Get started on your Non Profit
Starting a nonprofit organization is an admirable endeavor. It allows you to drive change, support a cause you are passionate about, and make a tangible impact on your community or even the world. However, establishing a nonprofit requires more than just a great idea. It requires careful planning, significant effort, and an understanding of legal requirements. Here’s our 15-Step Guide to Starting a Nonprofit From Scratch.
Step 1: Articulate Your Mission and Vision
The first step in creating a nonprofit is to clearly define your organization’s mission and vision. Your mission statement should succinctly explain why your organization exists, who it serves, and how it serves them. Your vision statement should outline the long-term impact you aim to have. These will guide your actions and decisions as you build and grow your nonprofit.
Step 2: Conduct Market Research
Before going further, take time to research your cause, potential beneficiaries, and potential competitors. This will help you understand the landscape, identify gaps your organization can fill, and determine the need for your nonprofit.
Step 3: Gather a Founding Team
Building a nonprofit typically is not a solo endeavor. You need a team that believes in your cause and brings diverse skills to the table. Your founding team should include your board of directors, who will have legal and fiduciary responsibilities in guiding the organization.
Step 4: Craft a Business Plan
Despite its altruistic goals, a nonprofit is a business at heart. A comprehensive business plan detailing your objectives, strategies, organizational structure, marketing and fundraising plans, and financial projections is a vital roadmap.
Step 5: Consider Fiscal Sponsorship
Before jumping into incorporating your nonprofit, consider the option of fiscal sponsorship. A fiscal sponsor is an established nonprofit that agrees to provide administrative services and oversee the financial management of your project, enabling you to accept tax-deductible donations before you obtain your tax-exempt status. This can allow you to kickstart your operations and prove the viability of your concept without dealing with the complexity and expense of incorporating and applying for tax-exempt status.
Step 6: Incorporate Your nonprofit
If you decide that fiscal sponsorship is not the right fit or if you’ve outgrown this setup, you can move forward with incorporating your nonprofit. This involves selecting a name, filing articles of incorporation, and paying a filing fee.
Step 7: Apply for a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)
You will need an EIN, also known as a tax ID number, for tax purposes and to hire employees. You can apply for an EIN for free through the IRS.
Step 8: Develop Bylaws and a Conflict of Interest Policy
Your bylaws are the internal operating rules for your nonprofit, while the conflict of interest policy helps ensure decisions are made in the best interest of the organization. Both documents are required to file for tax-exempt status.
Step 9: Hold an Organizational Meeting
This is the first official meeting of your board of directors. During this meeting, you’ll discuss and approve the bylaws, elect directors, and document these decisions in the meeting minutes.
Step 10: File for Tax-Exempt Status
If you’ve chosen not to utilize a fiscal sponsor, in order to be recognized as a tax-exempt organization by the IRS, you’ll need to file Form 1023 or 1023-EZ. This process requires time (up to 18 months) and meticulous attention to detail, as you’ll need to provide extensive information about your organization and its finances.
Step 11: Register with Your State
Once you’ve received federal tax-exempt status, you may need to register as a charity in your state. The requirements vary by state, so check with your state’s agency that regulates charities.
Step 12: Set Up Your Accounting System
Setting up an efficient accounting system is crucial to track your income and expenses, ensure financial accountability, and provide transparency to donors and regulatory bodies.
Step 13: Create a Fundraising Plan
Your fundraising plan is your strategic guide to raising the funds needed to support your nonprofit. It should outline your fundraising goals, strategies, timeline, and the specific tactics you’ll use.
Step 14: Start Building Your Brand
Branding is crucial to making your nonprofit stand out. This involves creating a compelling logo, tagline, and website, and establishing a strong presence on social media.
Step 15: Launch Your nonprofit
Once everything is in place, it’s time to launch your nonprofit! This is an opportunity to celebrate your hard work, raise awareness of your cause, and kickstart your fundraising efforts.
Starting a nonprofit can be a challenging journey, but seeing the impact of your work can make it incredibly rewarding. Remember, every successful nonprofit started as an idea and blossomed with patience, planning, and dedication.