CNM Catalysts

CNM catalysts are like business incubators for your nonprofit, using a cohort model to jumpstart your organization into a new subject. CNM is currently accepting applications for the Innovation Catalyst (see below).

Governance Catalyst (Cohort 3) applications for 2017 are now open. Stay tuned for the announcement of the 2017 Financial Catalyst, and for news about the ongoing Innovation Catalyst.


The Governance Catalyst is an innovative and unique opportunity to enhance the key to organizational success: strong relationships between leaders. Together, pairs of executive directors and board chairs will be chosen from a competitive application process to participate in an intensive, four-part series that is designed to improve communication and problem-solving.
The four-part series begins with three customized workshops, completed alongside the selected cohort participants. The workshop subjects are designed to build on one another for maximum impact. Fieldwork activities will be assigned between sessions.
Following the group cohort experience, each organization will receive six hours of consulting to integrate these new practices within their respective boards and provide support on organization-specific issues. Depending on your organization’s needs, these services could include a site visit, executive coaching, Governance Toolkits, a board retreat, meeting facilitation, and/or other integration strategies.
This program is designed for pairs of executive directors and board chairs or chairs-elect who want to make the most of their partnership and help their organizations achieve new levels of success in governance and mission delivery. It is important that the executive director and board chair (not to be substituted by another board member) participate in all four parts of the catalyst together.
Successful applicants to this catalyst will be required to contribute $175 per agency, just 10% of the total value for all services included. The remaining costs will be funded by the J.D. Elliott Leadership Development Fund.
Workshop session dates are February 22March 8, and March 29.
  • Facilitated networking: 3-3:30 pm before each session (optional, but strongly encouraged)
  • Content: 3:30-6:30 pm (content begins promptly at 3:30 pm)

*Note: These sessions are sequential, so it is important that both the CEO and board chair are present at all three sessions.*



February 22Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: Identifying Individual and Collective Strengths to Build Relationships with Leigh Ann Roberts

Through the lens of the strengthsfinder assessment, take a closer look at your own strengths, as well as your leadership partner’s, in order to strengthen trust and communication. Studies have shown that those who focus their strengths every day are “six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs” and they are more likely to be productive individually and in teams (click here to read more) – resulting in better results for your nonprofit.


March 8Best Practices in Action: Analyzing Nonprofit Board Case Studies with Jim Vaillancourt

Use knowledge gained from the strengthsfinder session and application of the core responsibilities of nonprofit boards to analyze nonprofit board case studies. This session will be based on the second edition of Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards by Richard T. Ingram produced by BoardSource.


March 29Putting It All Together: Meeting Your Challenges and Opportunities with Lydia Cox

Each executive director and board chair team will present a specific challenge from their organization and apply lessons from previous sessions, resulting in a proposal to strengthen board governance. Teams will learn from one another and participate in active discussion about real-world issues.


     Date TBD: Six hours of customized consulting services

     In the concluding piece of the Governance Catalyst, a consultant will work with your full board of directors and/or executive committee to integrate lessons learned from the workshops and work through a solution for a challenge your board might be encountering. Our consultant will meet with your board during a site visit, making the consulting process more convenient for participants.

Additional information about the catalyst, including eligibility requirements, is provided on the application form here.

Application process: fill out this online application by 5 pm on February 10, 2017


CNM's signature catalyst, the Social Enterprise Catalyst, is now re-launched as the Innovation Catalyst. With this update, we are expanding the meaning of social enterprise to include other spins on earned revenue streams and revenue diversification ventures. Develop a fully implementable business plan throughout the course of this 9-month catalyst process.

Applicants should be prepared to commit to full participation in the Innovation Catalyst through their identified Impact Teams. Each Impact Team is responsible for guiding the process of program review and new venture development. Functionally, the team makes recommendations to the executive director and board. In addition, organizations that are selected to participate in the cohort will collaborate with cross-sector community partners who will be included on the Impact Team.

Click here to read an article with interviews from former participants, our business planning consulting partners, and funders.

The spring 2017 cohort members have been selected; stay tuned for information about the next catalyst.


Meaningful financial information is important for all stakeholders of a nonprofit. Strong internal policies and well-trained staff are key elements in maintaining proper recordkeeping and reporting that supports decision making for the organization. For smaller-sized nonprofits, with limited staff and resources, these can be difficult tasks to achieve. The Financial Catalyst, led by Amy Maden, CPA and CNM Consultant, aims to develop staff in bookkeeping roles and provide key templates and customized implementation for their organization. Upon completion of the catalyst, individuals will have formulated fiscal policies and procedures, received customized training in effective use of their agency’s accounting system, and built a foundation for recordkeeping and reporting to key external stakeholders.

The ideal organization to participate in the Financial Catalyst is one that employs a full or part-time bookkeeper. (Attendees should not be a CPA or CFO.) Participation in the first three sessions of the catalyst is limited to one employee per agency. The integration segment outlined in Part 4 may involve other agency staff or board members. The budget size for participating agencies should be between $250,000 and $750,000 and the accounting records should be maintained in software such as Quickbooks or Sage.

Successful applicants will be chosen from a competitive application process. Selected agencies will be required to contribute $450 in total for all four parts of the catalyst – just one third of the total value for all services included. The remaining costs will be generously funded through the AWC Foundation. 

Stay tuned for announcements about the 2017 catalyst.