Social Entrepreneurship

Steps to Start a Non-for-Profit Organization

Written by Wayne Beevers for Gaebler Ventures

If you've been looking for tips on how to go about beginning a nonprofit organization, you've come to the right place. Here we discuss exactly what you need to start a nonprofit.

Have you ever thought about starting a not-for-profit organization?

If so, what is holding you back? Are you concerned you can't make a living owning or running a not-for-profit organization? You're not sure what is involved, or maybe you are feeling overwhelmed with where to start?

Well, believe it or not, a person can live very comfortably owning a not-for-profit organization.

It is important to understand that a not-for-profit organization is a business and must be operated like business. It has donations (revenues) and expenditures (expenses) just like any other for-profit entity.

So where do you start? If you follow the checklist below you will be well on your way to owning and operating a nonprofit organization.

  • Develop and write a business plan with a descriptive mission statement. SCORE has a good template that guides you through every section of the business plan.
  • Decide on a business name for your not-for-profit organization. Search availability of your organization's chosen business name and for similarity to existing names with your secretary of state.
  • Register your not-for-profit organization's name with the secretary of state.
  • Decide where to incorporate.
  • Choose and recruit directors for your not-for-profit organization.
  • Create and sign your not-for-profit organization's Articles of Incorporation.
  • File the Articles of Incorporation with your state's secretary of state.
  • Write your not-for-profit organization's bylaws.
  • Apply for tax-exempt status from the federal and state government by filling out form 501(c) (3). Remember not all not-for-profit organizations are tax exempt, however.
  • Obtain business licenses and permits from the federal government, your state government, your local government.
  • Open a separate bank account specifically for your not-for-profit organization.

Remember the key to owning and operating a not-for-profit organization is to help or engage in a cause for which you are passionate. You may be told "no" by many, but if you maintain your enthusiasm and continue to work toward your goals, you and your organization will be a success.

Wayne Beevers enjoys writing about business as a freelancer. He is a recent graduate from Hastings College in Nebraska, where he earned degrees in Accounting and Economics.

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