Nonprofit Essentials: Early Considerations

Party politics can be big. Yuge. And the bigger the contest, the more ambiguous the teams become. It’s a numbers game that, at the national level at least, often requires a full-scale land invasion. If your mission is to address a wide range of issues particular to one area, political office may indeed be the way to go. But maybe your concern is for a specific issue or group of people – either local or united by a specific characteristic or circumstance. Maybe land invasion isn’t your thing. Maybe your cause is a special op. Say no more. It’s time to assemble your nonprofit organization.

Do your homework

Before launching into the specifics, there is an essential, organic process that should precede any attempt to turn a cause into an organization. Truly care about your subject matter. Be passionate about your cause and talk to others about it. Do your homework and know what you’re talking about. Beyond this point thar be dragons – hard work, long hours and a steady stream of tedious obstacles. Good causes are undone everyday by waning interest. Are you sufficiently psyched to keep this going day after day? If the answer is a definite and unshakeable YES, let’s move on to the next consideration.

Narrowing your focus

Having redoubled your efforts and dedication, the next step is thinking about the viability of your idea – whether your goals translate well into a non-profit organization. Think about this one. Will your organization address a problem that no other, more established organization is already working to solve; or, will you address this problem at a more localized level than similar organizations? If so, you might consider putting your efforts into one of these existing organizations. Why reinvent the wheel – or in this case the legal infrastructure – when you can just catch a ride? If your inner control freak is screaming at this point, you may have the calling after all.

The ideal circumstance for creating a nonprofit is to be the first organization to address a specific social issue – whether it is improving the water supply or advocating the rights of smartphones or establishing a youth baseball league. Your chosen issue should have a clear resolution that can be quickly and easily explained. The most marketable causes are those that invite an emotional response. Obscure problems or solutions are major hurdles when the time comes for fundraising. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Narrow your mission to once sentence; then start trimming words. A little extra thought in the beginning will make the middle so much easier and the end much further away.

In the next installment of this series on getting your nonprofit off the ground, Raise The Money will discuss the steps in setting up your organization.