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The Catalyst for Good initiative brings for-profit thinking to nonprofit startups

Joe Hamilton



Nonprofit startups face the same operational challenges as their for-profit counterparts. The return on investment in nonprofits, however, is typically “good,” as opposed to cash, and thus there are fewer investment vehicles for them. This means less access to capital to hire the wide range of talent, expertise and services needed to grow.  There are many support organizations for nonprofits with important programming, grants and services.  Even with those, nonprofits often don’t get the same level of support, particularly with tangible deliverables, that for-profits can attract or buy with investor dollars.  The St Petersburg Group crafted Catalyst for Good to innovate the traditional grant and education model by bringing its for-profit practices to a few special, innovative nonprofits.  A few key elements are:

  • Bring specific, senior level talent. Eschewing generalists or programmatic education, C4G delivers a full bench of experts who hone in on specific topics – it’s more senior level talent than most for-profits have access to.    
  • Make it one-on-one and in person. Each nonprofit has unique characteristics and deserves customized guidance. By investing time individually with each organization, we build exactly the right foundation for it. 
  • Execute whenever possible. Founder education grows acumen, but building websites, setting up accounting and applying for grants is not the highest and best use of the vision-keeper for the organization’s time. Perhaps the strongest innovation point in C4G: our program is full of deliverables – we build as we teach. We’ll cover marketing strategy, and also build the website and set up social media. Our technologists will explain technology capabilities and also build and implement them. And so on. At the end of three months, the nonprofit will be standing up tall with a sturdy foundation delivered by C4G.

For each participant in Catalyst for Good, we employ up to two dozen experts, producers and support staff to build, write, create and implement.  Our producers are paid, which means C4G is creating jobs. The investment to participate is $25,000. This is strong value for the large body of work and acumen brought to bear. Our key partners, Pinellas Community Foundation and Social Venture Partners, have generously offered to take on some of the investment.  Partners from SVP are donating their time and expertise to the tune of $5,000 in saved labor costs, reducing the investment to $20,000. The Pinellas Community Foundation is leveraging its Venture Philanthropy fund to match all funding for the program. That means the nonprofit’s investment of $10,000 is matched in full to cover the $20,000. This is wonderful example of collaboration between support organizations for the benefit of the community.

We are poised for a grand experiment in what happens when high powered acumen is focused on visionary founders in the nonprofit space. The nonprofit startups which fit the program will be innovative and high impact with ideas ready to transform our community.  If you know of a disruptive idea or program, please encourage the founder to visit and apply.   

If you’d like to learn more about supporting Catalyst for Good participant organizations, reach out to the Pinellas Community Foundation.

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