Starting a Nonprofit Organization?

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations are registered in the United States alone. Additional, countless NGOs are located around the world.

Within the Nonprofit Sector there are organizations fighting for almost every cause:

Hundreds of nonprofits are working to provide clean water for communities around the world.

Hundreds of nonprofits are fighting for women’s equality.

Hundreds of nonprofits are fighting for abandoned children.

Hundreds are fighting for humane animal treatment.

There are so many nonprofit organizations out there, and there are just as many being formed each and every day.

Have you been considering creating a nonprofit organization?

If so, go through these steps, which will help you decide if you ought to form a new nonprofit organization, or if you should join with another nonprofit organization.

Question 1: Is there an issue in your community or in society that you are wanting to address?

I know that there so many social issues that I wish I could help. For instance, I am passionate about working with, and helping children around the world. I have also always been drawn to helping women find stable incomes in other countries. At different points in my life, I have even considered (and begun the process of) starting my own nonprofit organization for these causes.

Perhaps the need or issue you see is in a specific community. Perhaps you want to help animals in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Perhaps you want to help youth in Omaha, Nebraska. On the other hand, maybe you want to address a larger issue. You want to save individuals from sex-trafficking across international boarders. You want to protect the rights of the homeless in Europe.

Whatever cause you are wanting to address, write it down.

Now, make it as specific as possible.

Who EXACTLY are you wanting to help?

Where EXACTLY are you wanting to help?

How EXACTLY are you wanting to help?

These questions are key to understanding what you want to do, and will affect whether or not you start your own organization. This will give you direction for your efforts.

Question 2: Are there other nonprofit organization’s addressing the issue that you defined above?

Researching other organizations is vital to making a difference and deciding whether or not you should start your own nonprofit organization.

First, start with organizations you are familiar with, or have worked with. Do any of them focus on the same issue you are wishing to address? For instance, I would love to help support children, and I happened to work with 3 different orphanages in Ukraine with the same mission. They all want to help abandoned children in Ukraine and want to provide a better life for these children. Additionally, when I was beginning to form an organization that would provide stable jobs for women in a community in Ghana, I learned of an organization in my town that was doing a similar thing for women in Uganda. I was able to become their grant writer, and therefore didn’t start my own organization.

If you can’t think of any organization’s off the top of your head, then we better start researching.

Start by a simple Google search. Type in the issue you are wanting to address. Are there any organization’s that pop up? For instance, I typed in “organizations that help mental health of teenagers” and one of the top hits was an organization by the name of Erika’s Lighthouse (located in the Chicago area).

If you can’t find anything in a Google search, click onto Guidestar, my favorite nonprofit search engine.

On Guidestar, use their advanced search option to research organizations across the United States. You can refine your searches by keywords, cities, states, etc., which will help you find organizations.

Using the same example as earlier, I can search for organization’s that help the mental health of teenagers:

Step 1: click “Advanced Search”

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Step 2: Typically when doing this kind of search, you don’t know of a specific organization that you are looking for. Therefore, you will skip the first few sections of the search, and move onto the location of the organization. If you can only work in a specific city or state, define that in the location search.

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If I were living in Salt Lake City, Utah, I would refine my search to that specific city and state, but if I were willing to work in other places, then I might not care to fill this section out.

Step 3: Select what categories would match the issue you are aiming to address.

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I would select “health,” “mental health and crisis services,” “youth development,” etc., to find all kinds of organization’s that might be addressing teenage mental health issues.

Step 4: Search

Step 5: Go through the results

You will typically come up with quite a few organizations that fall into these categories and places, but they might not be doing exactly what you are hoping to do. Take time to go through the results, go through the organizations that pop up, and figure out what they actually do.

Did you find an organization that you would be interested in working with?

If you did, that is great! Get in touch with them and see if they have any open positions.

In case you didn’t find an organization to work with, you may have found a gap in the nonprofit sector. This can lead to two possibilities:

1. This might be a gap that could use another organization. But, before you being an organization, consider everything that you will need to do to run a successful organization. Your ultimate goal is to make an impact in the lives of those you are serving (or the animals lives, or the environment, etc.). Keep that in mind as you weigh the costs of starting a nonprofit organization and decide if you will be able to make an impact.

2. Another option is to join a similar organization (perhaps they don’t have a project covering EXACTLY what you want to do, but their mission is similar), and start a new project. For instance, maybe you want to protect Dung Beetles in Alaska. There are already quite a few organizations working to preserve wildlife and the environment in Alaska, but no one seems to be concerned that the Dung Beetles are on the verge of extinction. Create a plan for a project that would help preserve the Dung Beetles and pitch it to one of the other organizations. They just might consider adding your project to their organization (as long as it lines up with their mission).

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