Advice on Starting a Nonprofit
5 Tips to Get You Started
We have spent the past few months building Womentum, a global crowdfunding platform for women running micro-businesses in developing countries. The IRS recently approved us as a 501(c)3 non-profit, ending a long journey filled with many pitfalls and hair-pulling moments. Starting a nonprofit can be extremely confusing and overwhelming. From understanding all the legal aspects to keeping updated with all the forms being thrown at you, it is a continual learning process. We wish to help you better navigate these waters — here are a few tips that we think will be useful.
- Fill out the forms yourself…
Starting off, we thought that we had to pay someone to do all these forms for establishing our organization. But the reality is that now the internet is so expansive, that you can find enough tips and tricks to do the forms yourself. Yes, it takes slightly longer but it is definitely possible. So save those extra few hundred dollars — for early stage non-profit founders, time is cheap but money is not.
2. …but consult a lawyer if you aren’t sure.
This is a major 🔑 if you are starting a non-traditional nonprofit like Womentum. In situations where you aren’t sure what box to check, it’s better to check with a lawyer on certain items rather than just guessing. If you choose wrong you run the risk of inadvertently deceiving the IRS (which is never good) or having to wait longer to receive your status because they’ll request more info. Many lawyers are willing to answer quick questions about these forms as well, pro bono. If you are still in college, take advantage of that and talk to your law professors!
3. “Would you donate?”
More than likely, your friends and family donate whether or not the idea makes sense; their donations don’t help validate the idea. To validate your idea, reach out to people you don’t have a personal connection with, pitch the nonprofit to them, and ask for a donation. If they pull out their checkbook or credit card, then your idea has some legs. If they don’t, ask for feedback, which is also invaluable because it allows you to determine whether the vision, execution, and cause are misaligned and start to iterate on your non-profit.
4. Form 1023 EZ is (most likely) your friend!
This is an incredible new form that helped us establish Womentum as a tax- exempt organization in less than a month. This form only works for organizations that have a certain amount of gross income and net assets, but the form is significantly shorter than the normal 1023 form. So if your organization fits the criteria, use it! For more information, visit here.
5. Have a clear vision.
Your vision is your north star — your watchwording guide. You might have pivot your product/service and tweak your execution, but always steer north and remain true to your vision for the nonprofit. This means you need a clear + strong vision that fulfills an actual social need; you should never start a non-profit just for the sake of starting one. If even you aren’t sure exactly what your non-profit ultimately wants to accomplish, you will easily lose focus and stop caring. Non-profits are hard. It is hard enough selling people on a product/service. Imagine trying to sell them on just a vision. You’ll need a strong vision to get people behind your cause.
Hope this article was helpful! If you have any more questions about nonprofits and /or what we’re up to, please reach out to us. Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet at @give_womentum.