FAQs - Fast Forward

FAQ

General

What is Fast Forward?

Fast Forward exists to support and scale tech nonprofits. To date, Fast Forward has accelerated 90 tech nonprofits who have gone on to impact over 186M lives and raise over $753M in follow on funding. 90% of our alums 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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Job Board. Postings for (great) jobs with purpose from 600+ tech nonprofits. If you’re a tech nonprofit, then we can include your organization’s jobs, too.
  • The Fast Forward Academy. A series of free classes taught by tech nonprofit leaders who know their stuff – and want to share it with you. Replay the classes now for a treasure trove of actionable insights from our event series featuring tech nonprofit experts.
  • Accelerate Good Global (AGG). Fast Forward’s former annual summit that brings together the content and community needed to scale social impact tech startups.

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 1,000 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 2023 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 alums through Fast Forward?

Yes, we are happy to facilitate a pass through donation to any of our alums. 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 FFWD or FFWD (dba 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.

Startup Accelerator

What’s the Accelerator?

The Accelerator is our flagship program. 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 from 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 tech 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, tech nonprofits must focus on product, scaling, and growth. However, tech 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. 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 application will open on August 29th and close on October 6th. The program will run from late February to early June 2024. Demo Days will likely occur at the end of May and beginning of June 2024.

What is the time commitment for the Accelerator?

The Accelerator is a very robust program. The program will (roughly) take place every Tuesday and Thursday from late February to early June 2024 from 9am – 12pm PT, with 1-3 hours of additional meetings throughout the week. At least one co-founder must attend every session from February to June. The co-founder who will pitch at Demo Day must attend every single pitch session from March to June 2024.

Is the Accelerator virtual or in person?

The Accelerator is a hybrid program, with both virtual and in-person elements. We will have an in-person kickoff in late February in San Francisco. Demo Days will be in late May and early June, with an in-person Demo Day in San Francisco and virtual Demo Day. All other programming weeks are virtual.

What happens at Demo Day?

Demo Days are the culmination of the Accelerator. They are a celebration of the growth and progress the cohort has achieved throughout the program. They’re also a valuable fundraising opportunity. Fast Forward curates multiple Demo Days in-person and virtual, 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 pitch session (including in-person and virtual programming).

Who are some of your alums?

Glad you asked! Check ’em out.

When is the next application period?

Applications for the 2025 cohort will open in September 2024. You can learn more about our application by checking out the Application section of this FAQ.

 

Startup Accelerator 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 accept tech nonprofits from around the world (our previous cohorts have included teams from India, Spain, and Switzerland!). We require that at least one member of your team is present (virtually) at every session, and present (in person) at any real-life events.

Does Fast Forward provide housing in San Francisco?

We provide the cohort with accommodations for in-person programming weeks, but not for the entire spring.

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. 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 U.S. and does not have a 501c3, can we still apply?

Yes, Fast Forward accepts tech nonprofits 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. The playbook distills best-in-class advice from the leaders whose work has transformed the social impact space. We also encourage you to subscribe to our weekly email filled with resources for tech nonprofits, Weekly Resource Roundup.

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. 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 near future.

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 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 currently closed. Applications typically open in September.

When is the deadline to apply?

The application for the 2024 Accelerator will close on October 6th, 2023.

When will I hear back about my application?

Updates about your application’s status typically occur in early December. The cohort will be picked by mid-December.

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. At any time during the application period, we may reach out to ask clarifying questions or get more details on your tech nonprofit.

Other questions, comments, or concerns?

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

 

Pitch Camp

What is Pitch Camp?

Pitch Camp is a two-hour Zoom workshop for tech nonprofit team members, hosted by Fast Forward and partner organizations. You will learn the elements of an elevator pitch, craft your own elevator pitch, and then practice pitching (multiple times) in front of trained tech volunteers who are there to offer feedback. In addition, it’s a great opportunity for you to meet both tech nonprofits and leaders in the tech space.

Who is eligible for Pitch Camp?

We require that all participants work at tech nonprofits. A tech nonprofit is a tech startup building software that has selected a nonprofit business model in order to scale impact, not profit.

Why did Fast Forward start Pitch Camp?

Fast Forward unlocked funding because an intern was able to pitch a potential funder at a work event. This showed us that anyone on your team is going to be telling your tech nonprofit’s story. Fast Forward created this event so you and your team can learn how to tell your organization’s story to any audience, anytime.

What is the schedule?

  • Upon joining Zoom, you will be placed in the orientation breakout room by Fast Forward staff
  • Orientation (45 minutes): In a breakout room, you will be guided through the elements that make up an elevator pitch. After this training, you will write and revise an elevator pitch using this worksheet.
  • Tech Nonprofit Intros (5 minutes): You, the other tech nonprofit attendees, and partner volunteers will come together in the main Zoom room. From here a representative from each tech nonprofit will give a brief one-liner.
  • Session 1 of Pitching (15 minutes): You and the other tech nonprofit attendees will be split up so there is one person in each breakout room. One to three partner volunteers will join your breakout room. You will pitch, and volunteers will give feedback.
  • Revise (5 minutes): You will be brought back to the main room. You can use this time to revise your pitch slightly. 
  • Session 2 of Pitching (15 minutes): You and the other tech nonprofit attendees will be split up so there is one person in each breakout room. One to three new partner volunteers will join your breakout room. You will pitch, and volunteers will give feedback.
  • Revise (5 minutes): You will be brought back to the main room. You can use this time to revise your pitch slightly. 
  • Session 3 Pitching (13 minutes): You and the other tech nonprofit attendees will be split up so there is one person in each breakout room. One to three new partner volunteers will join your breakout room. You will pitch, and volunteers will give feedback.
  • Revise (2 minutes): You will be brought back to the main room. You can use this time to revise your pitch slightly. 
  • Closing with Fast Forward (15 minutes): You will be placed into a final breakout room with the other tech nonprofit attendees to debrief learnings and closeout. 

Can my team join with me?

Yes, we encourage you to invite your whole team to Pitch Camp! Just make sure they sign up using the form. Please have each team member join on a separate device, as participants will be practicing and delivering their own elevator pitches (not working together).

What if my connection is bad or I cannot use my camera?

For Pitch Camp to run smoothly, you need a stable internet connection and your camera on. Thanks for understanding!

How do I prepare for Pitch Camp?

Come as you are! We’ll use this worksheet to guide us through writing our own elevator pitches. We strongly encourage you to make a copy of this worksheet and come to Pitch Camp with a finished first draft. You can also check out these optional resources, which we’ve found helpful for pitching:

Who helps me with my pitch?

The first part of Pitch Camp is a training with the Fast Forward team. The next part of Pitch Camp is practicing your pitch with trained tech volunteers. All the volunteers work at Fast Forward partner organizations and are eager to help tech nonprofits.

What should I do in the pitch breakout sessions?

Upon joining a new breakout session you should tell the volunteers your name and job title, the volunteers should do the same. From there you will give your elevator pitch and receive the volunteer’s feedback. If there is still time after this, it is the perfect opportunity to take into account their feedback and try again. You can also ask questions like:

  • What do you remember from my pitch?
  • What’s one detail that stuck with you?
  • How was my cadence?
  • Was there anything you wish I said less about? More about?
  • What are you curious about after hearing my pitch?
  • Can you repeat what I do back to me?

How do I keep track of feedback from volunteers?

Feel free to take notes while you are receiving feedback from volunteers. Volunteers will also provide written feedback while you are revising, which Fast Forward will share in an email after Pitch Camp.

Can I follow up with the people I met at Pitch Camp?

Yes! After the event, you will receive a list of names and LinkedIn profiles (if applicable) for all the volunteers and all the tech nonprofit participants. We encourage you to connect and even send a thank you!

How much does Pitch Camp cost?

Pitch Camp is a free event thanks to the great support of our partners.

Where does Pitch Camp take place?

Pitch Camp is a virtual event that is hosted on Zoom. Once you sign up and your information is verified, someone from Fast Forward will send you all the Zoom information needed to join.

Can I come to multiple Pitch Camps?

We prioritize first-time attendees. If you would like to join multiple sessions, please reach out to Marcus (marcus@ffwd.org)  to see if there is still availability.

How do I sign up for Pitch Camp?

We’re excited you’re going to sign up! You can sign up using this link or you can reach out to Marcus (marcus@ffwd.org) to learn when the next pitch Camp will be. 

How do I know which partner organization is joining?

Each Pitch Camp is co-hosted by Fast Forward and one of our partner organizations. You can find which partner is hosting Pitch Camp via the sign-up form or the calendar invitation details. 

I signed up for Pitch Camp but I can’t make it. What should I do?

If you can’t make it to Pitch Camp, we appreciate you letting us know so that we can fill your spot. You can email Marcus (marcus@ffwd.org) or reject the Pitch Camp calendar invite. When possible, please notify Fast Forward at least 24 hours in advance. Thank you!

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