NRV Nonprofit Accelerator

What is a nonprofit accelerator and why participate?

A group of 30-40 people gather for a photo inside an event space.

2019 Nonprofit Accelerator participants and mentors pause for a group photo during the program kickoff at the Floyd Event Center

Join us to expand your organization’s capacity or a program idea for your nonprofit! The Community Foundation of the New River Valley  works with the The Spark Mill to offer the Nonprofit Accelerator, an intensive planning and training experience for six to eight NRV agencies!

Let’s face it, nonprofits are different. There is always a greater good at play that guides expansion and capacity. It is easy to get so focused on the day-to-day activities of serving that we often lose sight of our organization’s greater mission and vision.

Accelerators are similar to incubators, but they focus on growing established organizations rather than launching new ones. They are meant for nonprofit organizations interested in expanding capacity, scaling up, increasing their sustainability, testing a new program idea, re-examining a long-standing program, and/or transforming a program model. This accelerator will provide the time, expertise, and space necessary to reflect, change, and act.

Contact if you are interested in participating in this program.

The Participant’s Journey

The accelerator experience includes a four-month program designed to advance the growth and impact of participating organizations through consulting, mentoring, and peer learning. Prior to the kick-off workshop, each participating agency will complete an online organizational assessment to identify strengths and weaknesses and help us tailor the experience to your needs. Then, the Accelerator proceeds as follows:

Here is the process:

  1. The accelerator will start with a two-day workshop to support capacity building in four areas:
  • Clarity of your organization or program model
  • Clarity of your ‘story’ and key audiences
  • Board engagement and strengthening
  • Planning and strategy

The workshop will be facilitated by The Spark Mill. Participants will be guided through creative exercises to refine their purpose, story, and key audiences; to identify a core challenge; and to develop a strategy and a 90-day action plan to address that challenge.

2. Your team will include a mentor drawn from the business, higher education, or nonprofit communities with extensive experience in growing an organization. Your mentor will participate in the various in-person workshops throughout the four-month program and will support you by offering his/her guidance between the in-person sessions.

3. All the nonprofit teams will reconvene for a mid-session workshop to share progress and insights, troubleshoot challenges, and learn from one another. The session will also include training materials tailored to the issues and challenges you are navigating through the process.

4. The accelerator will conclude with a ‘demo’ day and celebration where you will be able to practice telling your organization’s story and share any lessons learned, accomplishments and next steps to a broader group of potential community partners and funders!

The Requirements

Participant organizations selected to become a part of our accelerator must:

      • Be an established nonprofit. In addition to 501c3 charitable organizations, other nonprofit organizations such as civic leagues or social welfare agencies (501c4) and chambers of commerce or merchant groups (501c6), may apply.
      • Be established and stable. This program is not suited for new nonprofits, collaborations of multiple agencies, or agencies in financial or organizational crisis.
      • Make the time needed to take full advantage of this opportunity.
      • Be flexible and open to change.
      • Be ready and willing to have their ideas challenged.
      • Be able to create a team of 4-6 people including the key staff and board leadership.
      • Agree to participate in all aspects of the accelerator (training, coaching, workshops, and demo day).
      • Be willing to commit $300 towards their participation.

Learn More about the 2019 Accelerator

The Accelerator brought together staff and board members from seven nonprofit agencies in an inaugural cohort. These agency teams worked with mentors drawn from business and higher education communities to review their core missions, articulate their value, identify challenges, develop 30-60-90 day plans to address some of those challenges, and begin making progress on their plans. Learn more about their experience in this article.

Who is The Spark Mill?

The Spark Mill is a Richmond-based strategic planning and nonprofit consulting firm. They are experts at helping companies and organizations of all sizes make leaps, manage transitions, and plot transformative futures. For more information, visit their website at