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Jun 20th, 2019

The new way we’re supporting nonprofit growth at Catchafire

Introducing the Quick-Start Assessment, our light, simple, and directly actionable tool for providing nonprofits with customized recommendations and pro bono support.


Jamie Badia

Agile isn’t just for tech anymore — more and more, we’re seeing the most innovative nonprofits employ the same practices that have helped tech companies grow so quickly. Diagnosing problems swiftly, iterating rapidly, and acting decisively empowers nonprofits to fulfill their missions better and faster..

As the social good sector evolves, it’s imperative that we as capacity builders evolve too, to keep up the pace and support the ever-changing needs of nonprofits. That’s why we’re excited to announce our latest feature, the Quick-Start Assessment. It’s the first ever online tool that identifies nonprofit needs, translates them into iterative, structured projects and connects them with 1:1 pro bono support to help. And the best part? It takes just 3 minutes to complete.

The limitations of traditional assessments

Nonprofit needs assessments aren’t new: for decades, organizations have worked with foundations and management consultants on detailed questionnaires to evaluate themselves across multiple departments. While these processes are valuable in setting a strategic direction across an organization, they have a few drawbacks:

  • They’re time-consuming: For a sector that’s notoriously strapped for time, it can be difficult to justify spending months on a long-term strategy when there’s so much work that needs to get done day-to-day. And strategies can become outdated quickly when there aren’t opportunities to test and iterate.
  • They come from the top down: It’s tough to include all staff through the whole assessment process, so more junior team members might not feel as committed to the outcomes.
  • They can’t fully support implementation: Recommendations and advice are helpful, but they don’t provide the extra hands and brains that nonprofits need to execute on a newly determined strategy.

With these limitations in mind, we’re committed to helping entrepreneurial nonprofit leaders and team members make incremental improvements that will help them work more effectively. We do this by focusing on the individual — whether that’s a marketing coordinator or executive director — and empowering them to manage capacity building projects with volunteers.

How we’ve historically thought about assessment

Since we launched in 2010, we’ve always believed in the power of every individual at a nonprofit. Catchafire’s Nonprofit Advisors spend hours every day speaking with our members to understand:

  • Their mission: What does their organization do for the community? What unique services do they provide?
  • Their role: What are their individual responsibilities within the organization, and what’s under their purview to lead or change?
  • Their priorities & pain points: What’s top of mind? What always seems to slip to the bottom of their to-do list?

Answers to these questions inform what projects and calls we recommend from our Project Menu150+ templates our members can customize and request on our marketplace. Each project we offer is carefully curated in consideration of 3 factors: do nonprofits need it, are volunteers interested in working on it, and is it viable as a discrete, pro bono engagement. The structure of our menu helps nonprofits get their requests up quickly, and volunteers find the right projects for their unique skill set.

After years of project planning with our organizations via email and phone, we formed a hypothesis: With the right algorithm, our assessment method could be automated and we could serve more nonprofits if we built it within our site. To see if this kind of feature was worth building, we showed select users a short survey over the course of several months and received over 800 responses from nonprofits looking for support. Our Nonprofit Advisors individually replied to every respondent, using a rubric that mapped common needs to projects on our menu. Since the majority of respondents went on to post volunteer requests from there, we decided to invest in our idea.

What our new assessment can do

Our Quick-Start Assessment is light, simple, and directly actionable. In about 3 minutes, we take members through a short series of questions to understand their needs, priorities, and schedule. With those inputs, our system provides a list of Catchafire projects, phone consultations, and bundles that can help them achieve their short and long-term goals. Users can explore these recommendations and save them to their wishlist, so they can come back to them at any time.

For members who aren’t satisfied with their recommendations or have questions, we offer a direct line to connect with our Nonprofit Advisors via phone, email, or chat after taking the assessment.

We believe this unique combination of personalized and automated support will enable more nonprofits to find pro bono support and ultimately, serve their beneficiaries more effectively. We look forward to seeing the impact this new feature has on our community and the social good sector as a whole.


See how we present recommendations to nonprofits