Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Don't be this person.

An email from a prospective client reads like this:

"I am looking for someone to tell me how to start a nonprofit.  I need to put my business degree to work, and I like to help people, so I think that starting a nonprofit would give me the best of both worlds."

Of all the reasons to start a nonprofit, this is the least likely to succeed.

I'm not sure exactly why people think that the best path to financial or professional success is to start a nonprofit, but apparently a lot of them do.

In "Climbing the Ladder to Nonprofit Success" I wrote this:

"How do most nonprofits start? The founders find each other through their mutual interest in a problem."

Notice that nowhere in that quote do I say "to make a living." Not that making a living is a bad thing, but it's not a good reason to start a nonprofit. 

Nonprofits should exist because there is a societal problem that can be addressed on some level by a consortium of people with ideas to solve or mitigate the problem.

There are a lot of pitfalls in starting any business. Finding operating capital for the initial year or two, finding good people to move the business forward, marketing, managing growth, and dealing with setbacks are common to any new venture.

Add in the unique challenges of running a nonprofit, and you can multiply all of those challenges by ten.

In "Climbing the Ladder to Nonprofit Success" I try to give an unvarnished, down and dirty look at the world of startup nonprofits from that first meeting of minds through the next two or three years.  It's still a free whitepaper, and I offer it to anyone who asks for guidance in starting a nonprofit.

I also offer an inexpensive service designed to measure the viability of a specific group or nonprofit idea from a financial and organizational viewpoint.

Those resources aren't going to help win the race if you start from the wrong gate.

The person who wrote that email doesn't understand the differences between the motivation behind a startup for-profit and a nonprofit. I can help someone with either concept, but if they don't start with the right expectations, nothing I say or do is going to overcome that handicap.

Don't be that person. If you need help in deciding between the two business models, give me a shout. I'm happy to help you find the right gate. 

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