Strong Nonprofits, Not More Nonprofits: Why Nonprofits Need Acceleration Help

nonprofit acceleration

We don’t need more nonprofits, we need stronger nonprofits. Now, before you take offense at the arrogance of that statement, consider this, a recent search in Guidestar, showed that we have 8,118 nonprofits in the Richmond Metro Area. We also have an estimated 1.8 million people living in the area.  Doing the math, that's 1 nonprofit for every 221 people.

We don’t need more nonprofits.

We want to see our current nonprofits increase their impact in the community. That's not to say that nonprofits aren't doing good work.  They are! Yet, because many nonprofits are so impact-driven, they get caught up in the day-to-day work. They rarely take time to take a step back and look at the big picture.

That’s one of the reasons I wanted to take the principles startups use and apply them to nonprofits when we started doing acceleration with nonprofits. While some of the acceleration principles are the same with startups and nonprofits, there are two key differences.

Two Key Differences Between Startup and Nonprofit Acceleration

1. In the startup world, the idea is that acceleration gets the company ready for the next round of funding. In the nonprofit space, acceleration is about helping nonprofits increase their impact. Now, I agree that acceleration can help a nonprofit get its proverbial house in order, which can lead to more significant opportunities for funding. But that is the byproduct – the ultimate goal is a more substantial impact. 

2. In the for-profit space, acceleration is used for new and emerging businesses. Since we don't need more nonprofits, I believe it is a better use of time and resources to apply acceleration principles to existing nonprofits. (For those occasional instances when it makes sense to start a nonprofit, acceleration can be a great tool. And there are NP accelerators out there that focus on startup nonprofits.) This may mean making a pivot in how they serve their clients. Or, it may mean doubling down on what they are already doing, but with a more precise focus.  Either way, it’s about testing assumptions to gain clarity and drive impact.

Moving Forward

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 With empathy and encouragement, I believe we can come alongside our existing nonprofit partners and help them take the next strengthening step. Helping these organizations make meaning from their experiences is why I do what I do. It's also why we created Mission Forward – we want to see existing nonprofits, already doing good work, have an even greater impact. Because when they win, the community wins.