Nonprofit organizations across Greater Hartford are facing an increased demand for services while they struggle to raise enough money. Several local nonprofits are proactively meeting this challenge through social enterprise: selling a product or service that complements their mission and supports the financial sustainability of the organization.
This self-sustaining approach to revenue generation is new to many nonprofits in Greater Hartford. In response, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving launched the Social Enterprise Accelerator, designed to help organizations expand beyond traditional grants and donations. The first cohort of ten nonprofits was launched in 2019; now, a second cohort of six is engaged in the process.
In March, the Foundation announced a matching challenge: 50 percent of every dollar of start-up capital raised by the nonprofits in the cohort (up to $20,000) would be matched by the Foundation. The six organizations raised approximately $234,000 prior to the June 8 deadline making them eligible for more than $115,000 in matching grants from the Foundation.
Each organization held a “Fast Pitch” session in March when they presented their business plans to current and potential donors and made a direct ask for financial support toward startup capital needs. The matching challenge officially ended on June 8. However, the six organizations are continuing to raise capital for their ventures.
“The enthusiasm and effort that area nonprofit organizations have brought to the Social Enterprise Accelerator program has exceeded our expectations,” said Director of Capacity Building and Nonprofit Support, Melanie Tavares. “While the creative ideas these organizations have been building are truly exciting, we were even more impressed by their level of commitment to developing detailed and viable business plans. Nonprofits in Greater Hartford have an appetite for social enterprise and a need for new revenue sources; we are proud to help them meet that need.”
This cohort began the three-year program in the summer of 2021 with a series of four intensive workshops on social enterprise. Of the 28 agencies that started the program, six were accepted for additional business plan development, implementation support and fundraising coaching. The Social Enterprise Accelerator is provided in partnership with No Margin, No Mission, a national consulting firm dedicated to helping nonprofits increase their earned income and entrepreneurial capacity.
The six nonprofit organizations participating in the program are:
- CT Data Collaborative – Data Strategic Planning for nonprofits
- End Hunger CT! – Full Shelves Initiative, an entrepreneurial venture designed to support food assistance agencies in efficiently and cost-effectively feeding their communities.
- Hartford Food System – Hartford Harvest Farm Share, an aggregated CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), focused on farmers of color.
- Health Equity Solutions – Equity training and consulting related to racial inequity in health and healthcare outcomes.
- Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society – The West Hartford Gift Shop, selling West Hartford-branded merchandise.
- YWCA Hartford Region – Persimmon Petals Boutique flower and gift shop that will employ clients who wish to develop workplace skills.
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding towns. Through partnerships, the Foundation seeks to strengthen communities in Greater Hartford by putting philanthropy in action to dismantle structural racism and achieve equity in social and economic mobility. Made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations, the Foundation has awarded grants of more than $894 million since its founding in 1925. For more information, visit www.hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.