5 Steps to Starting a Nonprofit after the Paperwork is Done
When you are just about to start your nonprofit it seems like getting the paperwork done and approved is the biggest challenge. It's complicated and there are multiple levels of government you need to go through to get approved. It just seems like an arduous task, and in many ways it is, but what knowledgeable nonprofit leaders aren't telling you is that getting the paperwork done is the easy part. It's what you do after that's going to make or break your organization.
After the paperwork is done it is critical to fully understand your strategy and start collecting donations. Many times you need these donations to pay back the cost of starting a nonprofit (those government fees add up!) and set you up so you can start spreading awareness about your mission and doing the work you set out to do!
It's critically important to be strategic about the months after you incorporate so you can make the most out of your brand new organization!
Here are the 5 steps to starting a nonprofit after the paperwork is done
1. Get strategic about your mission, who you want to benefit, and why. This is your elevator speech and you better be ready to tell it to anyone and everyone. Almost everyone you come in contact with will ask you a variation of these questions, so make sure you know them backwards and forwards!
It's important to take the time to write it out and make it polished. Even if you aren't 100% sure it's right because you just started, don't worry. Just get something down that you are happy with and make sure it's the same thing you have written on your website and all your print materials.
2. Make sure you setup a good web presence. Not having a website is like not having a business card. It's really important that you have a website that can collect donations right from the beginning. Websites can be expensive if you get a designer to do it, but you can also do it yourself on platforms like square space or WIX. These options are a lot less expensive but require your time and an eye for design. I would also suggest that you get PayPal to collect donations online. They have a special lower fee for nonprofits that is easy to take advantage of!
In our increasingly online world, just having a website isn't enough. You also need to be present on social media. That doesn't mean that you have to be on all the platforms all the time but you do need to make sure you at least get a Facebook page. If you are more adventurous you can get on snapchat and Instagram, but be aware that everything you sign up for is to spread awareness about your organization and mission.
3. Write up a business plan. Yes I just said to write a business plan for your nonprofit. The nonprofit you just created is simply another form of a business and it needs to be treated that way. Taking the time to writ out your mission, products, programs and services, marketing plan, operational plan, team, and financials will serve you well in the future.
4. Get your network together and tell them about your organization! This is vital because your immediate network is where everything is going to come from in the beginning. You need to get them excited about your organization so they can help you raise funds, find volunteers, and spread awareness about your new nonprofit.
There are many ways you can do this, write letters, send out a beautiful email, invite everyone you know over for a cookout, or my favorite one throw an intro to 'your organization' party and theme it with your mission. This isn't necessarily to get donations, although I wouldn't be shy about asking. It's more to introduce them to your band new organization and the great workout does!
5. Get strategic about fundraising. Fundraising is a bit of a science and an art. It's also closely related to sales, which many people don't want to be anywhere near when they start a nonprofit. There will be plenty of trial and error when it comes to fundraising but it will go much smoother if you lay out a plan in the beginning. Then if things change (which they will) you have a reference point and you can adjust everything on it accordingly.
If you want pointers on how to write a fundraising strategy you can check out last week's blog post, How to create a fundraising strategy for new and small nonprofits.
It can seem intimidating to tackle all these things after going through all the work to incorporate but setting up your organization for success will be so worth it in the long run.
Keep impacting the world with your world!