FAQ: CULTIVATE Incubator

The response to our announcement of CULTIVATE couldn’t be better! We are excited by the potential this program has for speeding up the growth curve for a high-impact emerging nonprofit.

Based on the feedback we’ve received, we thought we would share this FAQ as a chance to further clarify the purpose of our incubator.

Why is CULTIVATE called an incubator instead of an accelerator? 

The selection of the term ‘incubator’ was very intentional. While accelerators tend to be shorter (weeks instead of months) and focus on resources as the primary obstacle to success, an incubator is likely to be more intentional about exploring an organization’s total business model.

Next Stage is often called in to work with emerging organizations with an interest in revenue development. Most of the time, the firm must reverse-engineer a process to examine and strengthen the underlying business model before any development plan can be successful. This is because nonprofit organizations have unique resource development models that can obscure underlying questions – is your organization differentiated? Does your organization move the needle? How do you fit into a community of nonprofits all striving for positive outcomes?

While there are accelerator underpinnings in CULTIVATE, at its heart is making an investment of time and resources in exceptional founders to be thoughtful about the organization they have created and are strengthening.  In this way, CULTIVATE is as much a leadership development program as it is a nonprofit incubator, providing these founders with the tools and understanding they need to navigate the nonprofit landscape over the long haul.

Is CULTIVATE for brand new organizations? Or those considering founding a nonprofit?

Probably not. While we want to be surprised and wouldn’t want to limit the application review process, it is highly unlikely that an organization without defined structure and programming would be selected for CULTIVATE. We are ideally looking for at least one year of operations and some programmatic impact. This is not a process to help people decide how best to launch the nonprofit they have always wanted to develop.

That said, our goal is to recommend applicants to our stellar selection panel who will have the difficult job of winnowing that list down to four organizations. A dynamic civic leader with a brand new organization may be considered favorably, but would be the exception as opposed to the rule.

My organization already has a six-figure budget and we have several employees. Are we a good fit for CULTIVATE?

Maybe so! The size of an organization’s budget and staff is not a determinant of suitability for CULTIVATE. The selection committee will be looking for organizational leaders that run unique, innovative and differentiated organizations that are timely and reflect local priorities. Participating organizations are likely to be at different stages in their development, which Next Stage views favorably – in this cohort model, participants are likely to learn much from engaging each other.

Will participating in CULTIVATE make it seem like my organization doesn’t have its act together?

Actually, the exact opposite. A central concern for us is that the organizations that could most benefit from CULTIVATE will perceive it as an admission of need, or else duplicative of some other strengthening program. We feel strongly that the curriculum for this incubator is a pathway to clarity of purpose, greater impact and increased sustainability.

For local funders, we believe CULTIVATE will be seen long-term as a filtering process that affirms the soundness of an emerging organization’s business model. Our discussions suggest that there is a desire for such a program to assist local philanthropy in helping younger organizations build up the capacity to be able to take on increased grant funding to scale programming.

How much funding will be made available as a part of the opportunity fund?

Some of you picked up on that part fairly quickly! Yes, we are in discussions to ensure that funding be made available to those organizations that successfully complete the incubator. We anticipate being able to provide $7,500-$10,000 to each organization to help kick-start the implementation of the strategic business plans that will have been developed through the incubator. We feel this is an important part of demonstrating a commitment as a community to the nonprofit founders who make an allocation of time to this program. That said, the reason to apply for CULTIVATE is for the journey of discovery and strengthening, not the destination of funding.

Should I wait until the last possible minute to submit my application? Like at 11:59am on November 10th?

No, you shouldn’t. In fact, this is something many organizations don’t understand when it comes to RFPs – you want to submit any application like this as early as possible. Those receiving the applications can’t help but spend more time thinking about your suitability. Get them in ASAP!

Ready to apply? Click here to access the application!

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