Starting a nonprofit organization is a huge undertaking. Just like creating a business, it requires much more than compassion and commitment. Serious research, planning, strategy and identifying a deep community need are all necessary. With more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States all competing for the same attention, volunteers and resources, it’s important to ask yourself critical questions before embarking on the journey to start a new nonprofit.
First, if you’re considering starting a nonprofit organization, you must identify the need your nonprofit will fill. Then, you’ll need to think practically about the operations of running your organization. Here are 15 questions to ask before applying for tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service and building out a name, brand and infrastructure.
- What nonprofit am I interested in starting?
- What services or products will my organization provide?
- Is my idea practical, and does it fill an unmet need in the community?
- What is my competition?
- If other agencies in my local area are providing the same services, how will my agency be different? Is there an alternative opportunity to collaborate or partner with them?
- What is my nonprofit’s advantage over existing nonprofit organizations?
- Can I deliver a better quality of service?
- How will I sustain my operation, and can I create a demand for my organization?
- What skills and experience do I bring to the nonprofit business?
- What insurance coverage will I need?
- What equipment or supplies will I need?
- How will I compensate myself?
- What resources do I have?
- Where will my organization be located?
- What will I name my organization?
Your answers to these questions will help you create a focused, well-researched operational plan that should serve as a blueprint for fundraising and future success. In many cases, it might be wiser to join forces, efforts and energy with a like-minded existing nonprofit rather than create a new one or compete with organizations with similar missions that have a presence in the community.
Looking for an alternative to starting a nonprofit organization? Here are five ways you can be just as effective without starting your own 501(c)(3).
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.