Every week I meet someone who tells me they are starting a new non-profit. All you have to do is fill out the paperwork and pay the fees. Anyone can start one, but not everyone can manage one successfully. What many don’t realize is funding a non-profit is a lot of work. Unless you’re wealthy and have money you can pour into it, if you’re just starting out, fundraising can easily become a full-time job. It takes grit, resilience, and an unwavering passion to fulfill your organization’s mission.
If you’re thinking of starting a non-profit, here are three things you should consider:
- Research the area and need you are thinking about serving. Are other organizations meeting that same need? Is the need far greater than the services available? Are there partnership opportunities with established agencies? What is the makeup of the community?
- Conduct a SWOT analysis of your idea. SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. This is a great way to test your idea and make sure you’re going in with your eyes open—fully aware of the challenges that lie ahead. Writing these down will give you a broader perspective. Let me give you some examples.As you list your strengths and weaknesses, think of these as being internal to your organization. Strengths might be that you have financial backing; that you have solid leadership in place; or that you have relationships in the community that will help carry the vision forward. Weaknesses might be that you haven’t raised enough funds to cover your first year of expenses; that you are still building a leadership team; or that your Board of Directors does not know much about non-profit governance.As you think of the opportunities and threats, focus on elements external to your organization. For example, there might be opportunities to partner with an elementary school or the local YMCA. Maybe recent legislative changes have made additional grant money available. A potential threat might be that a multi-million dollar non-profit is opening a location near you. This could become competition, or you might spin it into an opportunity by considering it a potential partnership. Other threats might be a declining economy might yield smaller donations. Gentrification might also pose a threat if the population you’re targeting is relocating and no longer within the serviceable area of your organization.
This list isn’t exhaustive, but should help you think broadly about how you envision your non-profit. As you think through the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, you might discover ways to tweak your vision so that your weaknesses and threats are minimized.
- Learn how to raise funds. You’ll save yourself time and frustration if you develop the skill of raising money and the art of approaching people to ask them to support your organization. If you’re just starting out, you’ll raise funds much quicker from individual donors than you will through grants. People will support you if you know who to ask and how to approach them. All you need to do is articulate a clear vision, demonstrate why your organization is needed, and exactly what the funding will be used for. If the idea of asking people for money makes you uncomfortable, my course—Your First 500k—can help. I walk you through how I raised over half a million dollars in one year’s time, and I share some of the mistakes I made along the way. If you have time to conduct your own research, then do it. But if you want a course that provides a tried and proven method, then sign up today.