Starting your nonprofit

These are generic instructions, not only for starting your organization but for achieving results as a community effort.

  1. Define a personal goal
  2. Define your activity
  3. Learn about your target audience
  4. Get other people to help
  5. Make partnerships
  6. Raise funding (optional)

Here are some more details on each step:

  1. Define a personal goal

To start, you have to know the reason why you want to start your nonprofit. Set a goal that if reached, will achieve what you want. Make it measurable, and give yourself a time limit.

Tips:

  • Many times an effort doesn’t work because the main leaders have different goals in mind for the organization. These are the personal goals of where the organization will be, or the impact it will make. Even if individual volunteers have different reasons for participating, at least the main leadership should agree on the same goals for the overall life of the organization. If there is a conflict with the main organizers, you might need to reassess and agree on the goals moving forward.
  • Don’t confuse leadership here, with individual activities or groups of volunteers or even leaders of a volunteer effort. This is about the overall goals of the core leadership for the organization.
  1. Define your activity

You will eventually need help from other people. Before you ask others for assistance, there needs to be a specific activity in mind.  

If you find others to help, they will want to know what they can do. Is it to be an advocate, host an event, produce something, or get something done? Write your activity down on paper so you can share it with others, and get suggestions for making your plans better.

Tips:

  • Keep focused. Remember that less is more, and the simpler the better. Try not to do too many things. 
  • You might not have all the resources now but look for workarounds. What can you do anyway? If you want a building but don’t have one, can you schedule time at a public place such as a library meeting room or community center?
  1. Learn about your target audience

From this point on your focus should be on your audience. For your target audience, spend more time getting to know them and their needs, so that you can refine your ideas. 

Tips:

  • At this point, if you think you understand the target audience (you know who they are and what they need) then start. What are you waiting for?
  1. Get other people to help

It’s difficult to do everything.The more people who are willing to volunteer will free up your time to make sure that your main activity runs smoothly. The more people who can help the better. Ask around, go to community meetings, post ads online, get references, etc.

Tips:

  • If you need to recruit team leaders, find people who share the same personal goals as the ones you defined in the first step, or at least who are willing to commit to them.
  • There may be turn-over starting out, and it may take a third or fourth time to establish a core team (or teams). So, expect to replenish your team more than once or twice. It takes time for enough traction to be built up before a core team can be established.
  1. Make partnerships

Instead of starting from scratch, it’s best to find those other organizations who are doing similar work and focus on helping with each other’s strengths. You might even learn new information that will help to revise your initial plan.

  1. Raise funding (optional)

If you can do everything without needing funding at this point, then you are in a pretty good spot. The goal of the funding at this point will be to make what you do better.

Tips:

  • At this point, you should have enough info on what you want to do, who will be helped, the people and partnerships who will accomplish the work, how the funding will be spent, and the impact of every dollar.

Author: Biagio Arobba

Much of my interests in community and arts projects come from personal experiences: Native American languages (my grandparents spoke the Lakota language), star quilt making, diet and exercise, and food computers. It all fits in a practical yet holistic viewpoint of the world.

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