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5 Alternatives to Starting a Nonprofit Organization

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Nonprofit Leadership Center

Are you thinking about starting a nonprofit organization? With more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States, chances are good that there’s already an organization out there dedicated to solving the same community challenges you’re passionate about. These five alternatives to starting a nonprofit organization from Jon Pratt, the executive director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, will ensure you can improve our world and make a lasting impact, perhaps without starting a 501(c)(3).

  1. Study the nonprofits already active in your area, and join their efforts as a volunteer, a board member or even as staff.

  2. Identify the three existing nonprofits in your area with missions that are most compatible with yours. Meet with each of them to explore how you might be able to create a special project or lead a strategic initiative. Be sure to negotiate your involvement with them.

  3. Explore the list of national organizations in your area of interest to determine if they have a local office or chapter in your area. If not, contact them to discuss needs in your geographic area and if there is an opportunity to expand their impact with your support.

  4. If you have an idea for a nonprofit but know your effort will be local or quite small, consider forming an unincorporated association or club instead. Hold meetings and activities, but skip the reporting requirements. This is an option for groups with annual budgets under $25,000.

  5. If you’re considering starting a nonprofit to finance activities or support others, such as creating scholarships or family emergency funds for a specific population, explore sponsorship of the fund by an existing community foundation or other organization.

The Nonprofit Leadership Center does not provide tax or legal advice. Please consult with your attorney or accountant or tax advisor for advice specific to your situation

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