Accelerators, incubators new tools for nonprofit startups

November 7, 2013

Accelerators, incubators new tools for nonprofit startups

Incubators and accelerators are finally making their way to the nonprofit sector, helping young organizations get off the ground. The programs provide free office space and access to professional resources for technology and legal issues.

Two recent nonprofit accelerators are Beespace and Blue Ridge Foundation. BRF also provides services for mission-driven for-profits, but Beespace will focus entirely on the nonprofit industry. Beespace's creator, photographer and consultant Marissa Slacker, will also cap residency in the program at two years. This will make room for new startups and encourage more successful ones to grow and move on.

Nonprofits need more than just a free space
Any startup comes with risks, but for nonprofits, jumping in too quickly can mean disaster. According to Grant Space, nonprofits need to determine if the services they intend to offer are already provided by another organization or if they're needed in their community. Nonprofit entrepreneurs also need to confirm very early on if their idea truly qualifies as a 501(c)(3).

Free office space and access to professional help is a great benefit to nonprofits as long they realize they will need to move on. If the idea proves to be a success, organizations must prepare for increased needs related to staffing, HR, fundraising and space to operate. Young organizations must control their growth so that their mission doesn't suffer. Once under control, nonprofit leaders need to ensure their model is sustainable.

Nonprofits should seek outside consulting after the startup phase
As an organization leaves the startup stage and takes on more employees it must consider the growing expense of unemployment insurance, fraud protection and financial management.

Even if a nonprofit maintains its staffing levels as it continues to grow, their costs associated with state UI tax pools will continue to increase for each new employee. Even if no benefit claims are paid out, organizations will still incur a cost. Nonprofits should consider opting out of state UI tax pools and joining an unemployment insurance savings program. Programs that offer organizations membership in a limited liability corporation provide an opportunity to lower UI costs as a self-reimbursing employer with less risk than group trusts.

As an organization grows it will also be faced with the realization that many of the rules and regulations regarding nonprofits are complex. From UI laws to HR management and financial consultants, leaders should consider enlisting the help of professionals to keep their growing organization on the right track. 

Content presented by First Nonprofit Group, a leading provider of financial consulting services for 501(c)(3) nonprofit employers.


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We first started using First Nonprofit’s Unemployment Savings Program when we were a small startup nonprofit.  We didn’t have an HR department and needed expertise in the event that an unemployment claim was made.  We knew we were eligible to be a reimbursing employer, but weren’t sure how to navigate that process.  They made it easy to set things up, plan for, and then manage claims when they came at a very reasonable cost. The amount of time and stress they’ve saved us dealing with all this has been worth way more than the cost.  We’ve now grown to a large nonprofit and do have an HR department but have no plans to stop using their services.  I highly recommend them to every nonprofit I come into contact with!


Throughout our membership in the Unemployment Savings Program, First Nonprofit understood our demands, community dynamics, and the importance of seamless services; that allowed us to serve our constituents better.

Prevent Blindness America, Chicago, IL

Because INCS advocates for the operating conditions that allow charter public schools to provide high quality public education, partnering with First Nonprofit was an easy decision. First Nonprofit’s unemployment programs provide our member schools two operating elements crucial to their ability to provide high quality public education: savings and budget certainty. Capable, committed teachers are the key to student success. By participating in the unemployment insurance savings plan, charter public schools gain peace of mind and are able to invest more money in their teachers.

Illinois Network of Charter Schools, Chicago, IL

It has been our sincere pleasure to maintain a strong, vibrant business partnership with First Nonprofit. We greatly admire their strong industry knowledge, technical expertise, constant professionalism, knowledgeable and dedicated staff. They are always extremely responsive, personable and provide us with the necessary guidance and recommendations on a numerous variety of employment scenarios.

Thresholds, Chicago, IL

NYCON members who use First Nonprofit’s programs enjoy enduring savings and improved efficiency. Our association knows that success, because from the beginning, we achieved the same great benefits. Great savings, seamless technology, and responsive service. NYCON highly recommends First Nonprofit’s remarkable unemployment solutions.

New York Council of Nonprofits, Albany, NY

Visually Impaired Preschool Services has been a client of First Non-Profit since it was first offered as a benefit of VisionServe Alliance. We completed a thorough evaluation of cash savings to our agency before taking advantage of this wonderful benefit and it has been a very wise decision. Our experience with the processes from accounting to claims have been professional, expeditious and easy.

Visually Impaired Preschool Services, Louisville, KY

Luckily for us, our interactions regarding any issues with staffing has been very minimal! I can say that all other interactions with regards to billing, 941 reporting, etc. have been extremely pleasant, accommodating and easy to work with. Kim Ghanayem is always prompt, professional and friendly. Thank you so much!

Neurologic Music Therapy Services of Arizona, Phoenix, AZ

First Nonprofit has been easy to work with and makes the administrative process easier and smoother. We enjoy working with you.

Visually Impaired Preschool Services, Louisville, KY