Navigating the Nonprofit Road: Resources to Help You Start a Nonprofit

When you start a nonprofit you are driven by your passion for a cause, coffee, the hope for a better world, and lots of coffee. But it can be hard running full tilt, juggling all the aspects of leading a nonprofit by yourself.

Sometimes it helps to tag in someone else with more experience than you, consult an expert, and get some assistance from another person. But most people charge lots of money for that, and you’re trying to start a nonprofit. You don’t have lots of money and any money you do have, you want to invest as effectively as possible. 

The good news, there are lots of organizations out that want to help you and see you succeed. 

Below we’ve compiled a list of resources to help you start your nonprofit and most of them provide their assistance for free or with a discount. *

** Not all services are available in all countries

Just Starting

When you’re just starting your nonprofit, you probably have a lot of questions, you may not even know where to begin, you’re so early in your process. The good news is that many founders have the same questions and a couple people came up with the great idea to create lists of common questions nonprofit founders have. Creative Edge Consulting is a great resource to help you answer the common questions that a nonprofit founder might have. 

Once, you have all your questions answered, your head might be spinning with all the things you need to do to get started. Board Effect has a checklist for starting a nonprofit so you have it all in one place, easy to reference. Plus, who doesn’t love checking items off a list?!?

Lastly, if those two sites don’t answer all your questions and leave you feeling ready to start this process, Council of Nonprofits has a bunch of free resources and articles to help you out. 

With all those resources you have a road map to starting your nonprofit. 

On the Road

Once you have the process figured out, you need to get all those balls in the air and keep juggling them. Anika Works is a great resource for getting matched to service partners that can help you juggle all those balls. You’ve got marketing, tech, operations, staffing, finance, and more. It’s a lot for one person to handle and it can seem overwhelming. 

Another aspect for many nonprofits is whether or not they want to make it official and become a 501c3 (for US-based organizations) or equivalent tax exempt status. If you’re in the US, CapLaw is a great resource for legal assistance in setting up a 501c3. If you’re in Canada, you can check out ___ for assistance in setting up your nonprofit or charity for tax exempt status. 

Whether you choose to set up a tax exempt organization or not, it doesn’t change the mission of your organization or the passion you have. It also won’t change the fact that you need funding. 

Monaey. Money, Money, Monaey

Whether you have some funds of your own to get started or you need funding to even begin, you’ll eventually be fundraising for your organization and for your cause. First, you’ll need to understand basic accounting. If you can’t track the basic incoming and outgoing cash flow you’re going to have a hard time proving your need for funds or that you’re a valuable investment. A great resource for this is Compass Point. They have a list of financial tools and resources to help you learn the ropes and manage your accounting. 

Next, you’ll need to know how to ask for money and sell your organization to people. It’s one of the biggest barriers for a lot of nonprofits and their founders but it’s also the most important job of the nonprofit besides accounting for the money and where it goes. If you don’t have any funds, your organization won’t last very long. We provide tools across all our tiers to help you with fundraising for where you’re at in your process.  

Finally, once you get your first donor, you’ll need a way to manage donors. This is important because you need to know where money is coming from and if someone donates once, it’s easier to get them to donate a second time. It also costs you more to find new donors, than to get donations from someone who’s donated before so you’re better off to track your donors. Wild Apricot is a donor management tool that is affordable with a free version for nonprofits just starting. They also have a great blog full of resources to help you learn more about fundraising. 

Last Stop, Leadership

If you’re fundraising properly, then your organization will begin growing and as your nonprofit grows, you’ll start growing your team of staff and volunteers. Human resources or management can seem like words only associated with businesses and corporations. The truth is, any organization where you have people working needs a level of leadership and management. Poor leadership or management can cost an organization hundred or thousands of dollars which your nonprofit can’t afford. Even having free volunteers costs your organization because then staff need to train new volunteers and that costs you time. Time is your most valuable resource. 

Take the time to hone your leadership skills, and your team’s leadership skills. Take some pages from the business playbook here to keep your staff happy and motivated. A burnt out staff member makes mistakes and/or moves on which costs the organization money that could be spent helping your cause. Bridgespan and EPIP provide leadership development assistance for nonprofits. Make this a priority, if not for you, for those you’re trying to help. 

If you’ve started your nonprofit and need help getting connected with supporters to help you or investors to donate to your cause, register here and we’ll help you prepare, connect, and grow your organization. 

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