Social Enterprise Accelerator Cohort

Propel Nonprofits, with support from Otto Bremer Trust, developed a social enterprise accelerator program in 2022 for Minnesota nonprofits that were developing an earned revenue stream to support the mission of their nonprofits. Propel solicited applications from Minnesota nonprofits that had recently launched, or were on the brink of launching, a new social enterprise initiative and wanted to network with peers and coaches in a cohort setting to refine the business plan and implementation of their project.

2022 Social Enterprise Accelerator Cohort

What Is Social Enterprise?

“A social enterprise is an organization or initiative that marries the social mission of a nonprofit … with the market-driven approach of a business.” – Social Enterprise Alliance

Nonprofits are becoming more entrepreneurial and are furthering their mission by developing social enterprises (or businesses) to generate earned revenue to add to their mix of revenue sources. It is often difficult for small and mid-sized nonprofits, particularly those led by and serving communities of color and immigrant communities, to expand services because of revenue constraints. This challenge provides a perfect opportunity to advocate for earned revenue as an alternative revenue source for community-based nonprofits.

What is an Accelerator Program?

Accelerators are for those organizations that already have a concept or plan for a product or service that can earn revenue to support their nonprofit’s mission, but whose idea is just taking off and is ready to grow. The nonprofit should have a minimum viable product (MVP), which means that the nonprofit may already have a prototype of it, may have already done some piloting of the idea, and/or may have already identified some funding for the product or service.

The goal of the Social Enterprise Accelerator Cohort program is to assist nonprofits in the successful launch or growth of a social enterprise, with the long-term goal of building the sustainability of nonprofits to further their missionsThe program is designed to achieve this goal by addressing common challenges for social enterprises, and to foster learning that can be applied in the real world. The program combines developmental training, staff technical assistance, business plan support, and grants to support the social enterprise.

About this Cohort

  • Six sessions (5 half-day, cohort-based trainings and one one-on-one coaching session) that are complemented by expert business consulting and technical assistance to help nonprofits explore social enterprise.
  • Participating organizations usually receive a planning/implementation grant that can be used to support some staff time and for piloting, equipment, or specialized consulting or professional services for the social enterprise product or service.
  • The learning sessions will invite participants to refine their business plans and to continue to launch, test, pilot, and grow their social enterprise by continuing to refine their market analysis, competitive analysis, marketing, financial capacity, legal structures, and operations.
  • Sessions will build upon the components of the organizations’ business plans, and participants with continue to hone their plans and continue to implement them during the cohort.
  • The cohort participants serve as peer reviewers and supporters.


An ideal candidate:

  • Recently launched, or is on the brink of launching, a new social enterprise initiative.
  • Is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
  • Has an operating budget between $300,000 and $5,000,000.
  • Is located in Minnesota.
  • Serves low-income communities of color, Native communities, or immigrant communities, or is focused on reducing poverty or creating jobs.
  • Is eager and interested in participating in, and contributing to, a cohort of organizations to explore and evaluate earned revenue opportunities as peers and learning partners.
  • Has a board, leadership team,  staff, and volunteers ready and willing to invest the time and energy needed to explore social enterprise. Participants (at least 3 and up to 5 from each organization) must include the ED/CEO, at least one additional staff person, and at least one board member who can attend at least two of the sessions.