FAQ

General

What is Fast Forward?

Fast Forward exists to support and scale tech nonprofits. To date, Fast Forward has accelerated 60 tech nonprofits who have gone on to impact over 88 million lives and raise over $275 million in follow on funding. 88% of our alumni have a founder who is a woman or a person of color. We provide tech nonprofits with all the things needed to thrive (see below!). The TLDR? We’re here to help you.

Our main thing is the Accelerator, but here are some of the other things we do:

  • NEW: The Fast Forward Academy. A series of free classes taught by tech nonprofit leaders who know their stuff – and who want to share it with you.
  • The Tech Nonprofit Playbook. The comprehensive guide to starting and scaling a tech nonprofit, featuring leaders from the likes of CommonLit, Beyond 12, and DonorsChoose.org.
  • Accelerate Good Global (AGG). Fast Forward’s annual summit that brings together the content and community needed to scale social impact tech startups.
  • Weekly Resource Roundup. A once-a-week email that curates the latest grant opportunities, events, and articles that social entrepreneurs need to have on their radar. Sign up today!
  • What’s Good in Tech. A monthly email featuring the top happenings in the Fast Forward universe and the tech for good space. Sign up today!
  • Fast Forward Blog. A hub of content on all things tech nonprofit, including entrepreneur profiles, expert advice on topics that are relevant across sectors – scaling, fundraising, product design, revenue – and more.
  • Tech Nonprofit Directory. A Crunchbase for tech nonprofits, making tech nonprofits discoverable to potential funders, employees, and advisors by allowing anyone to browse and filter the world’s tech nonprofits. If you’re in the directory, you can post on our Job Board.
  • Job Board. Postings for (great) jobs with purpose from 500+ tech nonprofits. If you’re a tech nonprofit, then we can include your organization’s jobs, too.
  • The Global Tech Nonprofit Community. An online Facebook group for tech nonprofit entrepreneurs and employees, tech people who want to use their skills and expertise for good, and anyone who wants to contribute to this movement. The goal is to create a thriving tech nonprofit ecosystem with collaboration from every corner of the ring. Join today!

What is a tech nonprofit?

Tech nonprofits look like typical tech startups—they build tech products—and have selected a nonprofit structure because they are building for impact instead of profit. If you know about Wikipedia or Khan Academy, then you know of a tech nonprofit! You might be surprised to learn that there are over 500 tech nonprofits around the globe.

What’s Fast Forward’s business model?

Fast Forward is a nonprofit. We primarily partner with tech companies to infuse their financial and human capital to help tech nonprofits scale. The model provides meaningful employee engagement opportunities for these companies, and the tech nonprofits benefit from the funding and skills-based support that results.

How does Fast Forward measure impact?

We track six key indicators:

  1. Has the Accelerator program been trajectory changing for each organization?
  2. Have we successfully unlocked new capital for tech nonprofits?
  3. Has each organization connected with at least 100 new potential donors?
  4. Has each organization connected with at least 10 new institutional funders?
  5. Do we see evidence of stronger ties among tech nonprofits?
  6. Do we see evidence of stronger ties between our cohorts and the tech community?

We evaluate our impact regularly. Check out our 2020 Impact Report and 5 Year Impact Magazine to learn more.

Is my donation tax deductible?

Yes. Fast Forward is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and our EIN is 46-4626500.

Can I donate to a Fast Forward alumni through Fast Forward? Yes, we are happy to facilitate a pass through donation to any of our alumni. For more information on how we can facilitate this for you, reach out to us at info@ffwd.org.

Can my gift be matched? Yes, if your company offers matching, your donation to Fast Forward can be matched because we are a nonprofit ourselves. In your employer’s matching system, select Fast Forward as the beneficiary.

Do you offer summer internships or fellowships?

Sometimes If you’re interested in tech for good, let us know! Email us at info@ffwd.org with a little bit about yourself.

 

Accelerator

What’s the Accelerator?

The Accelerator is our flagship program, where we bridge the tech and nonprofit worlds, providing training and resources applicable to the challenges only a tech nonprofit entrepreneur knows. Through the Accelerator, you’ll receive a $25,000 philanthropic grant, build community among your cohort, meet dozens of mentors, learn from leaders in the tech & social sector, and make connections to people who can help you scale. If you’re a nonprofit tech startup, you’re in the right place.

What makes the Fast Forward Accelerator special?

Fast Forward’s program is designed to address the unique needs of tech nonprofits:

  • Capital. Fundraising strategies, including tactics and sources of capital, are different for nonprofits at every stage of the fundraising process as compared to their for-profit peers. There are also unique challenges and opportunities available to tech nonprofits in particular, which we will help you navigate.
  • Content. Our curriculum is different. Yes, nonprofits must focus on product, scaling, and growth. However, nonprofits also need to learn about board development, governance, leveraging volunteers, and other issues specific to nonprofits. The knowledge base we’ve put together for tech nonprofits differs substantially from what for-profits would find valuable.
  • Customer. Because of their focus on impact over profit, nonprofits often chase the least profitable customer, which impacts go-to-market strategy and customer life cycle in a way that’s different from for-profits.
  • Cohort. Entrepreneurship is lonely; tech nonprofit entrepreneurship even more so. Tech nonprofit leaders tell us that because of their nonprofit focus they don’t quite fit into for-profit accelerators, and because of their tech/product focus they don’t quite fit into nonprofit fellowships. They share a set of challenges unique to this intersection, and they’re excited to go through a program with others like them as well as provide each other ongoing support as their organizations grow.
  • Community. Key to our mission is building closer ties between the nonprofit and for-profit tech community because the tech world has the opportunity to have a huge impact on these organizations and therefore the world. Our focus on collaborative philanthropy is quite different from for-profit accelerators, which don’t need to invest heavily in community building due to the nature of venture investing.

What are the dates for the Accelerator?

The Accelerator will run from roughly July 12 – October 8, 2021. We will meet at least twice a week – Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 am – 1:00 pm PT, with some additional coaching sessions and 1:1 meetings throughout the week. Demo Days will most likely be the week of October 4th, and may be in-person (SF and NY) pending the pandemic.

What is the time commitment for the Accelerator?

While the Accelerator will be virtual, it’s a very robust program. The program will (roughly) take place every Tuesday and Thursday from July 12 – Oct 8 2021 from 9am – 1pm PT, with some additional coaching sessions and 1:1 meetings throughout the week. Demo Days will most likely be the week of October 4th, and may be in-person (SF and NY) pending the pandemic. At least one co-founder must attend every session from early July – mid October, and the co-founder who will pitch at Demo Day must attend every single session from mid-August to early October.

Will the Accelerator be virtual?

The Accelerator will be virtual in 2021. We’re hoping that we can meet in-person for Demo Day in early October (in SF or NY) pending the state of the pandemic.

What happens at Demo Day?

Demo Day is the final event of the Accelerator. It’s a celebration of the growth and progress the cohort has achieved throughout the program. It’s also a valuable fundraising opportunity. Fast Forward curates multiple Demo Days, drawing an audience of 1,000+ – ranging from foundation representatives to corporate social good program leaders to tech philanthropists – all in an effort to unlock capital for the accelerator organizations.

How many teams will be in the cohort?

There are around ten tech nonprofits who participate in each year’s Accelerator.

Does our whole team participate in the Accelerator?

In general, we require one leader from the organization to attend all sessions, though we encourage you to invite team members to sessions, particularly Micro-Mentoring. The co-founder who will pitch at Demo Day must attend every single session from mid-August to early October.

Who are some of your alumni?

Glad you asked! Check ’em out.

When is the next application period?

The application for the Summer 2021 cohort opens February 24, 2021 and closes March 26, 2021. You can learn more about our application by checking out the Application section of this FAQ or by signing up for our monthly email, What’s Good in Tech, or our weekly email, Weekly Resource Roundup.

 

Application

What are your selection criteria for the Accelerator?

  • Leadership. Tech nonprofits face everything that is hard in a tech startup and everything that’s hard in a nonprofit. To pull it off, the leaders must have steadfast vision and incredible gumption.
  • Tech talent. The tech vision should be the driving force of the organization and not an auxiliary program. To successfully execute that vision, tech talent must be in a leadership role.
  • Potential for Impact. Impact is a thorny subject. To get to the heart of an organization’s potential, we ask questions like: Who is the organization primarily serving? If successful, how many lives will be positively influenced? How deeply will the organization impact those lives?
  • Scalability. Software scales incredibly well. We support organizations with a vision for change that is matched only by the potential for scale.
  • Lived Experience with the Problem. People solve problems in front of them. We want to empower people to solve the problems they see and experience.
  • Alignment. Fast Forward is a small organization. As such, we choose organizations who we are best poised to help scale.

I’m not from San Francisco. Can I still apply?

Yes. We require that at least one member of your team is present at every session, including if the Accelerator ends up being in-person.

Does Fast Forward provide housing in San Francisco?

In the instance that the Accelerator is in-person, we will likely provide group accommodations during Accelerator programming sessions. If you’re staying for the full summer, we can direct you to local resources that will help in your housing search.

We’re a for-profit social enterprise. Can we apply?

Our focus is on innovative solutions addressing problems for which there is no market solution. That’s where we see the biggest gap in resources in the market. Unfortunately, for-profit corporations and startups are not eligible to apply to Fast Forward at this time, but hopefully you can take advantage of one of the many funding sources available to B Corps and social enterprises.

We haven’t formally incorporated yet as a nonprofit. Can we still apply?

Yes, if you’re a student or running a product organization but haven’t formally incorporated, that’s not a problem. We can help you with that process.

My organization is not based in the US and does not have a 501c3, can we still apply?

Yes, Fast Forward accepts teams from anywhere. Your organization must be registered as a nonprofit in your country. We do not accept B-corps or for profit social enterprises.

I have a tech nonprofit idea. Should I apply?

If you’re still in the idea or research stage, we encourage you to instead check out The Tech Nonprofit Playbook, which distills best-in-class advice from the leaders whose work has transformed the social impact space.

At what stage does a tech nonprofit qualify to be considered for the Accelerator?

For the Accelerator, we accept tech nonprofits who have built an MVP, or plan to have an MVP live by the start of the Accelerator. While we have accepted some later stage organizations, the Accelerator is designed primarily for organizations working on their first MVP or prototype.

Do I have to work for my organization full time?

We prioritize investing in leaders who are making this their life’s work. With that in mind, we seek out leaders who are working for their organization full time, though this isn’t a hard and fast rule for us.

My team outsources software development. Are we still qualified to apply?

We prioritize organizations that are prioritizing their technology. So, we do seek out organizations that have a full time CTO or plan to hire a technology lead in the next year.

I’m not a founder but I currently lead the organization. Can I still apply?

Organization leadership needs to participate in the Accelerator, but not the founders if they’re no longer leading the organization.

Can I apply again if my application was rejected in the past?

Yes! Many of our most entrepreneurs have applied multiple times, and we encourage you to to re-apply if you were not accepted the first time.

My co-founder and I don’t live in the same place so we can’t submit a team video. What should we do?

Don’t stress! We’re fine with you doing a zoom call together and recording it, or with you both filming half of the video and putting it together. Whatever works best for you.

When do applications open?

Applications are open! Apply here. You can learn more about our application by signing up for our monthly email, What’s Good in Tech, or our weekly email, Weekly Resource Roundup.

When is the deadline to apply?

Applications close March 26th at midnight PT.

When will I hear back about my application?

Final decisions about who is selected will happen around mid-May.

What does the interview process look like?

If you’re selected for an interview, we will schedule a 40-minute interview with your team and ours in late April. At any time during the application period, we may reach out to ask clarifying questions or get more detail on your tech nonprofit. We will select finalists around mid-May.

Other questions, comments, or concerns?

If we didn’t answer any of your questions, send us an email at accelerator@ffwd.org.

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