Nonprofits are important. According to the Aspen Institute, organized, well-structured nonprofits fill important voids in communities. The Aspen Institute also notes that many nonprofits are managed by individuals who also serve in community leadership roles and serve as a voice for people who would otherwise be overlooked.
While it’s easy to recognize the need for a nonprofit, starting and keeping a nonprofit going is becoming increasingly difficult. Communities continue to turn to nonprofits to fill their needs. The problem is that finding the resources a nonprofit requires to fill those needs often seems impossible. Most nonprofit directors report that they struggle with finding funding, volunteers, and support. The sheer effort to handle the challenges is why the National Center on Charitable Statistics reports that approximately 30% of nonprofits dissolve within ten years.
Creating and managing a successful nonprofit requires creative thinking, outstanding management skills, and solid management skills. If you’re considering starting a nonprofit, creating a solid foundation for the organization is the key to its future success.
There are several things you can do to make sure your nonprofit starts with a bang.
Approach Your Proposed Nonprofit Like a Business
Failing to treat a nonprofit like a business is a common mistake. Many people have fallen into the trap of thinking that because their nonprofit is doing something good, such as providing a free service, they don’t need to think with a business mind. As a result, the organization fails.
It’s not enough to have an idea for a nonprofit, you need to have a plan that looks just like a business plan.
Before officially launching your nonprofit you must:
- Identify a need in your community
- Know who your future nonprofit will serve
- Create a business plan
Having this information on hand accomplishes two things.
First, drawing up a business plan and exploring demand drives home the reality of how much effort goes into launching and running a successful nonprofit. It helps you dig deep into yourself and determine if you’re really ready to commit a large portion of your time to the cause.
The second benefit of treating your nonprofit like a business does is make it possible to approach potential investors. Researching the community not only helps you show investors the need for your proposed nonprofit, but it also helps the investors see how donating to your nonprofit benefits their business. Your business plan identifies how much funding launching your nonprofit and keeping it going for a single year requires.
Once you’ve created a business plan for your nonprofit, you need to secure its nonprofit status by filling out and properly filing
Create a Board
Putting together a group of people to serve as board members for your nonprofit is a project is an interesting challenge. You want your board members to be as passionate about your future nonprofit as you are, but they also need to be the type of people who will rein you in if you start going overboard. It’s important that you get just the right mix of people to serve as board members.
During the creation phase of the nonprofit, the board will vote on an assortment of things that shape the nonprofit’s future, including:
- The mission statement
- The bylaws
- Drafting the Articles of Incorporation
- Filling out vital tax information including filing Tax Form 1023
The nonprofit’s board should be a minimum of three people. Each of the board members must be enthusiastic about the nonprofit and be willing to dedicate a great deal of their personal time to the project. Board members must communicate well and be dedicated to the nonprofit’s future.
Set Up the Nonprofit
The type of nonprofit organization you’re creating changes the amount of work you need to dedicate to the setup process. If the organization requires a brick and mortar facility, this is the point you set about securing the location and making sure it’s equipped to handle the needs of your nonprofit. The same is true even if you plan to operate out of a mobile unit. If your nonprofit is the type that does pop-up type events in parks or at local businesses, the set-up phase is when you acquire the necessary permits and licenses.
If you plan on hiring staff for the nonprofit, you’ll do this during the setup stage. Your staff needs to be in place and fully trained before your nonprofit opens to the community. Make sure each staff is properly versed on the bylaws, who board members are, and how they should handle the press.
Last, but not least, make sure all of your supplies are fully stocked. When you finally open your nonprofit, you want it to appear organized, clean, and ready for any challenge the world throws its way.
Market your Nonprofit
Plan on marketing your nonprofit as vigorously as you would a start-up. The only way the community benefits from your organization is if they know it exists. The extent of your marketing depends on your budget, the size of your organization, and your target market. At a minimum, you should have multiple social media accounts that attract your target market. As your organization gets closer to opening, it’s a good idea to contact local television news networks. Most newspapers, radios, and television channels are happy to promote a new nonprofit, particularly when the nonprofit has a clear mission statement and fills an obvious community need. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other nonprofits to explore the possibility of joint marketing efforts.
When putting together a marketing program for your nonprofit, remember that you don’t just want to promote its opening. Like a business, the nonprofit should grow and you’ll want to constantly market to both current and new clients. Many nonprofits find that their marketing improves so does their ability to connect with donors.
Starting a nonprofit shouldn’t be a whim. It takes an enormous amount of planning and effort. The good news is that you’ll be rewarded for all of your hard work. You’ll love the sense of pride you get once you’ve established an organized nonprofit that does an excellent job filling a community need.