Many people want to start their own nonprofit organizations with the best of intentions, but can find putting the whole thing together is a bit more complicated than first thought.  Below are a few questions to ask as you make your plans, and a few numbers to call once you are on your way. 

Get past “I am going to start my own…” and think about the company you plan to start, where you hope to create your impact, and who is doing this with you. Get specific.

Don’t reinvent the wheel:

  • What other organizations have a similar mission to yours are there in your area?
  • Is there someone who is not exactly the same as you doing overlapping work to what you plan?
  • How is your organization going to be different, what is distinct about you?
  • Do homework on more than your mission, look into what this endeavor will require from you in terms of time, money and effort before you begin.

Lots of Competition Out There

Starting, building and sustaining a nonprofit is hard work. It can be gratifying and satisfying, but it is not as easy as it may seem.  There are over 1.5 MILLION nonprofits in the US alone; there is a good chance there is one already working in your area of interest and geography. Be sure you are not doing the same work for the same groups and plan to seek support from the same constituency. How will you capture attention for your work, and how will you distinguish yourself from others that are either doing the same thing, or look like they are doing the same thing as you will? 

 * Fun fact: there are over 1600 nonprofits dedicated to some kind of awareness,research or support for breast cancer, including some pretty heavy hitters- stiff competition for those donor dollars. 

Where is the Money Going to Come  From?

Think in advance where you think you can generate donors and donations. And if the first thought you have is to apply for grants, let me stop you right there. As a new nonprofit, the chances that you will be able to apply and receive money are very slim. Most funders need to see a track record of experience, clear program structure and what work you have already done. Even with that background, a grant award is rarely assured. The application and preparation can be labor intensive, requiring detailed narratives and budgets, without guaranteeing you will actually receive the money. 

  • Are you seeking board members, members, donors and other supporters?
  • Who are those people, what are you going to want from them?  
  • What is your organization going to offer them?
  • Who is going to do the different tasks and work? 

What is this going to cost to start up, and how much will you need to keep going?  Work up a budget that includes all the management expenses ( website, phone/internet/rent/filings)  in addition to what your programs will cost to produce.

If You Want to Go Ahead

If you have done all the smart preparation work and still want to go ahead, more power to you. The road ahead may have some areas where some expert advice can make a huge difference, and your life easier.

Here are a few people who can help you out and are awesome at what they do:  

IRS: You will need both a federal and state exemption from income  taxes; because of the time requirement, start with the Feds. The full application form is the 1023, and for smaller groups, the 1023EZ is quick, both can be found at irs.gov. There is quite a backlog of applications and wait times for a review and decision can take months. 

  • Professional advice: IRS application preparation     Kurt Graves, http://taxfreecharity.com  (310) 963-7640   Kurt has shepherded many organizations through this process across the nation, and offers a free initial consultation by phone.

Nonprofit Accounting: You need to get this organized right off the bat; careful tracking of all expenses and income are crucial for your own management and for the IRS/State tax boards. Getting your books set up right at the beginning will save time, headaches and screaming.

Website Design: at some point, you will need to have a website. Many organizations and donors are going to need to see your presence on the internet and will require your web address. Your website is one of those ‘first impressions’ things, be sure yours is clean and visible even if is needs work as you build it. 

  • Professional Advice: Simply Friday website design, owner: Andrew McCluskey,  http://simplyfriday.com/  310 980 2499. Andrew has tremendous experience with nonprofit sites and content development; he used to be a nonprofit executive so he totally understands your needs. He can get you up and running quickly, and will produce a site that reflects your message and mission.

The nonprofit sector is dynamic, vital and exciting; make it the great experience you want it to be with smart planning and reliable professional advice. Welcome.

……and do feel free to contact us if we can help with any other questions about what to do next. Cynthia   310 828 6979 

image credits: http://www.wepushbuttons.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/smart-startup-logo.jpg

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