Talented people with passion and drive regularly come up with ways to fill in gaps they identify. For instance, entrepreneurs invent widgets or launch services to solve problems people might not even know they have. Philanthropists are fueled by the same desire to innovate. But instead of making profits, their first priority is to make a difference.
Perhaps you’re one of those folks who want to leave the world a better place than you found it. Congratulations! I understand the call to use your God-given talents by starting a nonprofit charity. In fact, I routinely suggest that we all use our innate gifts to support great causes. I’m a firm believer that everyone has God-given gifts and using those talents to further God’s work is critical.
Case in point: I have experience founding and running businesses, not to mention empowering others. If I could help you climb the highest mountain, I would — and I’d want nothing more in return than to hope that you’d pass along the favor. In turn, I’ve played pivotal roles for charitable entities like Love INC and Phoenix Programs. Why? I support their causes and want to use my personal skill sets to help those organizations grow. This brings me and many others joy, which means sharing in God’s glory. This is biblical.
I know many others are interested in taking this path, especially recently. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals are calling out the imperfections in our social systems. Some have begun to build bridges or encourage widespread activism by founding nonprofit charities — or at least seeding the soil to grow a charity post-quarantine. That’s exciting!
At the same time, understanding how to start a nonprofit takes careful consideration. Successfully starting a nonprofit — and keeping its forward momentum intact — involves approaching the process with your mind as well as your heart.
How to Set Up Your Nonprofit
No matter why you want to start a charity, the most critical recommendation I can make is to act like you’re launching a for-profit business.
In other words, front-load your efforts with copious amounts of preparation. You should always remember that because our society runs on and revolves around corporate structures and considerations, businesses and nonprofits share the same principles. That’s logical and doesn’t detract from the importance or purity of your charity. And even if your nonprofit is religious in nature, it should still be constructed with businesslike overtures.
So how can you start a nonprofit foundation or charity from a business-focused angle? Start by finding others who share your vision, just as you would if you were spearheading the beginnings of a startup. Doing so isn’t just good for your motivation — it’s also biblically sound advice: Per Matthew 18:19-20, Jesus told his followers, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Look for at least one other believer in your overarching goal.
Next, create a structure for your nonprofit to inform your choices as you draft an operational plan. Charities fall under many different structural possibilities (some are public, for instance, and others are private). Familiarize yourself by evaluating IRS guidelines regarding tax exemption status for nonprofits. You’ll be expected to follow specific rules and regulations, so you have to take this step cautiously.
As a side note, joining forces with an existing nonprofit for sponsorship could get your charity up and running before you receive the official green light from the IRS for your 501(c)(3) or other charitable entity.
As you investigate structural considerations, begin laying out a business plan. Countless charities have stalled because their founders neglected to put everything from performance metrics to financial expectations in writing.
If you’re having difficulty with this process, seek help from entrepreneurs. Just because you’re starting a nonprofit instead of a for-profit company doesn’t mean you bypass the need for accountability and stability. Plus, your board of trustees (and investors, if applicable) will want a road map to gauge your charity’s progress.
Once your structure and plan are in place, you can move ahead operationally. Although your nonprofit’s setup probably won’t change after several months or years, your action plan will certainly evolve over time. That’s perfectly reasonable, and it’s an indication that you’re making inroads as well as discovering new ways to serve target populations.
More than anything else, never give up if you have the motivation to give back. Sure, your first go-round with starting a nonprofit might not go the way you envisioned, but keep seeking opportunities to share your unique gifts in order to carry out God’s work. Oh, and keep reading up on how to found a nonprofit so you can stay aware of changing considerations. Eventually, you’ll uncover the perfect way to breathe life into your dreams.
If you want to chat more about starting a nonprofit or charitable work in general, I’m all ears: Just reach out on LinkedIn. I’m also available to chat with larger groups about nonprofit-related topics. Fill out the form on my homepage, and I’ll be in touch.