10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Founding a Nonprofit Organization
When you finally decide to go for it founding your own 501(c)(3) it's exhilarating. You feel so accomplished and like you are doing your part to make the world a better place. It really is a special time.
There is a lot that goes into starting a nonprofit organization and there are quite a few things I wish I knew before I blindly dove in. I wrote this list of 10 things I wish I knew when I was in the middle of my charities first ever building project. It's really a raw version of what I didn't know I was getting into.
1. People will be super excited to hear about your organization and work but that doesn’t mean they want to be involved in any way.
2. Don’t believe all the internet pages that tell you that the paperwork is easy. It isn’t and sending in any form costs money.
3. The work you do has to be deeply meaningful to you because not everyone benefitting will be as grateful as you thought they would be.
4. Every once in a while someone will voice their immense gratitude to you and you will well up with pride and remember why you do what you do.
5. Fundraising will be a constant struggle but you will figure out what works and what doesn’t through trial and error
6. When you start to hit your stride fundraising will start to be kinda fun. (when this happens you won't want to admit it)
7. When you find someone you also cares about the work and helps you strategize and implement things will be a lot better and you will feel much more like an organization and less like a one person circus. (Don’t expect to find this person right away)
8. Persistence and passion can turn a ‘no thank you’ into a ‘yes I would like to make a donation’. People want to support others who work tirelessly toward their goals. (side note- persistence doesn’t mean pestering!)
9. There are times of the year when you shouldn’t expect many donations to come in. I found that fundraising can feel like a seasonal business and the bulk of your donations will likely come in at certain times of the year.
10. There is almost no difference, business wise, between starting a for-profit and a nonprofit. They are both businesses and need to be treated as such if you want to be successful.
Many of these things took painful trial and error to figure out. Nonprofit work is challenging and not for the faint of heart. Much like starting a for-profit business, being blindly focused on one goal and not settling for anything less is how you are going to ultimately become successful.
Amidst all the struggle there will be times when something small will happen and you will be so happy and feel so great that you will want to cry tears of joy. It's what will keep you pushing for your mission even when things get rocky.
Seeing the faces of the children who were benefiting from all work my charity was doing and hearing them say thank you made it all worth it for me, and i'm positive it will be the same for you.