Hartford Foundation Program Empowers Nonprofits with Earned Income Potential

New Social Enterprise Accelerator Helps Area Nonprofits Earn Income to Serve the Community

Nonprofit agencies in the Greater Hartford region are facing a perfect storm: reduced government funding, increased demand for services and an uncertain economic forecast.  Many organizations are eagerly searching for new revenue sources so they can continue to serve their communities.

The Social Enterprise Accelerator is the latest initiative from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving's Nonprofit Support Program (NSP), designed to help these organizations expand beyond traditional grants and donations when looking for new sources of revenue. This three-year program began in October 2018 with a series of four intensive workshops on social enterprise. Of the 49 agencies that began the program, 38 completed the workshops, including mandatory planning assignments and coaching sessions. Among this group, 32 organizations applied for 10 slots for additional business plan development, implementation support and fundraising coaching through October 2021. The Social Enterprise Accelerator is provided in partnership with No Margin, No Mission, a national consulting firm dedicated to helping nonprofit organizations increase their earned income and entrepreneurial capacity.

“Response to the Social Enterprise Accelerator program has exceeded all our expectations,” said Meher Shulman, Associate Director of NSP. “Each year, NSP delivers a wide variety of workshops and training programs, some involving commitments from six to 18 months. So when we first looked at a three-year program, we weren’t sure what the demand would be. Clearly, nonprofits in Greater Hartford have a need for new sources of revenue and an appetite for social enterprise; we are proud to help them meet that need. Where these organizations go next is almost unlimited.”

The ten nonprofit organizations selected to receive the additional training are:

Brain Injury Alliance of Connecticut

Chrysalis Center, Inc.

Community Child Guidance Clinic

CRIS Radio


Hartford Public Library

New Horizons

RE-Center Race & Equity in Education

Riverfront Recapture

The Open Hearth Association

“Choosing only ten organizations was extremely difficult. There were a number of strong applications that we, unfortunately, weren’t able to accept,” Shulman said. “All of the participating organizations increased their knowledge of social enterprise. Hopefully, this entrepreneurial spirit stays alive in Greater Hartford, with more success stories to come.”

The ten selected nonprofit agencies now begin four months of individual coaching in business plan development and fundraising techniques, with a mutual knowledge sharing session in May. In June, each organization will deliver its “Fast Pitch,” presenting their business plan and making their case for support to potential “investors,” individuals looking for compensation in the form of social good rather than shares of stock or interest payments. While some nonprofits launch their new social enterprise businesses before the Fast Pitch, others will wait until the fall. Coaching continues through a second knowledge sharing session in September 2019, with project tracking and monitoring through October 2021. 

“For the past three years, our Open Hearth Works program has been providing landscaping and clean up services to one client,” said The Open Hearth’s Executive Director Marilyn Rossetti. “We see firsthand how employment changes a person’s life. It takes a job to get the next job. We wanted to apply to the Social Enterprise Accelerator program because we see an opportunity to expand our services to provide a wider variety of services to more clients and create more job opportunities to the people we serve and beyond. We cannot wait for the next steps and how we will take what we have started and get it to the next level.”

Established in the late 1980s, NSP is key to the Foundation's capacity-building efforts, annually serving over 200 nonprofits and giving $2 million in grants. NSP's close contact with Greater Hartford's nonprofits provides it with a unique understanding of the trends within the sector.

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding communities. Made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations, the Foundation has awarded grants of more than $750 million since its founding in 1925. For more information about the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, visit www.hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.