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Cupcake's avatar

Have you ever started a not-for-profit organization? What did you learn?

Asked by Cupcake (15734points) February 10th, 2010

I am thinking about starting a not-for-profit organization to support parents who have experienced trauma. I am currently a graduate student in Public Health and am taking Management of Non-Profit Organizations otherwise I probably would only think “wouldn’t that be nice to do someday?”

So have you ever been a part of a starting-up not-for-profit? Have you been on a Board of Directors? What did you learn? What advice would you give?

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6 Answers

Cruiser's avatar

I watched my boss first hand start up his non-profit mission company and aside from a ton of paper work it looked fairly simple. The only complaint or issue I see come up is he has 2 other “partners” and there is an obvious imbalance in efforts exerted in running the mission company and also they butt heads over it’s direction. I wish you success in your efforts!

AstroChuck's avatar

Just my marriage. And what I learned is it really is not-for-profit (at least monetarily).

marinelife's avatar

Be careful drawing up your by=laws. It is best to leave real power in the hands of a few people.

File for your 501©3 designation right away.

Choose your board members carefully. You want a mix of worker bees and big in the community figureheads.

stump's avatar

I started a community theatre. The paperwork part is relatively easy. The hard part, as Cruiser mentioned, is the imbalance in effort among the officers and members. In our not-for-profit, only a few get paid anything, and what gets paid is pennies. You have to take what you can get from people as far as effort goes, at least until you can establish some salaried positions. We have a saying, ‘you have to like pushing the swing, because you seldom get to ride.’ In other words, a lot of effort goes into motivating people. Another important thing is finding someone who doesn’t mind (or better yet, likes) to write for grants. There is a lot of money out there if you don’t mind twenty rejections to get one check. The biggest thing is perseverance. There will be times when you feel like no one cares if your organization disappears or not, and sometimes you will be right. But you have to care enough to do it alone if you have to. When people realize you aren’t going to give up, that is when they start caring. Good luck!!

hug_of_war's avatar

My dad didn’t start one, but he is the CEO (they work with employing adults with developmental disabilities). A lot depends on the current services in your location – you need to research if anyone else is providing that service and if so what about you will be different from them. You really need to be good at networking, you need to know a lot of people in that field to establish people who will refer to you. Do you have experience working with adults suffering from trauma? Having that hands-on experience really helps you understand how to best serve them. My dad for example worked in one of the last opeen mental institutions here before his current job. What kind of services specifically will you provide? You need to hammer out the details. How big will you be? My dad shoulders A LOT of the workload because they are on the small side in a rural county.

lilikoi's avatar

I believe that you need three people minimum to start an NPO.

Your mission statement should be both sufficiently broad as to not exclude things you may want to do in the future, and narrow as to be focused enough to be effective.

It is a great deal financially, a good tax shelter, particularly if you are founding a church.

If you plan to do political lobbying, you lose your tax-exempt status under 501( c)(3) and must file as a 501( c)(4), although one does question the irony of this since it is apparently now legal for corporations to make unlimited political spending.

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