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Starting a Nonprofit? 3 Things to do FIRST

best practices board finances foundation Aug 24, 2023

Starting a Nonprofit? 3 Things to do FIRST

     Starting a nonprofit organization is one of the most rewarding things that you can do both personally and professionally. I know because I've done it. When you align your values and purpose with a cause you're passionate about, you can fulfill your purpose on this Earth in an incredible way. But, before you dive in and start that nonprofit, I want to share with you three important steps to start with so that you build on solid ground. 

 1. Determine your mission and purpose

     Your first step in thinking about starting a nonprofit is to determine your mission and purpose. You need to get really clear on this. You’ll want to ask and answer questions like…

What's the cause you want to address? 

Who are the people you're wanting to help? 

How do you plan to do it? 

What does it look like?

     Again, you’ll want to be really clear on this step. Write it all out- the mission, vision, and values of the organization. What do you plan to do?

2. Do your research

      Your next step is to do enough thorough research to be set up for success. A nonprofit needs to solve a problem or address a need that is not being addressed by anyone else in your community. The last thing you need is to do all the work to bring a nonprofit into existence, only to fulfill a need that's already being met. You’ll struggle to find donors or funding sources. Duplicating the efforts of others is not a solid foundation on which to build a nonprofit organization. Instead, you’ll want to find out…

What are other organizations doing? 

Are there strengths and weaknesses?

 Are there any gaps in services where needs are going unmet? 

     For example, around 2013, I became personally aware of the evil of human trafficking. I was completely appalled at what was going on, and shortly thereafter, I connected with a group of women who had also gained this awareness. Together, we were motivated to do something great. We all had ideas and we wanted to get started, but there were so many directions we could take. But, the best step we took was connecting with our local rape crisis center.  They had  connections to law enforcement agencies and other nonprofits. So, they conducted a study that identified the largest gap in services. It was housing. So we said, “Pick us! We're ready to go! We want to help with that!” So, we jumped in and got to work. Now, eight years later, there's a home servicing victims and helping survivors in an incredible way. But, if we’d been duplicating efforts instead, that housing need would've never been met. 

3. Develop a strategic plan

     Keep in mind, I speak from the financial realm of the world, So I should point out that you definitely need an outline of your goals and objectives, as well as the methods you’ll use to accomplish them.  What programs will you offer? These are all parts of your strategic plan, so be sure to address them. But, another element of the strategic plan is the budget, which is what I’m passionate about helping nonprofits with! 

What does it cost to operate this nonprofit?

How are you going to fund this work?

 Will you have grant funding? 

How do you know that this grant source will provide? 

Does that grant source require you to operate for a certain number of years before they're willing to help?

 What’s your fundraising plan? 

How will you raise money if you don’t receive grants?

 Will you charge a fee for a service? 

What’s the sustainability of that? 

     You’ll need to do all the math and crunch all the numbers. Get someone besides you if that's not your skillset. You need a clear blueprint for how you can achieve your mission, and then it will give you a roadmap to get there. It'll make the steps actionable. 

     Remember, starting a nonprofit is a marathon. It's not a sprint. It's not going to happen overnight. It doesn’t even happen in a year. It takes time. So be patient, be focused, and definitely know that your mission makes it worth it. 

     If you found this helpful today, you can subscribe to my weekly videos on Youtube. Or, if you'd like these weekly tips delivered to your inbox, you can sign up to receive them here.

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