Nonprofit organizations are a central part of every single community in the United States. Nonprofits are the backbone of society because they provide services, shelter, and meals to those who need it while also addressing a prevalent issue in their communities. Their work makes it possible for people to come together and work towards the common goal of making lasting, positive change.
Are you thinking about starting a nonprofit organization? Starting a nonprofit isn’t an easy thing to do because you’ll need time, money, and resources to build it from the ground up. And even after you have all of those things in order, it can still be a daunting task. It can be hard to know where to start when you’re trying to open a nonprofit, but, we’d like to help.
Below are the five essential steps you need to take in order to start a state-recognized nonprofit organization so you can begin changing your community for the better. Do you want even more tips on how to start your nonprofit and grow its mission? Download 3 Must-Read Tips to Start and Grow Your Nonprofit today!
Articulate the problem your nonprofit organization is trying to solve
What issue are you trying to solve in your community? No matter what the issue is that you want your nonprofit to focus on, you need to know how you are going to articulate it to stakeholders, future funders and investors, and the community at large. You will also have to know how you’re going to convey the steps you’re going to take to fix it. And, on top of that, you’ll have to do that for your present operation, but you’re also going to have to know how that mission will change for the future when your organization decides to expand its reach.
Make sure there is a need for your organization in your community
This is a really important step to take when you’re starting a nonprofit organization. Before you begin taking next steps to open a nonprofit, think about whether your community needs your organization to tackle the issue you’ve chosen.
It’s important to really assess the need for your organization to open its doors before it’s actually time to do so. Think about it – if you open a nonprofit and no one comes to you in need of service, you’ll have a hard time attracting funding, donations, and overall support that you’ll need to stay afloat.
There a couple of ways to begin this step. You can begin by conducting research in your community to see what prevailing issues are present. And after you’ve found those issues, make sure that there is room for another nonprofit in your community. An overabundance of organizations tackling the issue can severely reduce the chances of your nonprofit being able to make lasting change.
Start building your organization from the ground up
Once you’ve discovered your mission and the community’s need for your budding nonprofit, you need to start building the foundation of your mission. This is the most important series of steps you have to take when your starting your organization. The steps entail naming your new nonprofit, finalizing your mission statement, creating a board of directors, and recruiting the rest of your nonprofit leadership.
Who you have leading the charge against the issues you want to address is just as important as what you’re trying to address. Your board and your leadership are instrumental in how your organization will operate in the present and how you will scale your mission in the future. Find visionary individuals with experience being on a board of directors. Or, in special situations, you can find people who are very passionate about your cause. It’s important to find people who understand your vision and want to expand upon it in the best way possible.
Follow the steps you need to take for incorporation
It’s now time to take the next steps of starting a nonprofit – incorporation. According to The Balance, nonprofit organizations need to take the steps to incorporation to be recognized by other nonprofits and the state as a whole. That way, once you start delivering services, you are able to be a referable resource in your community. Along with that, once you take the steps for incorporation, your organization can apply for tax-exempt status with your state and with the IRS.
The good news is if you followed the third step, you’re already in good shape for completing this one. Some of the major steps include choosing a name for your nonprofit, finalizing your bylaws and mission statement, and appointing a board of directors and holding your first meeting with them. The remaining steps can be found on The Balance, but they mostly entail applying for any licenses or permits your nonprofit may need in order to start delivering mission and developing a fundraising and grant-writing strategy.
Which leads us to the final, non-negotiable step to starting a nonprofit organization.
File for 501(c)(3) status in the state your organization is located
Filing for 501(c)(3) status is one of the last, and most important, steps for you to take to create a state-recognized nonprofit. Having 501(c)(3) status makes your nonprofit eligible to accept and appeal for donations. It also opens your nonprofit organization to funding streams that are otherwise unavailable to your organization without this status. Applying for 501(c)(3) status has a different process in each state, so make sure to do your research so you know what to do when the time comes to file.
Starting a nonprofit is lengthy process that requires time, money, and resources to pull together. It is never easy, but if you follow these steps, you can be well on your way to delivering mission for your community.