Starting a nonprofit is much like starting a for-profit business. Many nonprofit endeavors are born from personal traumas and triumphs. After overcoming great obstacles, some people find themselves wanting to help others have the same success. Creating a nonprofit is usually one way survivors and advocates want to aid in the movement. Before taking this huge step, however, it is important to consider your unique reasons for wanting to start the organization and who you want to serve.
Clarify Who You Want to Help
Similar to a for-profit business, a nonprofit must have a target audience. You cannot serve everyone. It is essential to go beyond gender and look at things such as age, belief system, income bracket, education background, physical location, marital status, and other characteristics that will help narrow down who you want to help. Different groups have different needs, therefore, it is important to know whose you are trying to meet. After you decide who you want to help, consider how you want to help them. Even if you start off with a good, specific idea of who it is you're trying to help, going through this exercise will sharpen your focus.
Best Way to Help
A good starting point for choosing how to help is to look at your life experiences. A person who has had personal or professional experience in an area is usually better prepared to assist another person with that issue. Once you know who you want to help and how you want to help them, consider how you can best help -- do you want to provide services, counseling or information? Be as specific as possible in formulating how your nonprofit will make a difference.
Look for Similar Programs
It may be that other individuals in your community who want to help women have a fully operating organization. Research whether there are already a similar services in your local area. If another program is currently in place, there may be an opportunity to work with the established group instead of starting something new. Another possibility is to bring your program under the structure of the older organization if your idea has some unique qualities that the other group is missing. There are three major benefits to combining resources. First, your combined efforts could mean more people are being helped. There is strength in numbers. Second, you may have the chance to learn from a veteran how to successfully operate a nonprofit. Third, you do not have to deal with finding money to start your program. If there currently are no services in your local area, and you decide to start your own, you must have a plan to pay for it.
Fundraising and Budget
All businesses require funds to operate. Consider whether you have the financial resources to fund the project, if you have partners who are contributing money, or if you will be soliciting donations or grants. Research the availability of grants that apply to your proposed organization. Consider whether you will need to hire a professional fundraiser for your nonprofit, often called "director of development. Develop a proposed budget for your organization and come up with an overall fundraising plan.
Nuts and Bolts
Having fulfilled all of the above requirements, it is now time to consult with business professionals and local community members who can help you with the legal and technical logistics of starting a nonprofit. Along with seeking guidance from those in fields such as law, accounting, and business formations, form associations with other individuals and nonprofit groups who have a similar mission. Seek their advice on finding suitable candidates for your board of directors and convincing them to come on board. Network to identify good prospects if you plan on hiring staff.
Attorney Miriam Nicole Huffman is the owner and Lifestyle Plan Strategist at One Loop Consulting, Incorporated, a business consulting firm for entrepreneurs. She hosts a podcast called "The Quip: Hot Entrepreneur and Law News" and blogs at MiriamNicoleHuffman.com.