idea vs. A Business Model
  • Reading: ‘At-Scale’ and ‘Steady-State’ Operation
  • Activity: Frame Your Financial Challenge
Section 2: Bounding the Operational Unit
  • Video: Bounding the Operational Unit
  • Reading: The Operational Unit vs. the Head Office
  • Reading: Bounding an Operational Unit
  • Reading: Estimating the Operational Unit’s Reach
  • Reading: Estimating the Available Target Market
  • Reading: Estimating the Realistic Number of Customers
  • Reading: Converting to Monthly Transaction Numbers
  • Activity: Bounding Your Operational Unit
Section 3: Total Running Costs
  • Video: Total Running Costs
  • Reading: What Are Total Running Costs?
  • Reading: Estimating Running Costs for the Operational Unit
  • Reading: Head Office Costs
  • Reading: Estimating Running Costs for the Head Office
  • Reading: Calculating the Total Running Costs
  • Activity: Calculate Your Running Costs
Section 4: Total Investment Costs
  • Video: Total Investment Costs
  • Reading: What Are Total Investment Costs?
  • Reading: Estimating Investment Costs for the Operational Unit
  • Reading: Head Office Costs
  • Reading: Estimating Investment Costs for the Head Office
  • Reading: Calculating the Total Investment Costs
  • Activity: Calculating the Total Investment Costs
Section 5: Achieving Financial Sustainability
  • Video: Achieving Financial Sustainability
  • Reading: Review of Basic Financial Terminology
  • Reading: Connecting to the Modeling Framework
  • Reading: Calculating Required Price and Gross Margin
  • Reading: Calculating Required Price Point
  • Reading: Iterating on Your Model
  • Reading: Moving Forward with Rigor
  • Activity: Calculating the Price Point for Sustainability
The course already started. Can I still enroll?
You can enroll up to 2 weeks after the start date of the course.
When will the next course be offered?
We offer our courses a few times a year. Sign up for our emails to be notified of the next time the course will be offered.
Do I get a certificate for this course?
You will earn a Statement of Accomplishment if you complete 5 of 6 assignments, including the final assignment, by the last day of the course.
How do teams work?
We recommend you find friends or colleagues for your team that you can meet with in person each week. Each team member should register for the course individually. You’ll then be able to form your team on the NovoEd platform once the course begins.
Do I have to complete the course with a team?
While we believe taking the course with a team will give you the best experience and chance of completing the course, it is possible to complete the course individually if you wish.
What should I expect from the assignments?
You will create a Life Map, develop your own personal story, integrate it into a larger presentation, and record your presentation for feedback from your classmates. You should allocate at least one hour a week to complete each assignment.

Supported By

Dr. Erik Simanis is a Partner in the innovation consultancy, TIL Ventures, and core faculty of The Intrapreneur Lab. Erik has guided start-ups, green-field ventures, and corporate new venture teams in Eastern Europe, Africa, South Asia, and Latin America over the past 20 years.

What People Are Saying

Neha Pandya

"I can't believe I ever thought of starting a business without taking this course. I really want to create something meaningful, and this course showed me that with proper planning, the opportunity to make a difference is huge."

Neha Pandya, Acting Deputy Executive Director at International Law Institute-African Centre for Legal Excellence