How to Start a Nonprofit
Have you ever wondered what it takes to start a nonprofit? Extensive questioning and research are, unsurprisingly, pretty important, but such large steps can be daunting. Such steps can be intimidating, too; with a hasty research phase, a commendable mission may falter underneath shoddy business planning, or maybe a solid business plan is built only to support a redundant, unspectacular mission. The roads to failure are numerous.
This is not meant to disappoint anyone. Although failure is easy, scrupulous work and copious help make starting a nonprofit feasible. There are a myriad of nonprofits that role model this success story-The Borgen Project included. To help you begin thinking about starting a nonprofit (or simply to inform anyone interested in the nonprofit thought process), here is a compilation of imperative questions to aid you in your research, with a little Borgen flare.
1. You’re not flying solo, are you?
The answer should be simple: no. It is unrealistic to rely on a single committed person (presumably yourself) to carry the nonprofit (to carry it very far, that is). Before any nonprofit takes flight, there must be a team (the more, the merrier) of enthusiastic and inspired people to propel the project forward. If your passion is contagious, you’re off to a good start.
2. What resources do you think you will need, and why are they important?
While starting a nonprofit, having a detailed business plan and outline is integral. It allows you to establish a few practical points, examining both the efficacy and the originality of your nonprofit before it’s too late to reverse a bad decision.
For example, if there are similar organizations to your proposed one, instead of forming another, try what is called “fiscal sponsorship.” This means that your initiative becomes umbrellaed by a larger veteran nonprofit. Basically, this tax-exempt organization serves as the recipient of charitable donations to your organization, which would not yet be recognized as tax-exempt. It allows your project to grow (maybe one day allowing it to branch off on its own) without competing with identical nonprofits.
The second, just as important, benefit of a thorough business plan is that it gives you a comprehensive (and requisite) understanding of fiscal resources. If this sounds boring, sorry, but, too bad. Although establishing your goals, structure, budget, marketing plan and resource development/fundraising aren’t flashy, they are all important. This gives you time to think about partnerships as well – they can keep your nonprofit alive.
The Borgen Project has teams dedicated to working the logistics of the nonprofit. Clint Borgen may be the face of the organization, but without fundraisers, organizers or even interns, The Borgen Project would not be very effective.
3. What’s that avalanche of paperwork doing over there, and who can I go to to get rid of it?
Paperwork can be both dull and frustrating, and filing to become a registered nonprofit is no different. It is necessary in order to secure recognition at the state level and to become tax-exempt at the federal level. If you do at any time need help finding your way through this process, go to both friends and professionals. Friends can be supportive and offer helpful advice, but ultimately you will want to consult experts before making any serious decisions. Finding lawyers who specialize in tax-exempt organizations or nonprofit law will, in all likelihood, prove to be a rewarding course of action.
– Adam Kaminski
Sources: Grant Space, National Council of Nonprofits, About.com