I'm building a site and community around a particular disability which I have. I have a number of ideas that I'm sure will make the site a success in terms of getting visitors, but I'd also like to monetize the site. Ideally, this would be full-time work for me, but obviously it would have to pay. :-)
I'm wondering if anyone has ideas as to how I could go about monetizing the site? I don't want to plaster it with ads (not that they seem to generate that revenue - particularly in this niche) and the only good idea I've come up with so far is to build a number of online services (subscription based) that would aid those in some way with this disability, which I could then promote via my community site.
Does anyone have experience in monetizing what could be seen as charitable work, helping the disabled, without offending people and still doing okay?
Can you clarify your reason(s) for forming a for-profit instead of a nonprofit? Your answer to that question could really influence the solution to the issues you've raised.
Can your target consumers afford to pay for the services you want to offer? (Have you studied your target population and figured out if they can/would pay for your services?) This is one of the primary reasons nonprofits exist -- because they enable third parties (governments, philanthropists, etc.) to foot the bill for goods and services that the intended recipients cannot afford.
I understand that your target consumers are disabled -- not necessarily financially strapped -- so you don't need to operate as a nonprofit. There are lots of for-profit businesses that provide services to address sensitive/societal/etc. issues, so you definitely don't need to feel hesitant about charging for services. You just have to tread lightly, make sure you are fairly transparent about your mission and business model, and do your best not to take advantage of your target population -- or you'll risk your credibility.
If you haven't already, I suggest you read up about social enterprises and (B Corps), and how to build for-profit businesses that address social and/or environmental issues. That literature should provide you with many examples of successful social enterprises and help you to figure out what business model(s) would be appropriate for your company.
In my opinion, there's nothing wrong with being upfront with your intentions. You could have an "about" page where you write something like
Hello. My name is Rick. I have (the disability) and I decided to set up this website to help people who are in a similar situation. Portions of this website are free, and I've decided to offer some additional features to persons who are willing to pay a small subscription fee. Funds generated from subscriptions allow me to invest more time in developing and maintaining this site. Please note that, at this time, this website is owned and operated by a for-profit company.
Why don't you try to convince companies to sponsor the site?. If you´re legally a non-profit (which is not clear from your description) this could be a solution to get some revenue (but you´ll still be far from having a full-paid job).