News Release

CSE’s business model featured in national study

Profile picture for user Center for Sustainable Energy
Study finds CSE among the best

The Summer 2024 Stanford Social Innovation Review highlights the Center for Sustainable Energy’s focused, market-forward approach to funding its mission.

A study published in the review, “A New Look at How US Nonprofits Get Really Big,” analyzes the strategies nearly 300 U.S. nonprofits use to scale to achieve their mission. CSE – with a mission to decarbonize – is cited as a nontraditional example of a successful provider of services to governments and other clients.

The article noted that CSE’s approach can be applied by other nonprofits: Figure out what you do well and who will pay for it and become experts at tapping into that funding source.

Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE) has zeroed in on providing states and utilities with data-driven design and administration of large-scale incentive programs that accelerate adoption of clean transportation and distributed energy resources.

“We often go head-to-head with for-profit businesses,” CSE President Lawrence Goldenhersh says in the article. “We will not be able to accomplish our mission of decarbonization unless we compete in the market. That's our funding strategy.”

Since the organization was founded in 1996 in San Diego to run local energy efficiency programs, CSE has grown into a national nonprofit that administers electric vehicle (EV), EV charging, solar and energy storage programs valued at nearly $4 billion. Funding for those programs comes from a variety of federal and state sources, supporting CSE’s financial strength and stability.




The study by The Bridgespan Group, a global consulting nonprofit, focused on 297 U.S. nonprofits founded since 1990 and with more than $50 million in annual revenue. The data showed that over 90% of these nonprofits got the bulk of their funding from a single category of funder, such as corporations or government. The study lists three essential revenue strategies for nonprofits that want to achieve significant scale:

  • Focus on concentration in one or two revenue categories.
  • Seek funding that is a natural match for your organization’s work.
  • Build dedicated capabilities and infrastructure to tap into the one or two revenue categories you are focusing on.

The study was authored by Ali Kelley, Darren Isom, Bradley Seeman, Julia Silverman, Analia Cuevas-Ferreras and Katrina Frei-Herrmann. The Stanford Social Innovation Review covers cross-sector solutions to global problems and is published by the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at Stanford University.