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Acumen Nonprofit Earned Income Accelerator

Incubate a revenue stream for your nonprofit alongside other innovators.

Fund Your Idea

$2,500 per team

Oct 1, 2020

8 weeks

Learn More

Add your name to the wait list.

Learn How To

Earn revenue for your organization by developing a product or service.
Create a desirable offering by interviewing potential customers about their needs.
Build a financial model to understand the numbers behind your idea.
Pitch your idea to board members, potential funders, and other stakeholders.

Refine your business model

Determine the best next steps to reach financial sustainability.

Accelerate your social impact

Change more lives, faster, by focusing on activities that work.

Gain valuable feedback

Tap into the expertise of peers—and Acumen—to solve problems in real-time.

Join a lasting community

Build meaningful relationships with a community of like-minded social innovators.

How it Works

Learn to develop a new source of revenue for your legal empowerment organization in an 8 week sprint. Plus, get access to a dedicated portal complete with guides and videos to support every step of your social enterprise journey.

This is hands-on, project-based curriculum. Over the course of the sprint, you will complete weekly assignments, get out in the real world to test your ideas—and share them via interactive Learning Labs for feedback from coaches and peers.

Time Requirements

With the exception of weekly Learning Labs, most coursework can be completed on your own schedule. 

You will need a Lead Participant to take part in the weekly Learning Labs, however up to 10 team members from your organization can access all curriculum materials.  

You should expect to spend at least 6 hours per week working on your project

Practical Tutorials


Learn at your own pace with tutorials featuring practical case studies, frameworks, and strategies that you can apply directly to your organization.

Weekly Project


Spend at least 3 hours per week working on a structured exercise to advance your idea. Learn quickly by interviewing customers, analyzing competitors, and building prototypes.

Interactive Learning Lab


Join your cohort in a live interactive session. Share status updates on your project and receive feedback from Acumen Academy and your peers.

Past Participants

What's Included

    6 Peer Learning Labs 

    2 One-on-One Coaching Consultations

    Final Showcase to get feedback from outside experts

    Access to a dedicated resource portal featuring 22 video tutorials, practical case studies offering a detailed look at the experiences of other organizations

    and 6 workbooks with step-by-step instructions for each stage of the process 

    Sample assignments showcasing other nonprofit business models

    Certificate in Nonprofit Innovation from Acumen Academy

    A LinkedIn endorsement upon successful completion of the Accelerator

"The Accelerator provides all the necessary steps to get you started and thinking about the details and processes to create the income activity. The peer feedback is great and materials are very helpful to transform an idea into something more concrete. Great structure and content. Receiving feedback from Acumen and other peers was key to learning.”

Carlota Ferrari,

Global Programs Officer, The Hunger Project


Week 1


  • Get Oriented
  • Meet Your Peers
  • Earned Income 101
  • The Desirability, Feasibility and Viability Framework
  • 7 Characteristics of Successful Earned Income Ventures
  • Case Study: Aravind Eyecare
  • Case Study: Seedco
  • Featured Expert: Peter Kim of Bridgespan
  • Featured Expert: Kathleen Kelly Janus, author of Social Startup Success
  • Assignment: Hypothesis Dashboard
Week 2

The Social Enterprise Mindset

  • Introduction to Customer Discovery
  • Value Proposition Design
  • Case Study: La Casa de Don Pedro
  • Featured Expert: Patricia Price of and HumanSights
  • Assignment: Customer Interviews
  • Learning Lab
Week 3

Customer Discovery

  • Value Proposition Consultations
  • Assignment: Customer Interviews
Week 4

Map Your Organizational Core and Business Model

  • Connecting Customer Insights to a Business Model
  • Types of Nonprofit Business Models
  • How to Create a Core Map
  • How a Business Model Fits Together
  • Nonprofit Revenue Engines
  • Introduction to the Business Model Canvas
  • Case Study: First Book
  • Featured Expert: Vikki Tam of Bain and Company
  • Assignment: Business Model Canvas and Core Map
  • Learning Lab
Week 5

Size Your Market and Develop Your Financial Model

  • How to Size Your Market
  • How to Set Price
  • Financial Model Template
  • How to Complete the Products/Services and Costs Tab of Your Financial Model
  • How to Connect Your Financial Numbers to Your Social Impact
  • Case Study: Drive Change
  • Featured Expert: Meradith Leebrick of IPPF
  • Assignment: Financial Model
  • Learning Lab
Week 6

Develop and Test a Minimum Viable Product

  • What is a Minimum Viable Product?
  • Business Experiment Design
  • Examples of MVPs
  • Case Study: Living Goods
  • Featured Expert: Ann Mei Chang, USAID and Lean Impact
  • Featured Expert: Nabila Amarsy, UNDP and Strategyzer
  • Assignment: MVP Development
  • Learning Lab
Week 7

Individual Consultations and Presentation Development

  • Assignment: MVP Testing
  • Consultation on Business Experiments
Week 8

Final Showcase

  • Present your final projects to experts from Acumen’s networks for feedback

Key Dates





Final Showcase


Who is Qualified to Apply?

This is an intensive online program for nonprofit leaders who: 

    have a specific idea to generate income for an existing nonprofit organization

    are excited about learning from peers

    have a strong and reliable internet connection to participate in video calls


About Accelerators

How are participants selected?

We are looking for participants who (1) have a specific idea to generate income for an existing nonprofit (2) are excited about learning from peers (3) have a strong and reliable internet connection to participate in video calls. We will review applications on a rolling basis and invite finalists for a 30 minute phone interview.

What is the tuition?

Tuition is $2500 per organization. Scholarships covering up to 50% of tuition costs are available. (Special consideration may be given to earlier stage organizations in emerging markets.)

How many organizations have participated? What have the results been?

  • Fifty organizations from around the world have participated in the Accelerator program to date.
  • Approximately 75% of participants who start the program successfully complete the accelerator within the 8 weeks—and emerge with a plan for testing an earned income idea.
  • Several organizations have generated sales and revenue during the program. More commonly, participants emerge with a roadmap for continuing to test and update their idea—and many of them use the tools and curriculum to test other ideas once the program ends. (Some discover quickly that their initial idea will not work and report that their time was well spent discovering this sooner rather than later.)
  • In the months following the program organizations have generated up to $60k in revenue and attracted additional capital from funders who were impressed by their plans to achieve financial stability and diversify their funding models.

How will this be different from an Acumen Academy free course?

We’ve heard repeatedly from Acumen Academy course participants that they want more facilitated interaction with peers and feedback on their assignments. Since we can’t offer this at scale to thousands of learners in our free courses, we are excited to be piloting these new Accelerator models so we can focus on giving a smaller group of our best students targeted feedback and a more facilitated experience. Although this Accelerator will build upon some of the core content covered in other Acumen Academy courses, the video tutorials and case studies were developed exclusively for this Accelerator.

Am I guaranteed to emerge with a profitable idea?

No. There are no guarantees of profitability in the field of social entrepreneurship. This Accelerator offers a structured process for testing out potential ideas to generate earned income for your nonprofit. All good ideas require iteration and development as they interact with the market. This program is designed to help you learn faster and identify a promising business model more efficiently. We’ll do our best to set you up for success using the best tools and case studies we’ve come across in Acumen’s 15+ years as an impact investor.

Do I need to attend all Learning Labs?

The Learning Labs are the core of this experience. We strongly recommend that each organization designate one Lead Participant who can attend all 6 Labs. If you cannot attend for any reason, you should designate a substitute from your organization.

What if I can’t participate this round?

Sign up to receive information on the next cohort.

Will I earn a Certificate?

Upon successful completion, Lead Participants will receive a Certificate and detailed feedback report from Acumen Academy.

How much time should I expect to spend each week?

The more time you put in, the better the outcome. We’ve streamlined the steps in this process so participants can complete all activities within 6 hours per week, but there will certainly be opportunities for you to go deeper and spend more time on each stage to more significantly develop your ideas.

You can also divide some of the work on your assignments with the other people on your nonprofit team. (If you can’t commit to at least 6 hours for 8 weeks, however, this may not be the program for you.)

How much feedback will I receive from Acumen Academy?

You will receive a written feedback report each week that compiles feedback from your Acumen coach and peers. You will also have two coaching consultations. Acumen coaches will be available to ask questions online during the accelerator.

Are scholarships available?

Yes, we will do our best to accomodate all eligible nonprofits who are committed to developing an earned income idea. Scholarships covering up to 50% of tuition costs are available.

Special consideration may be given to earlier stage organizations in emerging markets.

How many people per organization can participate in the Learning Lab?

One person per organization should participate in the weekly Learning Lab. This should be the same person each week. Up to 10 additional people from your organization can access all of the curriculum materials and participate in completing the weekly assignments.

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