Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Am I eligible for the accelerator? What kinds of organizations does NLA work with?
A: NLA supports emerging, progressive organizations and leaders working to strengthen civic engagement and advance a more just and equal society. The groups we with are active in one of these arenas:
Securing and maintaining a year-round, progressive, political power base at the local, state or federal levels
Protecting and strengthening civil liberties
Fighting for racial, social, or economic justice
Educating the public and/or elected officials about progressive policy issues
Advancing progressive policies at the local, state, or federal level
Here’s what we don’t do: we don’t work with international groups. Accelerator members must be based in and focused on the United States. And while we love civic technology, we don’t take that on either, even if the organization has a social justice or civic-minded mission. If you work in progressive civic tech, check out the fabulous Higher Ground Labs - they are your people.
Q: What is an accelerator program?
A: Accelerators speed up the life cycle of young, innovative organizations. By providing intensive support, skill-building and other resources, accelerators compress years' worth of growth and learning into a relatively short, fixed period of time to help new organizations scale up and succeed.
NLA’s accelerator program is a 12-18 month program that works with emerging, progressive organizations and their leaders to enhance their organizational capacity. In short, we help you identify areas you want to work on, then we work with you to address them so you can thrive and scale.
Q: How do I apply?
A: NLA opens up a new cohort roughly every 18 months. Please sign up here to be notified of our next application period.
Q: How long is the accelerator program?
A: The accelerator program lasts between 12-18 months, depending on the cohort. With the recent completion of our first cohort, we are building an alumni program to provide lasting connections and benefits to those in the NLA family.
Q: Does it cost money to participate in the accelerator program?
A: NLA does NOT charge for participation in the accelerator. But we do require you to set aside between $5,000 and $10,000 to pay for organizational development expenses associated with your work in the program. As we work with each organization to identify priorities and opportunities, some of those needs may be best addressed by a paid outside consultant. We have yet to work with a group that required no outside resources. This is probably the time to emphatically state: all of the money you budget for this work goes into your organization’s development, not to NLA.
Q: What kind of support will my organization receive in the accelerator program?
A: You will join an accelerator cohort along with several other organizations. Together, you will all receive at least a year of leadership and organizational development capacity-building support. Although you’ll do some work with other cohort members, much of it will be specific to the needs of your organization. Each group admitted to the NLA Accelerator Program can expect:
An organizational assessment of needs undertaken in partnership with NLA and your team
A strategic planning process led by the NLA team to help the organization identify opportunities and challenges, define its direction or strategy, make decisions on the identification and allocation of its resources and goals, and create an action plan
Support writing a strategic plan that may include a business model, communications, or organizational development component (if needed and desired)
An executive leadership coach to support the executive director (if desired)
Access to education and training programs and webinars
Support and advice from our experienced team of staff and advisors
Advice on fiscal sponsorship and/or other HR, staffing, and accounting options for organizations that are not eligible for or not interested in fiscal sponsorship
Recommendations for how to spend limited resources - we help you determine what you should learn, what you should build, and what you might buy to reach your goals
Advice and support for the development and management of an effective board (legal or advisory)
Referrals to a vetted list of attorneys, accountants, communications, design, organizational development, and other experts
Support managing the scope of work, deliverables and contracts with outside consultants
Guidance in planning your budget
Organizational development support such as advice creating job descriptions, job postings, and successfully onboarding employees
A cohort experience that fosters collaboration, support, and shared learning
Q: What do you mean by “capacity-building”?
A: The goal of capacity-building is to ensure an organization has the skills, knowledge and resources it needs to fulfill its mission. Powerful capacity-building helps leaders and organizations deliver stronger programs, take risks, build connections, innovate, and iterate. NLA curates the best, most effective resources to help you build your organization. Areas that we might work on together include:
Mission, Vision and Strategy – organizational planning, assessment, and strategy development
Internal Operations – HR, internal systems and roles, leadership, and infrastructure development
Legal – support in areas such as legal formation, IP, and legal compliance with political and nonprofit laws
Board Development – recruitment, engagement, and development of an effective board that can set the tone and direction of an organization and enable it to operate to its fullest capacity
Funding Development – fundraising strategy and planning, plus skills/tips and internal systems for fundraising and other revenue-generating activities
Program Delivery – capacity to design and deliver effective programs
Financial Management – skills and systems for accounting, budgeting, financial planning, and other activities to ensure financial health and compliance
Collaboration/Partnership – skills and mindset to create and sustain strategic alliances with colleague organizations, stakeholders, and decision-makers that can help advance the mission
Evaluation and Learning – the capacity to gather data, measure impact, close feedback loops, and assess lessons learned in order to strengthen the organization’s work over time
Q: How many organizations do you accept into a cohort?
A: NLA accepts between 6-10 organizations in each cohort.
Q: What organizations have gone through the program?
A: Glad you asked! We are just completing our first cohort. You can learn more about our accelerator alumni here.
Q: When can I apply?
A: The timeline of applications varies. Please sign up here if you would like additional information about future cohorts.
Q: I’ve applied - when should I hear back?
A: Once you’ve applied, you will receive an email that gives you the timeline of your application process. If you did not receive the email or have additional questions, please contact us here.
Q: Can I apply again if I was not selected the first time?
A: Yes. Our cohorts are each organized around a specific theme (e.g., progressive infrastructure, the census, etc.,) so if you were not the right fit for one cohort and you believe that your organization falls within the theme of another cohort, we encourage you to apply.
Q: I’d like to support NLA. Is my donation tax-deductible?
A: We welcome your support! You can make a secure, online donation by clicking here. Please note that donations to NLA are not tax-deductible as NLA is a 501(c)(4). If you are interested in making a tax-deductible donation, you can donate to The Capacity Shop, our affiliated 501(c)(3). Click here now to make a secure, online donation to The Capacity Shop.
Q: I have more questions - who should I contact?
A: Drop us a line and we’ll make sure the right person gets back to you.