Thursday, May 23, 2013

Want to start a nonprofit?

Before starting a nonprofit there are seven questions you need to answer.

1.  What or who will the nonprofit help?

2.  Why can my organization do this better than existing organizations?

3.  How much money will we need, and how are we going to pay for it for the first one to three years?    (Because grant money simply won't be an option at first). 

4.  Do you understand the entire process of becoming an IRS-approved nonprofit, including the costs and legal requirements? Private and governmental grant funds  are typically simply not available to non-IRS organizations, or to those that have not been in business long enough to establish a track record of service delivery, sound financial accounting, successful grassroots fundraising and accepted outcome measurements.

5.  Will you have a board of directors that is willing to commit dollars and hours to the start-up phase? Most new nonprofits are initially funded by the board and/or a few committed supporters.

6.  Are you a team builder? This isn't a one-person job. You MUST be able to form effective teams, and be willing to eventually let them perform the bulk of the day-to-day  tasks.
7.  Are you a good planner? If you are a shoot-from-the-hip type that thinks planning is the most boring thing in the world, running a nonprofit is not for you.

If you can't answer these questions, save yourself the time, money and heartaches, and join another organization as a volunteer, or a board member. Sit in on any board meetings that are open to you. Help the organization with its fundraising efforts. After a few years "in the field" you can better assess the answers to the questions above. You will understand the pitfalls, the financing problems, the legal ramifications, and the need for sound planning and be far better qualified to start a successful nonprofit.

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