Starting a nonprofit is not the easiest thing to do by any means. But here are some great tips that will help you if you have the time on your hands, a couple grand to start with and (like all veterans) time to be up late.
When I first started down this road I had really no idea of what it took to get things running. I had been around and served by many non profits such as the Wounded Warrior Project before but these were giant successful entities that I couldn’t comprehend. I have also been a part of small family sized non profits and seen how simple it looked from the outside looking in. After getting to this point and looking back I can tell you this, what you put in is what you will get out.
Have the right reason
I started Warfighter outfitters for a couple reasons. I watched a very close friend to me be on the minutes side of death because he had no contact with the outside world and was drinking himself to death. What saved him? An outing with peers, one simple fishing trip is all it took. Another reason is I am fond of the outdoors and the sportsman’s lifestyle. I am going to be doing it, so I may as well share it with others. If you have the right reason of starting your non profit things will go a lot easier than if you are “working” through the process and not having fun. There is no money in it so don’t even try. There are a lot of charities that are out there for the all mighty buck, but I have yet to see one last for very long. So whatever your passion you can use it to make lives better.
Start with 2 grand
$2,000 bucks is about what you will need to get the ball rolling. I sold some personal items to get the cash and roll forward with the big idea that it will change lives. This will cover your attorneys fees, your state and federal filing fees, and a little left to get your social media, website, and funding campaign up and going.
Find your friends
You will need a trusted group of folks to serve as a board of directors. Gather up about 5 people you know well enough that will be there when you need meetings, they should be locals to you and you know will share the same vision and have a good time doing it.
Get a good Attorney
This is paramount! Find one that knows their way around non profits and the filing processes. this will be your mentor for the first several years. Every time your are in the office ask all the questions you can and take notes to be ready for the next step. Your attorney will make or break your non profit before it even gets started. They are worth every cent.
Be friends with your local paper editor
When you first start out there is only one way to get the word out, Media! These folks are usually looking for these kinds of stories and if you can give them all the info on your newly minted organization and its mission you have multiplied your audience massively. Be sure to have your web/social/funding sites ready before getting the news out so you can be ready for the cascade of folks that will be interested in your cause.
Do it by the numbers
From day zero, make sure you keep records of everything. make copies of anything that has to deal with your non profit. Create folders in your email accounts and organize every message accordingly, take scans of all the checks and donations you receive. Constantly reconcile, categorize and describe your bank statements. Scan all your documents and save them in perspective files on your computer and back them up on an external hard drive. It may sound like a lot to do, but if you do each item when it happens it isn’t such a load.
Once you get to this stage it is pretty apparent how to manage things in your new mission. I would recommend doing all of this by yourself to really understand the key problem areas to your organization. Once you have a good grasp on things you can then get your board involved with sharing some of the weight such as the secretary and treasurer. I find this way to prove very beneficial since you have already made the mistakes and are teaching the rest how to avoid them. But most importantly, you cant be at the helm and not understand the workings of the ship underneath you.