What Are the Steps to Starting a Nonprofit?
From lining up the required paperwork to knowing what kind of nonprofit organization you’re creating, here are 10 answers to the question, “What are the critical steps to starting a nonprofit?”
- Get the Paperwork in Line
- Register to Fund Raise
- Construct a Marketing Plan
- File Your Articles of Incorporation Correctly
- Remember, Your Brand is Your Lifeblood
- Write Nonprofit Bylaws
- Keep Your Platforms Consistent and Don’t Sleep on a Good Deal
- Officially Register as a Charity
- Create a Clear, Concise Mission Statement
- Thoroughly Research What You’re Starting
Get the Paperwork in Line
Starting a nonprofit is undoubtedly a good deed, but to federal, state, and other agencies, your organization will not differ from others. You will be required to follow a long list of rules and regulations throughout your nonprofit journey, and you will have to spend a considerable amount of your time and resources getting your paperwork in line.
Even as you do life-changing work out there, if you cannot line up the paperwork required, you won’t be able to operate smoothly, let alone begin your operations. The safest approach is to hire a trusted consultant who can take care of the legalities and paperwork so that you are free to take care of your core nonprofit activities.
Register to Fund Raise
After you’ve completed the initial steps of starting your nonprofit and received your 501(c)(3) determination letter from the IRS, you’ll need to start the registration process for the locations where you’ll be focusing your fundraising efforts. 41 states in the US require a registration or exemption before you can begin raising funds.
There may even be particular steps that differ depending on location. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with these processes early to keep your start-up efforts moving forward smoothly.
Construct a Marketing Plan
One critical step to starting a nonprofit is creating a comprehensive marketing plan. Marketing plans outline your strategies to promote your organization, reach potential donors or volunteers, and create public awareness. Your plan should include budgeting information, goals, the timeline for implementation, target audience identification, and other key elements.
You should carefully develop a well-crafted marketing plan to help your organization achieve its goals. Revisiting it regularly is essential to make adjustments based on changing conditions. Investing time and resources into a detailed plan can pay dividends for your nonprofit in the long run.
File Your Articles of Incorporation Correctly
Almost every business needs to file articles of incorporation—it is how you are recognized as a business by your state. Nonprofits have one other hoop to jump through from a legal perspective, however.
The way to do this varies from state to state, so do your research before you finish up your filing process or you’re going to find yourself not tax-exempt. The easiest way to do this is to just check the IRS website on State Links of Exempt Organizations and find your state on the list, following the instructions provided afterward.
Remember, Your Brand is Your Lifeblood
Nonprofits need to build their brand just like businesses do. The ability to communicate competently your organization’s message, mission, and values to the public will be one of the key factors to help you attract attention to your cause.
It’s essential that you competently communicate your organization’s message, mission, and values to both the public and those within the organization.
Not only the public at large but also every employee, volunteer, and investor should clearly understand what your organization stands for and what you are trying to achieve.
Everyone should agree about what they’re putting their time, effort, and money into. Ideally, your brand should tell every interested party what goals and priorities you exalt. Align your goals with your audience’s goals to gain their trust.
Write Nonprofit Bylaws
Your bylaws are your nonprofit manual. It outlines how you will run your nonprofit, the responsibilities of board members, record keeping, meeting procedures, staff compensation, and more.
They are your organization’s guidebook and help keep the operation running smoothly. Keep in mind that each state has its own rules regarding nonprofits, so make sure you’re aware of the laws in your state to write your bylaws accordingly.
Keep Your Platforms Consistent and Don’t Sleep on a Good Deal
When setting up a nonprofit, or any business, ensure you have several windows open on your computer simultaneously. You may not be ready to create content on all the typical social media platforms, but see if you can secure a consistent handle and unique branded hashtag for all social media.
You want to build a consistent brand across all platforms, as well as the URL of your website. When you find the domain name available for your website, buy it right then. I did not do that once and went back two weeks later to make a purchase, and they wanted $2,700 instead of $9. Carpe diem!
Officially Register as a Charity
A few states don’t require charity registration, but if the nonprofit actively accepts donations of any kind, it’s still always a good idea to register as one.
Charity registration is most often handled by the Secretary of State or an official associated state charity office.
Create a Clear, Concise Mission Statement
A mission statement defines the purpose and goals of the nonprofit, and it should be interesting and easy to understand. It serves as a guide for decision-making and helps to establish the organization’s identity and focus. Align this with the values and beliefs of the founders and potential supporters of the nonprofit.
It is also really important to take the time to craft the mission statement carefully and to revise it as necessary to ensure that it accurately reflects the nonprofit’s purpose and goals—which might change over time!
Thoroughly Research What You’re Starting
Please do your research and know what kind of nonprofit organization you’re starting, including public charities, private foundations, and private operating foundations.
Know the difference between the three, so you can decide what paperwork you need to submit.
CEO, A Family Ranch
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