Thanks, in part, to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis in 2020, many nonprofits are feeling unstable. In fact, according to a survey by the Charities Aid Foundation of America, 25% of respondents believe they’ll be forced to close their doors within a year.
If you’re planning to start a nonprofit organization soon, that might leave you wondering if it’s a good idea to move forward with your plan.
However, there is good news. If you know how to start a nonprofit organization the right way, you’ll build a strong foundation and be better equipped to make it through outside circumstances, like a global pandemic.
So, how can you increase your chances of success? You’ve come to the right place for help. Keep reading to learn about the most important things to do when starting a nonprofit.
Make Sure There’s a Need
It’s easy to fall into the misconception that the world always needs more charitable organizations, especially when you first think about starting a nonprofit of your own.
However, just like in any business, you’ll ultimately fail if there’s not a true need for what you’re providing.
Spend some time doing research about similar nonprofits, both locally and nationally. Does your idea help meet a need that’s not currently being met? How can you provide different services than other similar organizations?
By just replicating something that already exists, it will be much harder for you to secure funding, so it’s crucial to make sure there’s a need for your organization before moving any further.
Identify Your Mission and Vision
Once you’ve identified why you need to start your nonprofit, it’s time to think about your core values. What are the foundational pieces that will always guide your nonprofit?
As you determine your core values, it will help you write out a mission statement that serves as a reminder of what you stand for, in everything that you do.
From there, you can create your vision, which states your end goal as a nonprofit. This will help keep you on track over the years, making sure that everything you do relates back to reaching that goal.
Develop a Business Plan
In order to stay on track and give the structure needed for your organization to thrive, you’ll need to write a detailed business plan. The plan should include the following:
- Executive summary
- Results of market research you’ve done
- Demographics about who you’ll serve
- Programs and services you intend to provide
- Financial plan
- Marketing plan
- Overview of day-to-day operations
- Specific objectives you want to achieve
Not only does this show that you’re taking this seriously, but you’ll use this as a guide for how to run your organization over the years.
File the Legal Paperwork
The next step in moving forward is to incorporate your nonprofit. All states have different requirements and fees for incorporation, so you’ll need to look up the specifics based on your state.
Incorporation helps give your organization legitimacy, which is important when securing funding. It also helps limit your personal liability.
After incorporating your nonprofit, you’ll need to file for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status with the IRS. This can be a long process, so the sooner you file, the better.
Fill in Gaps by Building a Team
It’s natural to think you have to do everything yourself, but that’s not realistic or sustainable. As the founder of a nonprofit, celebrate your strengths, but recognize where you need help and build a team that can fill in those gaps.
This can include finding someone who is experienced in bookkeeping for nonprofits, building out a board of directors, hiring full-time staff members, or finding volunteers.
By finding people who are passionate about your cause, you’ll set your organization up for success.
One of the most difficult aspects of starting a nonprofit is trying to secure funding to get your feet off the ground. The best way to get started is by applying for grants.
Research grants that are relevant to your cause and apply for as many as you can. If you don’t have experience writing grant proposals yourself, it’s worth it to find someone who does.
This makes it more likely that you’ll get that initial funding that is so crucial to success.
You should also set up a way to accept donations from the beginning. Surely, there are people that want to help support your cause, so make it easy for them to donate online.
Focus on Branding and Marketing
You can start a really amazing nonprofit with an important cause, but if no one knows about it, you’ll have a hard time staying open.
Come up with a visual identity for your organization through brand colors, logos, and messaging. Set up a website with information about your mission and vision and create social media profiles on major platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Then, develop a marketing plan that details how you plan to communicate with the community and your target audience. You can use social media, email marketing, and online ads to help spread the word about your cause.
Make Plans for the Future
Once you’ve set up a solid foundation for your organization, it’s time for the real work to begin. You need to plan out a detailed roadmap for your nonprofit, to help ensure you abide by your bylaws and are in compliance as an organization.
This roadmap should also include a five-year plan about how to reach the goals you’ve set. Include milestones you want to achieve and detail how you’ll do it and in what timeline.
Without a plan for the future, you’ll never get out of the present.
Now You Know How to Start a Nonprofit Organization
By following the steps we outlined above, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you know how to start a nonprofit organization the right way.
This solid foundation will help set you up for success for years to come as you serve the community.
Looking for additional guidance as you begin this journey? Browse through our other helpful articles today.