Six Questions to Consider if You Want to Start A Nonprofit (Part II)

(If you missed Part I, you can find it here!)

4. How knowledgeable are you of the sector or industry?

I happen to be passionate about coffee. I drink it every single day. I can discern good coffee from bad. I like bold dark roasts, and I’m not a person who ruins my coffee with copious amounts of cream and sugar. (Yes, I’m judging!) However, no matter how much I love coffee, I wouldn’t consider leaving my day job to become a coffee roaster because I just don’t know enough about what it requires, and secondly, it’s not something I have a desire to do. I will continue my journey as a fundraiser and be content as a coffee connoisseur.

If you have an idea for a nonprofit, ask yourself how much you really know about the sector and how much expertise you should acquire before deciding to embark upon creating a nonprofit to help address it. Good should not be the enemy of perfect, so try not to form analysis paralysis. Learn all you can about the problem you might help to address so as not to create an unintended problematic situation simply due to a lack of understanding and information.  

For example: working in a homeless shelter, I learned to refer to the residents as “people experiencing homelessness” as opposed to “homeless people.” It humanizes the person and centers them as beings, instead of their current state of being. (Another great benefit to volunteering!)

5. Are you willing to dedicate significant time to the nonprofit?

Starting anything new takes time and mental capacity. If you want to start a nonprofit, ask yourself if you can carve out the necessary time and space in your life to dedicate hours to making it happen. You might begin by considering limiting television hours, waking up earlier or going to bed a bit later to give yourself dedicated time to work on the nonprofit. Are you prepared to undertake lots of work for little pay? Like most new businesses, they start out small, and with discipline, a good team, and consistency in fundraising and budgeting, can grow to larger, more sophisticated organizations. A reminder: This takes patience and good practices!

6. Are you prepared to manage an organization that requires strict oversight?

Once you’ve started the organization and it Is up and running, consider what resources you will need to ensure the organization remains in good standing with state and federal laws. Nonprofit organizations are tax-exempt, so records must be meticulously maintained to prevent liability later.  Ultimately, a nonprofit's board of directors is legally responsible for exercising the care an ordinarily prudent person in a like position would exercise in overseeing the organization's operations. This includes the organization's finances and legal compliance.

These questions aren’t meant to deter well-meaning nonprofit founders from launching their dream. However, the realities of starting and managing any organization are oftentimes more challenging than initially imagined. It’s better to be prepared!

If you’re confident with your answers, and want to proceed with starting a nonprofit, it’s actually relatively simple to get started. Check out these steps from the National Council of Nonprofits https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/tools-resources/how-start-nonprofit or this federal guide from USA.gov. https://www.usa.gov/start-nonprofit

Best wishes!

TMW