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Starting Your Own Nonprofit

Do you have a passion you want to turn into reality? Consider starting it as a nonprofit. When women launch businesses, they often incorporate "giving back" into their launching endeavor. Whether creating jobs in third-world countries or donating a portion of their proceeds to their favorite charity, the concept of "volunteering" has taken on a whole new meaning for women entrepreneurs today. 

Although there are many ways give back to your community through a for-profit business, consider starting your passion as a nonprofit from the get-go. Why? You can take advantage of all that this structure has to offer, plus, the "feel good" aspect of the nonprofit route is unparalleled. 

Here are my top reasons to start a nonprofit and the steps you can take to get started now! 

Find a Sponsor (or More Than One) That Will Support Your Cause
A sponsor who believes in your cause can provide you with the necessary seed capital with which to start and operate your organization. For-profit companies are particularly interested in aligning themselves with causes because it helps their brand and raises their profile in the community. Use this as a selling point when talking to prospective companies. In fact, most companies allocate budgets to give to certain causes. Do your homework and find out which causes appeal to which companies based on their history of past alignments. 

Pitch Your Cause to the Marketing Departments of These Companies
This is a particularly good idea if the companies on your list have already allocated budgets for nonprofits for this year. Put a plan together as to how you will create awareness in the community for your target company, making it compelling for them to work with you in this capacity. 

Make Sure You Have a Clear Understanding of Your Funding Plan
Don't forget to allocate money to pay yourself and/or an assistant to help with day-to-day operations! Just because it's a nonprofit does not mean that everyone must work for free. However, it does mean that you can solicit people to volunteer their services and help out on the side of other jobs and careers. 

Create a Board or a Volunteer Committee
Make sure you clearly define each person's role or responsibility: Sometimes when people "volunteer," they are less reliable. Make sure you set expectations both for yourself and for others. 

Get Someone on Your Team Who Has Fundraising Expertise
Ask them to help you put a plan together. Fundraising is the equivalent of selling in a nonprofit. The key to your success will be the knowledge of how to do this effectively and how to structure your plan. 

Do Your Homework and Abide by the Rules of Nonprofits
The IRS has specific guidelines and structures that must be followed in order to claim nonprofit status and take advantage of the tax benefits associated with this structure. The difference between nonprofit and for-profit organizations is that nonprofits reinvest their profits; for-profits technically make distributions of their profits to their owners or shareholders. Make sure you understand the differences and how they impact the way that you set up your organization from the beginning. 

Not sure you want to start a nonprofit? Already own a business but interested in giving back? Consider the following as alternatives to starting a nonprofit under a for-profit structure: 

1. Donate a portion of the proceeds of any sales to your favorite nonprofit organization. 

2. Create a special product or service and tie all sales of it to a nonprofit. 

3. Manufacture your product in a third-world country and provide jobs for the underprivileged.

4. Manufacture your product in the United States using organizations that employ the mentally or physically challenged to package your product or handle certain aspects of it. 

5. Consider partnering with a nonprofit organization to put on a special event and create brand awareness for both your company and your cause. 

The most important thing is that you feel passionately about what you are doing and your cause. Your passion will radiate as enthusiasm in discussions with those that can help you, and you'll be well on your way to attracting opportunities and funding to get your idea off the ground. Good luck! 

Text by Victoria Colligan, founder of Ladies Who Launch

Comments (1)

  • AsTheCookieCrumbles 31 Jan, 2009

    I don't have much experience pitching an idea to a potential sponsor. Any tips how to go about that? How does one go about getting a meeting with decision makers? Does this type of networking require special skills? What materials does one take to such a meeting?

    The only attempt I made at acquiring sponsorship for a nonprofit website was met with suspicion.