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How to Start a Nonprofit from Scratch

A nonprofit organization can be a great way to give back to a community. So many lives have been changed because of the people behind nonprofits that had the compassion and drive to help the needy. Before you delve into this business, it’s important to remember that it’s not going to be a smooth journey. […]

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A nonprofit organization can be a great way to give back to a community. So many lives have been changed because of the people behind nonprofits that had the compassion and drive to help the needy.

Before you delve into this business, it’s important to remember that it’s not going to be a smooth journey. Creating a nonprofit requires time, energy, money, and lots of effort. So if you know you’re ready to lead one, then here’s a simple guide on how to start a nonprofit from scratch.

Have a clear & well-researched plan

According to research by the Concord Leadership Group, nearly half of all nonprofit startups fail because of the lack of a strategic plan.

Many nonprofit startups are clear about what they want, but not about how it’s going to happen. You need resources, budgets, revenues, and staff to keep your organization running smoothly. How are you going to do that?

You can start by focusing on the change that you want to see. What is the gap in your community and what can be done to fill that need? Back up your idea with strong numbers and facts.

In addition to your passion to help, the most essential thing to have is clarity. Be clear about your intentions, plans, goals, and actions. Most of the time, nonprofit leaders get frustrated and feel stuck because they lack clarity. It doesn’t just have to be “I’m passionate”, it has to be “I’m clear about what I want and what I need to do to make my organization run smoothly.”

Who’s going to be involved

You’ll need plenty of hands to help you run your organization, so you need to think about the people who are going to be involved with you. 

The secret to a successful nonprofit isn’t about hiring the most people. It’s about hiring the right ones. Ask yourself, “What type of people should I add to my board?” You can have thirty people on your team and still get nothing done if they aren’t the right fit for your organization. On the other hand, even a team of five can get plenty of work done if you know they are passionate about what they do.

Be a good leader

A nonprofit is nothing without a good leader. But what exactly is it? Brian Tracy, a leadership expert, enumerates the qualities that all leaders must possess:

Self-discipline. In life and career, self-discipline is a trait that will distinguish successful people from others. If you have the willpower to do what you should even if you don’t feel like doing it, then you’re highly likely to lead your organization to success.

Integrity. In the nonprofit industry, integrity is crucial. Being honest to your donors, beneficiaries, and board is everything when running a nonprofit. Remember that you’ll be handling money that is supposed to go to a social cause, and not for your own benefit.

Persistence. Leading a nonprofit is a difficult task to take on. When your grant applications keep getting rejected or when your donors have lapsed, you’ll need the persistence to keep doing what you do. Persistence is having the courage and the grace to persevere despite the setbacks and disappointments in life.

A clear sense of direction. As mentioned above, clarity is essential in starting a nonprofit. You’ll need to set a clear map of how you’re going to operate your organization. Failing to have a clear plan will often lead to a disaster.

Decisive and action-oriented. You’re going to make a multitude of decisions that will affect your organization. Thus, a good leader must be quick thinkers and decision-makers. You should be able to act on these decisions, seek feedback, and correct yourself when needed.

Choose your name and create a nonprofit plan

One of the most exciting parts of starting a nonprofit is choosing what to name it. Ideally, it should be memorable, self-explanatory, and appealing. It can describe what you do, who you help, or who your members are. 

Next, you need to create a nonprofit business plan. A business plan isn’t just for for-profit businesses—you’ll need to create yours from scratch too. It will help you have a clear map of your organization and how it will operate. If you need help with creating a nonprofit plan, you can always hire a nonprofit expert to help you.

Determine your revenue streams

Contrary to popular belief, nonprofits have plenty of sources of revenue. In addition to income from products and services, they can also receive money from fees from private sectors, government grants, private contributions, and fees from the government.

While it’s difficult to be adept at getting fully funded from all of these revenue streams, you can develop a strategy for each of them.

This isn’t even half of the work that needs to be done when creating a nonprofit, but this is a good start. With the right tools and resources, you’ll be able to run a successful nonprofit that can impact plenty of lives.

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