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Tips for Nonprofit Newbies

By Katie Cray
 
Launching a nonprofit? Just teamed up with a group that just received 501(c)3 status? New nonprofits have a lot to tackle, and usually are limited in resources and manpower to do so. If you’ve just started your own nonprofit, here are a few things to keep in mind.
 

  • Mission Statement.  I spent weeks in college studying missions statements, why they’re important, why the verbiage matters, and how and when to create them. Your mission statement defines who you are and what you do. Keeping that in mind, all of your programs and initiatives should be in line with that mission statement. All staff and organization members should be invested in that mission, which should never change.
  • Programs should work toward your mission statement, not bend and twist to suit the requirements of specific grants. Partnerships should also work alongside with your mission statement, and not be formed out of convenience or purely for opportunity. If it’s not helping your cause, your cause will fall between the cracks. Remember why you started your organization. 
  • Board of Directors. Set up your board with capable and motivated members. A lame board means no board support, and no board support means no money. You want people fighting the fight with you, so make sure everyone is ready and able.  Set up bylaws that all board members and organization members will abide by to keep your nonprofit’s rules clear.
  • 501(c)3 Status. Apply for it nonprofit status with the IRS so funders and supporters know that you’re a legitimate organization.
  • Fundraise, fundraise, fundraise. I’ve seen organizations that have more money than they know what to do with. However, the majority of small nonprofits I’ve been a part of are barely scraping by, with many digging into their own (personal) pockets to save another animal or feed another child. While it would be nice if private donors would send more money by the way of the smaller nonprofits, some opportunities may be missed if organizations aren’t actively seeking alternative funding. Take advantage of grant directories online, solicit for volunteer grant writers, and even subscribe to grant newsletters to get alerts when something’s available in your category.