Starting a non-profit can be an effective way to make changes for a cause you believe in and support. Many people turn their passion into their life’s work through the formation of a foundation or other organization. People like Activision Blizzard CEO, Bobby Kotick, who founded a non-profit for veterans, are making a difference every day. With determination and effort, almost anyone can do something similar. There are some important steps to starting a non-profit organization you should know in advance in order to make your journey a smooth one.
Take Time to Research
There are over a million non-profits in the United States. In order to increase the chances of yours being successful, it’s important to be sure there is a need for your particular group and that its purpose is not being duplicated elsewhere. Check out the website Guidestar.org to research the existing non-profit center in your niche. If there are others, that doesn’t mean yours isn’t needed. You may intend to go in a different direction or serve a particular segment of the population. However, taking time to see what’s out there will help to strengthen and shape your idea.
Create a Business Plan
A non-profit agency is, in effect, a business. Therefore, you should have a business plan in place to ensure you are on the right track and to convince investors of your organization’s merits. Your plan is essential when applying for funding no matter which avenue you seek. In addition, potential board members and volunteers will be more apt to sign up to help when you demonstrate your professionalism, as well as your investment.
Complete Required Paperwork
You will want to incorporate your non-profit as you would with any business in order to qualify for certain privileges and protections. In addition, obtaining 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status is imperative. The paperwork involved can seem in-depth, but it is definitely worth completing in order to make your status official. The creation of by-laws and board of directors is necessary in order to provide accountability as a genuine entity. Finally, check with your state to determine if you will need to apply for additional permits or licenses.
Begin Fundraising Efforts
Fundraising, through various methods, will provide you with the money needed to actually get your work off the ground and begin working toward your goals. You can begin to solicit individual donors, but you’ll also likely want to seek funding through government, business and private sources. There are countless grants, loans, endowments and other sources of monetary assistance for non-profit businesses. The trick is finding them and presenting your organization as deserving. Check resources like Grants.gov, the Foundation Center and the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance to find funding sources.
Make your dream a reality can be a real labor of love, but your commitment and dedication will pay off as long as you take time to consistently follow the steps necessary to start a non-profit organization. Your effort will pay off when you begin to see it all come together.
Mum’s Two Cents
If given the chance, I am sure most of us would like to lend our hand for a worthy cause. Putting up a non-profit organization might seem like a huge step to take to support a cause close to your heart, but it sure presents a lot of possibilities and potentials, not to mention the many people you can touch and inspire to join you in your cause. These tips mentioned above will all prove to be handy in putting up your very own non-profit organization in the future.
Which one’s your favorite tip and what sort of non-profit organization you are most likely to set up in the future?