5 Tips for Starting a Nonprofit

We all have causes we are passionate about. We volunteer. We help raise funds or donate. We work to spread awareness. But what do you do when you feel you can and want to do more?

One option is to build your very own nonprofit organization. You can do the additional work that you feel needs to be done and serve the communities your group feels are underserved. With all the enthusiasm you possess for your cause, you want to hit the ground running; here are five tips to make the process of starting a nonprofit go smoothly.

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  • Consider Legal Steps

    It is important to make sure you go about setting up your organization correctly. Most nonprofits are tax exempt; if you do not register correctly it could cause problems come April. If you are beginning a nonprofit in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organization (PANO) has a good list of where to start this process. To get through all the legal steps it may be in your best interest to involve a lawyer to represent you for this step. It might be pricey but it is not something you want to be filed incorrectly.

  • Start Small

    You have big ideas and goals you want to meet in creating your organization. This is great, but you need to be realistic. Dream big, but plan small and grow from there. You may have an outreach plan that would benefit others across the U.S. or maybe even abroad, but start where you are. Problems that may arise during your time as a fledgling group will be more manageable when dealing with local resources. If it’s an issue in a small scale, it will only be a bigger issue on a larger stage.

  • Network

    If you are starting a new charitable organization, I’d say it’s safe to say you have some experience in working in and/or with other charities. Take the connections you have made in these interactions and leverage them as you take your first steps. Connections are important especially at this juncture, as they can help you build credibility and provide access to other resources.

  • Craft a Clear Mission Statement

    This is a topic that we’ve touched on many times, but it’s because it is extremely important. Your mission statement is the message that tells potential donors, volunteers, and outside entities what your purpose is. By ensuring your message is clear and succinct it will help drive support by attaching like-minded people to your cause.

  • Develop a Business Plan

    You need to think of your organization as a business for it to succeed. Though what you are creating is a not for profit group, a large part of your activities will center on generating funds. You will need funds to operate on a daily basis, hold events, and of course provide support to your designated cause. A business plan will help outline how to best reach your goal and will provide you with metrics on how you are progressing. Plus you will likely need information like this when applying for your tax exempt status.

Nonprofit work is not always glamorous, but it is rewarding. If you currently work in a nonprofit or are in the process of launching one we wish you the best of luck! Are there any tips that we’ve missed? What do you think is the most important thing to consider when beginning a nonprofit?

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