Request a Demo Search

5 Reasons Why Nonprofits Need Incubators Too

Topics -

See How Bloomerang Can Have a Bigger Impact on Your Mission!

Schedule a Demo

Unless you’ve founded a nonprofit before, you might need a little help getting things off the ground. Honing your mission, putting together a marketing and fundraising plan, and submitting all the necessary paperwork can be a daunting roadblock.

Furthermore, many new nonprofits struggle to establish credibility without investing heavily in traditional office space. Some have called for the creation of technology co-ops, but why limit sharing to just technology?

For-profit startup company incubators are popping up nationally, and with good reason. Entrepreneurs understand the value of shared costs, collaboration and flexibility when it comes to space to do work in.

So why not duplicate this model for nonprofits?

Five Benefits of Incubators and Co-Working Spaces for Nonprofits

1) Any time organizations, which are even somewhat similar in nature, are grouped together, sharing of good ideas and best practices happen effortlessly. Being able to ask questions or share ideas as you pass someone grabbing coffee or slipping to the restroom become second nature. You can only imagine what the improvements stemming from such sharing means to the mission work of each organization.

Having multiple organizations together in one place would allow for low cost, regularly scheduled education sessions provided by proven and screened third parties on a regular basis, as well as weekly accountability sessions led by talented leaders.

2) Small to mid-size nonprofits are notorious for having little to no IT expertise in house or even nearby. In an incubator, the entire IT infrastructure is taken care of from Internet access to phone systems to printers and copiers to faxing and scanning. Usually the costs for top-notch service in each of these critical areas are shared among many.

But it doesn’t have to stop with just the basic IT needs. Software for donor management, prospect research or accounting, and services such as mailing, insurance, financial planning, 1099 filing and auditing could be provided to members at a special discounted price due to group purchasing power.

3) Speaking of costs – if the incubator would happen to be a nonprofit itself, there would not be a need for large profits to be made. In fact, individuals, corporations and foundations would be able to support the incubator and as such help numerous charities at one time. Our friends at The Nonprofit Hub follow this model, as will we in our planned corporate expansion.

4) Being housed in a short-term lease arrangement, sharing space, furniture, systems, conference rooms, break areas and most other needed infrastructure items keeps a charity’s budget for those items small and the dollars devoted to mission large.

5) Flexibility reigns supreme if the rate of growth is unknown or if the need for the charity is perhaps temporary in some manner. In both cases, having the flexibility to add or remove staff and space easily and quickly without penalty becomes quite a benefit.

Does such an incubator exist in your city? Is it planned for the future?

Is there a definite need for any and all of the above items in a nonprofit-only incubation environment?

We at Bloomerang would love to hear your thoughts.

Download the Nonprofit Sustainability Field Manual!

Get the Free eBook

Exclusive Resources

Related Articles


  • Ismaeil Roushdi

    I was wondering if you can help me better understand how would a non-profit incubator operate and not personally investing in the non-profit programs they are assisting. Is it realistic to be able to stay afloat depending on key accounts/sponsors (through CSR)? I feel one of the main differences in many countries between for-profit and non-profit, is that the non-profit ends up having to invest a lot more capital in the programs since finding sponsors and CSR funders is unreliable. Or so i feel is the case in Egypt. Would love to know what your thoughts are. Ismaeil
  • Edwin Morris

    Exciting to find similar thoughts. Pioneer Knowledge Services (PKS) is starting a nonprofit incubator in Kent, Ohio. It is called Incubator 17. PKS is also the nation's first knowledge management nonprofit. I say lets converse soon. Yours in knowledge, Edwin
  • Orletta Caldwell

    I would love to start one in Detroit.
  • May 2015 Nonprofit Blog Carnival — You Are the Future of Philanthropy | Donor Dreams Blog

    […] and CEO at Bloomerang as well as the chairman of the AFP Ethics Committee. He blogs about “5 Reasons Why Nonprofits Need Incubators Too,” which speaks to the of democratization of philanthropy and mass collaboration at an […]
  • Matthew Marshall

    Jay, totally agree that non-profits need help getting started. We sure did. Similar to Paul, I'd love to get your opinion of mixing nonprofits and for profits in incubators/co-working. Not just friends as Paul says but actually having startups of both types in one program. If you solely had an incubator of nonprofits I believe you would be missing out on the advantages of the thinking and acting that great for-profit startup running on (making something donors want/love, listening to your users, moving fast, tech heavy, etc).
  • Paul

    Jay - great article. I love the idea of the sharing of ideas and resources within a centralized non-profit think tank. Perhaps taking this idea a step further, the incubator could include friends from the for-profit sector to lend advice and resources to help in various areas (everything from accounting to marketing). All the best, Paul.
Leave a reply