Nonprofits usually come into existence because an individual or group feels passionate about giving back; they can’t seem to shush the urge to somehow improve the world, or even a small slice of it. But the will to “do good” is not enough for a nonprofit to produce the right results.
In other words, running a nonprofit requires great commitment—you’ll have to raise money and work with a board of directors and volunteers to achieve your purpose. Great leadership is required to build a community around the mission. Leverage savvy and creative marketing skills for the nonprofit website, as well as at fundraising events and at the grassroots and beyond.
Here’s a roadmap to ensure you’re on the right path to building a successful nonprofit:
- Differentiate between a for-profit and nonprofit business.
If you’re interested in launching a nonprofit, it’s important to first understand the key differences between a for-profit and nonprofit business. A nonprofit’s goal is to serve society, and fill a need, be it providing meals for people in need, raising money for community programs, or restoring local landmarks and structures.
Employees of a nonprofit earn a salary, but will never bring home company profits. Nonprofits however can get tax-exempt status, and are often supported by grants, donations and volunteers.
A for-profit business, meanwhile, mainly exists to generate profits for owners.
- Do your research.
Despite these key differences, it’s still important to run a nonprofit efficiently, as you would a traditional business. To succeed, you must fulfill a significant need that isn’t already being met by other organizations. Research the number of people who would benefit from your nonprofit.
Start with a Google search to ensure your nonprofit idea is unique, and that there is a clear need or purpose for the community. For example, if you want to launch an afterschool music curriculum, type in “music programs for kids near me” and make sure you aren’t competing with another established nonprofit. Instead of competing, you might want to collaborate with their progress.
- Competition versus collaboration.
The importance of making sure your nonprofit idea is unique is linked to how differently nonprofits operate within a community. While the for-profit field is driven by competition for customers, your nonprofit will compete with other charities for donor funding, grants, and volunteer support.
But because the main mission of a nonprofit is to empower a community, the nonprofit sector requires more alliances and partnerships among community stakeholders, including other nonprofit leaders. So this explains why one should avoid launching a nonprofit that competes with an established organization.
- Be crystal clear about your mission.
It’s tempting to want to fix every ailment in the world, but nonprofits must have a clear-cut purpose. It starts with a focused mission statement, where you write down your nonprofit’s main commitment, and how it will execute on those deliverables. State why you exist. As we said, a desire to do good isn’t enough for nonprofit success. You need a strategic plan where you track the organization’s progress and how it will achieve its main goals within the first few years of operation.
Take the mission statement a step further with a nonprofit business plan. This roadmap should include: the cost of starting and running your organization, how you will go about fundraising, who will serve on your board of directors, how many employees and volunteers you will need to fulfill your mission and more.
- Filing for nonprofit status.
Nonprofit work isn’t all fundraising and community activities. It requires paperwork, starting with forming a nonprofit corporation. You do this by submitting the right paperwork with your state, which involves a filing fee.
Next you will likely have to enlist the help of an accountant or lawyer to apply for nonprofit status with the IRS, which can get complicated. Make sure someone with experience reviews your paperwork.
Once the IRS approves your nonprofit status, you can also apply for a state tax exemption. Contact your state tax agency to figure out requirements and necessary steps.
- Market your mission.
Once you’ve fine-tuned your idea, and filed the appropriate paperwork, it’s time to create an online destination for your nonprofit, starting with a dedicated website and social media presence. Think about building a community, so consider a .Club website to feed the human urge to belong and give back. Transparency fuels nonprofit success, so use your nonprofit website as a hub of information about the nonprofit’s goals, fundraising activities, community events and team members.
Remember that your website is also a way to attract volunteers and donations, so make your website visitors feel as if they are part of a club or greater community, where a shared passion to give back will keep them involved in your nonprofit mission for the long-run.