Starting a Nonprofit? Here are 5 Important Tips for Beginners

Are you considering creating a nonprofit? A nonprofit can be very rewarding but is one of the more difficult kinds of entities to get off the ground. Here are five tips for beginners looking to start a nonprofit. 

1. Know your state’s law requirements

Each state has different requirements for starting a new nonprofit. You need to make sure you do proper research,  almost every state has a state association of nonprofits that would be a great resource to help you get started. Many are free to join or have very low fees. They provide nonprofits amazing resources and education to help them get started. Additionally, if you think you may expand to a different state in the future, make sure you check that state’s laws before you start so you can plan your organization’s future accordingly. 

2. Have a clear vision – you will have to write it out

While all nonprofits start with an idea, you need to make sure your idea and vision are clear. One of the first things you have to do is write out your mission and vision statements. You will have to communicate what your nonprofit’s plan is and how you accomplish it. Your vision statement will be with your organization long-term, so it needs to be well throughout and communicated from the start. You also have to create the bylaws, which will get into the gritty details of how your nonprofit works internally. 

3. Start getting everyone in place before starting

To be successful, you will need to get people in different places ready to go from the start. This includes your board members, workers, volunteers, and your audience. Make sure you have experienced people on your board who can help your nonprofit succeed right from the start and long term. You also want to make sure you have a good outreach program to get people excited about the nonprofit and ready to help. Most importantly make sure the audience you are targeting are aware of your nonprofit and are going to show up at your launch. 

4. Have a solid business plan

Before you get started, make sure you have a solid foundation and plan in place. You’ll want to make sure you have a market for your organization, so do some research and outreach to the community to make sure there are people out there that need your organization’s help. Know the costs of starting your organization so you can get the correct fundraising in place for startup costs. You will also need to make sure you have a good plan for financing the nonprofit in the future. You will want to get a good bookkeeper or accountant in place from the beginning. Since your nonprofit may qualify for tax exempt status, the government will scrutinize your books carefully. Just remember you want to have a nice foundation for your organization, don’t try to rush the process. 

5. Know if a nonprofit is right for you long term

Many who want to build a business that gives back to the community feel that the only way to go is a nonprofit. While it may be the preferred entity for many, and it may work for many businesses out there, you need to make sure that the nonprofit is right for you long term. Getting your nonprofit started and in compliance with all the tax exempt status requirements can be very difficult. 

As you continue with your organization, you have to continue to meet certain criteria to keep your tax exempt nonprofit status. Make sure you are aware of these requirements for your state before you start. The nonprofit structure needs to work for your business at the beginning as well as in the future. If you find that your long term plans do not line up with the nonprofit structure, there are alternatives you can take. You can easily start an LLC or for profit corporation that donates part of its profits each year to the charity you seek to support. You won’t get the tax exempt status, but you can write off a portion of your donations each year. You may also consider starting a chapter of an already existing nonprofit. 

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