5 Reasons to Start a Non-Profit Organization

5 Reasons to Start a Non-Profit Organization

Whether you’re a regular donor to charitable causes or simply want to make a contribution to the well being of your community, you may have considered starting a non-profit group to address the critical needs you see around you. The process involves time, paperwork, and an investment in everything from fees to organizational structure, but if you’re tuned in to an important solution to a problem and want to make a difference, you may be the right person to start a group that can become a real community asset.

Think you’re ready for the challenge? Measure your commitment against these five essential criteria.

You see—and understand—an important need

Every successful, effective non-profit organization focuses on a specific need that it can fulfill with the combination of awareness and action. Without a clear vision of its reason to exist, a non-profit membership-based group struggles to become relevant to the very people who should support it.

You’ll also want to connect a heightened sense of the nature of your mission to practical ideas about how to reach your goals, improve the situations you see as your target problems, and otherwise become a significant contributor to the health of your community.

This initial phase can require the most “thinking time” of any aspect of setting up a non-profit organization. Look at this as your opportunity to define your mission in a way that can enable you to act on it and speak for it.

You see a lack of alternatives

It’s not enough to see and plan to address a specific problem. If you’re one of many organizations in a crowded field of alternatives, you face immediate competition from other non-profit groups that seek to work toward the same types of results.

Unfortunately, competition isn’t a positive when it comes to non-profits. Suppose you found a group that becomes one of seven alternatives. Each and every one of those other six groups now constitutes your competition for a finite pool of donor dollars and prospective member commitment.

You can address this type of situation in either or both of two ways. First, you can find a different angle on a focal problem and thereby differentiate your group from others. Second, you can propose a completely different solution than others offer, and thereby put yourself in a fresh category. Ideally, you’ll want to combine these two approaches to set yourself apart in meaningful ways.

You have the time, resources, and support

When you run a non-profit organization, you can have as many demands on your time as if you’re running a for-profit enterprise. Just because you see a problem and want to make a difference doesn’t mean you’re in a position to start a non-profit group and make it successful. It’s essential to be honest with yourself about the amount of time you can devote to creating and supporting your non-profit organization, the resources you can apply to form and promote it, and the circle of support around yourself in the form of other individuals who believe in your cause and will help you go from launch to reality.

For example, non-profit groups require some very specific setup steps to give them the legal status they need to accept tax-deductible donations and operate as tax-exempt organizations. These steps involve legal documents, IRS forms, and many other formal aspects that legitimize your group. If you try to cut corners on any of these steps, you can jeopardize the status of your organization from the get-go.

Many of these steps also involve startup fees, with amounts that vary depending on the type of group you set up and the state in which you live. If you’re not in a position to pay for these expenses, you’ll have trouble getting your non-profit off the ground.

Likewise, the workload required not only to launch but to move your non-profit group forward will compete with everything else on your schedule, so it’s important either to ensure that you’re not creating a distraction for yourself instead of a solution for others—and the more support you can pull together from friends and family, the better.

You’re ready to lead

This is as much a psychological consideration as it is a matter of time and resources. It’s difficult to lead a group unless you perceive yourself as capable of providing effective leadership. You’ll need to call on a cluster of attributes within yourself to get the job done.

You need a disciplined mindset that prioritizes the tasks involved in your non-profit group. That’s a combination of knowing what you need to do and keeping your eyes on your goal even when you run into roadblocks. Although you may need to be flexible about how you approach your setup tasks, you must preserve your integrity so you earn the trust of those around you and those who will join you later on. You also need the mental clarity to consider alternatives and make smart decisions among them without bogging yourself down in a haze of little choices.

You’re ready to fund

Remember that the principal source of funding for all virtually all non-profit groups comes from the value they offer and the money they raise. To attract and retain members, you’ll need to provide them with reasons to engage with your group financially. You can assess membership dues, sell merchandise, put on events and charge for tickets, and otherwise enlist the financial participation of your membership—but the offers must provide real value that’s consistent with your group mission.

Fundraising activities—soliciting donors who provide financial support in exchange for recognition—involve approaching individuals and businesses for contributions. If you took care of all the details of proper legal setup, your donors will be able to take an applicable tax deduction for the money they provide, and that, along with your cause itself, can be an inducement to support you. To earn that support, you’ll need to show that your non-profit group actually fulfills the mission you quantified when you set up your organization and decided how to reach your goals. That means setting up a full business plan to make your case for support.

If these demands on your time, ability to prioritize, and dedication don’t deter you from the task of starting up and running a non-profit organization, maybe it’s time for you to start planning and organizing. Only you can decide if you’re the right person to reap the big-picture benefits and tackle the small-picture details.

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