Starting a nonprofit organization can be personally gratifying but also financial trying. It takes true passion to be willing to put up with long hours and low pay in comparison to what could be earned in a for profit business. Not everyone is cut out for running their own nonprofit organization, but for the passionate few willing to make that sacrifices, the world is ultimately a better place. If you’re ready to take the first steps and get your nonprofit up and running, here are some guidelines to get you started.
Research And Reflect
Before investing your time, energy, and money into starting a non-profit, research the industry and ask yourself what you want to accomplish from developing a new organization. Look on sites like GuideStar to find out if similar groups already exist and, if so, how do you plan on differentiating yourself from other nonprofits to attract donors and volunteers.
Create A Business Plan
Starting a nonprofit organization shares many qualities with starting a business. Donors want to invest in a group with a clear vision forward to perform the work that your organization intends to advocate.
Once you’ve committed yourself toward the task of learning how to start a nonprofit organization, you should spend a significant amount of time writing and working with partners–or even an attorney experienced in nonprofits–to put together a quality business plan. A business plan is not only the framework of the entire organization but it acts as a guide to help execute expansion efforts.
File Paperwork With The State And Federal Government
Incorporation is one of most intimidating aspects of the entire process. You will need submit your business name and pay filing fees within your state. Every state has different guidelines, so be sure to research your local laws, or consult an attorney who can help to sort that information out. After filing with the state, you are going to need to apply for 501c3 tax-exempt status with the IRS.
If you are operating a specialty organization that requires licenses, you should also apply for those at this time and select your board of directors. The average time for the IRS to respond to a 501c3 request is between 2-12 months, so don’t be alarmed if your results don’t come back right away.
Start Fundraising And Marketing
Fundraising and obtaining new donors is a constant struggle among nonprofits to finance overhead and remain in operation. Partner with like-minded organizations so that you can take advantage of the opportunity to poach some of their donors and get your name recognized. Eventually you’ll come up with a strategy that proves successful for your individual organization and you can build upon that as you become more experienced in your roll.
Keep records of all donations and contributions, as you will still be expected to file this information with the IRS at the end of every year. Tax-exempt organizations and nonprofits are responsible for filing an IRS 990 form that can vary depending on the total amount of contributions you end up receiving each year.
Monitor Performance And Make Improvements
Watch your organization carefully for the first few years while you’re still learning how to start a nonprofit organization. Working with a nonprofit attorney can help you to avoid common mistakes and guide you through the incorporation process. This kind of experienced support can come in handy you need legal advise or assistance anywhere down the road.