When nonprofit consultant Josh Jacobson realized he was having the same types of conversations with the founders of new nonprofit organizations, he came up with the idea for CULTIVATE.
CULTIVATE is a one-year incubator program to help the founders of emerging nonprofits get the training they need to become thriving organizations in the Charlotte area. Organizers with 501c3 status in Mecklenburg County who are willing to commit 12-15 hours per month may apply to the program by Oct. 1. There are six slots available for 2020. A panel of community leaders assist with reviewing applications and selecting finalists.
‘Benefiting all of us in the long run’
“Making an investment in the capacity and knowledge base of our most promising nonprofit founders early in their growth trajectory unlocks their ability to build healthier, more effective organizations — benefiting all of us in the long run,” said Jacobson, managing director of Next Stage and co-founder of CULTIVATE.
CULTIVATE is a social enterprise under Next Stage, a for-profit business offering consulting services to nonprofit organizations. In 2018, its first year, CULTIVATE worked with the founders from Learning Help Centers of Charlotte, Charlotte Is Creative and Promising Pages. This year, six nonprofit organizations were selected: Aspire Community Capital, Brave Step, Queen City Unity, Rebuilding Together of Greater Charlotte, Stiletto Boss University and Transcend Charlotte.
Participants in the program spend half of the year discussing mission, vision, values, human resources, board and staff. Fund development, donations and grants are taught in the last part of the program. The cohort meets monthly for a three-hour group workshop, followed by one-on-one coaching sessions.
“[Coaching] is an opportunity to check-in on the curriculum and react to more current and day-to-day challenges of leading a nonprofit organization,” CULTIVATE director Caylin Haldeman said.
Development of nonprofit expertise
Organizations apply for many reasons. Jania Massey, founder of Stiletto Boss University, knew she could benefit from training. She’d worked in the corporate world prior to starting SBU in 2016, and thought the CULTIVATE curriculum could help her develop expertise in running a nonprofit. SBU teaches middle and high school girls about collaboration, teamwork, leadership, public speaking and other skills through lessons on entrepreneurship.
“This [was] the next logical step for me to take,” Massey said. “We were at a transition as a nonprofit organization; I had gone as far as I personally knew how to go, and I needed someone to help me get to the next level.”
‘A platform to tell people about who we are’
Manuel Campbell started Aspire Community Capital in 2017. His nonprofit will launch a 12-week Community Business Academy at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library West Boulevard. He’s targeting adults from low to moderate income levels who have an idea for a home-based or storefront business. Participants will learn about building a business plan, budgeting, marketing and pricing models. Aspire is accepting applications now for its first cohort.
Campbell was accepted the second year he applied for CULTIVATE. “They’ve given us a platform to tell people about who we are, what we do and raise our hands and say, ‘we’re here,’” Campbell said.
A community of peers
CULTIVATE participants receive space at Hygge Coworking West Charlotte location on Remount Road. Massey, used to working alone, enjoys the creativity that comes with being around others. It’s made her aware of how many people are trying to solve issues within the Charlotte community.
“I’ve met people who have helped move the needle,” she explained. “You’re building this bond, and you’re seeing things through another lens. They’re in the fight just like you are.”
Haldeman and Jacobson facilitate the workshops and coach the participants. In 2020, they plan to include other instructors.
“That’s something we’re focusing on for 2020,” Haldeman said. “[We want] to bring in new voices, bring in additional facilitators, leaders of other nonprofits or people from the supportive community, other consultants, people from other foundations and philanthropies. We’re actively seeking to diversify the facilitation of the program. We know there’s a ton of talented voices in the Charlotte region.”
Accepted nonprofit organizations commit time and energy to CULTIVATE, but no funds. Reemprise Fund, a donor-advised fund through Foundation for the Carolinas, and OrthoCarolina Foundation cover the costs of the program.
“We really believe in the nonprofit founder,” Haldeman said. “We think that their passion is something really special. You hear a lot from the Charlotte community, ‘There are too many nonprofits here; the market is clogged; funding is a challenge.’
“In some ways that’s a conversation we’re having, but we push back and we say, ‘Nonprofit founders and entrepreneurs are where some of the most innovative and potentially impactful ideas for social change exist.’ We need to come up with ways to surface those really promising programs and leaders and help them be successful.”