CNM Catalysts

CNM catalysts are like business incubators for your nonprofit, using a cohort model to jumpstart your organization into a new subject.




The Center for Nonprofit Management and Hands On Nashville are teaming up to provide the Volunteer Catalyst, an innovative program that fundamentally changes how organizations use volunteers to support program growth, increase capacity, and improve their sustainability.

This four-month, intensive program uses a holistic and customized change management approach to help nonprofits gain a greater return on volunteer investment to better address community needs. It is designed for pairs or teams composed of a nonprofit leader (decision-maker) and a staff member leading volunteer efforts.   Nonprofit leaders and additional staff members are optional and may rotate based on training topics.

The Volunteer Catalyst uses the Points of Light Service Enterprise model, a nationally recognized program model that strengthens nonprofit capacity through volunteerism. Nonprofits with Service Enterprise certification are among the top 11 percent of nonprofits in the country in volunteer management and organizational performance.

Up to five organizations will be selected to participate. To be eligible, organizations must be a current partner of Hands On Nashville and have an updated profile on the Community Foundation’s Giving Matters website. Successful applicants will be asked to cover the agency out-of-pocket cost of $350--$1,500 (depending on availability of scholarships).

The Volunteer Catalyst provides participating organizations with:

  • A thorough research-based assessment of existing organizational volunteer engagement practices called the Service Enterprise Diagnostic
  • 16 hours of training to reimagine volunteer engagement
  • 10 hours of individualized coaching provided by CNM consultants to address unique organizational opportunities and challenges
  • National Service Enterprise certification signifying the organization’s proficiency in leveraging the time and skills of volunteers 

2019 Volunteer Catalyst Dates and Session Information (all times are from 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m.)

July 9 – Laying the Foundation

  • Reimagine the way your organization engages volunteers
  • Apply best practices to manage organizational change
  • Align organizational support and commitment

August 6 – Building Support

  • Foster a culture of engagement
  • Establish a business case (return on investment)
  • Generate external support

September 10 Creating Sustainability

  • Identify assets in your organization
  • Identify potential volunteer roles
  • Engage skills-based volunteers

October 1 – Moving to Success

  • Incorporate organizational change
  • Evaluate progress for new systems
  • Finalize action plans for implementation
  • Receive instructions for obtaining Service Enterprise certification

Apply for the Volunteer Catalyst hereApplications are due by May 31 at 5 p.m.



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.

The Innovation Catalyst is generously sponsored by the following:

  • Frist Foundation
  • Frost Brown Todd
  • HCA Foundation
  • LBMC


Applications for the 2019 Innovation Catalyst are closed.



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 eight 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.

Applications for Cohort 7 and Cohort 8 of the Governance Catalyst are closed.



Cohort 7: June 19, 2019

Cohort 8: August 21, 2019

Teamwork 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.


Cohort 7: July 10, 2019

Cohort 8: September 18, 2019

Best Practices in Action: Analyzing Nonprofit Board Case Studies with Susan Chapman

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.


Cohort 7: July 31, 2019

Cohort 8: October 2, 2019

Putting 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: Eight 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.



The Collective Impact Catalyst provides custom consulting and education to propel existing collective impact initiatives forward. You have your mission, and your collective impact work is underway. We can help you accelerate progress.

The first cohort of Collective Impact Catalyst teams has been selected. Stay tuned for news of the next catalyst in 2020, or reach out to Director of Collective Impact Meg Morgan ( with any questions.



  • One year of consulting on customized projects focused on key initiative goals
  • Coaching from consultants and CNM staff
  • Virtual learning sessions with national issues-area experts
  • Opportunities to present initiative and highlights to local funders

Click here for more information about collective impact programming in the Collective Impact Accelerator.