Before You Start a Nonprofit Ask Yourself These Questions
Are you thinking of starting a nonprofit, well you are not alone. With more than 1.6 million nonprofits in the United States, there is a chance that someone else has the same ides. I would first research to see if there are any other nonprofits that already provide the service your nonprofit will provide. After researching if you still decide that you are plan to go forward with starting your nonprofit, then ask yourself the following questions.
Do you have what it takes to start a new business?
Starting a nonprofit is starting a business, however, with a nonprofit you will need to find donors, and investor/supporters that have an interest in your cause and making a difference in the community. The other difference in a nonprofit is the tax status, as a 501c3 you are expected to put your profits back into your organization to sustain your organization for years to come. A small business if can put their profits back into their business (this is the smart thing to do), but if they decide not too, the have that option as well.
You need a business plan, just as a small business and you will put in long hours, without pay and you will probably have to invest some of your own money to help get your new organization off the ground. It is not uncommon to keep your full-time job, or work a part-time, especially during the start up phase and it is not uncommon for organizations to be ran 100% by volunteers.
Do you have the skills to start a nonprofit? Running any business requires management and administrative skills, and a nonprofit is no exception. You might be driven by your passion for your cause, but that is no substitute for the skills and experience you will need. If you don’t have the necessary skills, you should find volunteers and supporters that have the experience and the skills you lack. These people usually become your board and/or staff.
Do you have the ability to inspire others?
You have to be able to inspire and sell others on why they should support or be involved with your organization and its cause. You’ll need to convince donors to support your organization, as well as inspiring volunteer and staff to work hard, for sometimes little or no pay and sometimes difficult circumstances.
Is your idea for your nonprofit original?
With 1.6 million nonprofits in existence, chances are there is one, or more, that already provide the service your nonprofit plans to provide. As I advised you earlier, be sure to do your research and locate other organizations that are similar to yours. If there are other organizations out there that have the same mission and they do a good job, attracting donors, grants, or any other support. If you find organizations that do not provide a good job, then you may be able to come in and champion your cause. You may be passionate about your cause, but the nonprofit but redundancy doesn’t go far in the nonprofit world.
Is it necessary to start a nonprofit to support your cause?
You can make a difference without starting a nonprofit. You could work with an existing organization and help bring new focus and direction for the organization. You could seek a position on the board, or you could volunteer in areas where the help is needed most. You should perform a needs assessment prior to starting your nonprofit to ensure there really is needed not being served.
Does my organization quality as a 501c3?
To qualify as a 501(c)(3) charity status, your organization must serve the community and provide a service that is free or below cost to enable the services to be affordable to those that may not be able to otherwise afford to pay.
Is your mission clearly defined?
To many times nonprofit founders have vague mission statements. You nonprofit should have a clear and defined mission statement. Your mission statement should answer the following questions:
- What is the purpose?
- What change you expect to happen?
- What are the services you will provide
- Who will be helped or receive the services
- How will the services be delivered the methods will be used
- Can you identify individuals to support your nonprofit?
So many people plant to or start a nonprofit and have no clue on how they plan to fund the nonprofit. Finding startup funds for nonprofits are rare and hard to come by. Normally the founders end of financing from their personal money. To take some of the financial burden off of your, it would behoove you to find as many individuals that believe in your cause. Research and find out who would be good prospective supporters of your cause.
Have you considered forming a partnership with an existing nonprofit?
If you’ve done your research as I advised earlier, you should already know whether or not there are other nonprofits that work on the cause in your geographic area. Ask yourself do these nonprofit adequately addressing the needs? Don’t downplay the efforts just because they might not be addressing that cause in the same way that you would, or if they are doing it in a slightly different way.
Consider the possibility that it might be better to join forces with another nonprofit. Maybe you could serve your cause better by becoming a staff or board member or even a volunteer or a donor. You could even bring your proposed project to the attention of that organization to see if yours can be incorporated into its activities and maybe be a supporter to see that the activity is successful.
If you answered yes to all these questions and If you do decide that you have to start your own nonprofit, you want to be sure you can make a compelling case to funders and donors to fund your organization and divert funds away from any existing organizations providing the same or similar purpose. Nonprofit funding is a tough competitive environment, be sure you have done your research and are convinced that your idea needs to find life as a new nonprofit. Just, make sure you are prepared for the tough road ahead, have the energy, and the passion to get you through the tough times.