Nonprofit programs are usually born from someone's personal or professional experience in the area. In the case of domestic violence awareness and prevention groups, advocates tend to have some type of connection to the topic. Often they are survivors or know someone who is a victim or a survivor. It is because of this history that they want to help others with a similar story.
Motivation and Audience
Ask yourself why you want to start a domestic violence program and why you are the right person for the job. Know your own reason for wanting to help before attempting to create the program. You must also know who your target audience will be. Examples of potential audiences are domestic violence victims and survivors, prevention advocates, and schools, churches, and employers. Each group needs a different set of resources, therefore, you should know those unique needs.
It is essential to know your desired results, in order to determine what type of program to form. If your purpose is violence prevention, for example, you may want to consider a program designed to educate elementary school students about respectful relationships. Some programs have special state rules that must be followed. Starting a shelter for victims, for instance, has state real estate code requirements that are not found in an education-only program at schools. Find out your state's laws regarding the business. If you need more information about what is necessary for a successful operation, do some research on similar local organizations.
Collaborate with Other Groups
If there are other local domestic violence programs, there may be an opportunity to work together or have your idea come under the umbrella of the established organization. By joining forces with other domestic violence prevention advocates, you can learn more about how to run your own program. More important, your combined efforts could mean more people are being helped. If there are no programs in your area, and you decide to start your own, you must know how you intend to structure and pay for it.
Choose a Legal Structure
There are many business structure options from which to operate a domestic violence awareness and prevention program. You can opt for an informal organization that requires no legal formation; you may decide you want a little more structure and obtain state nonprofit status without taking the further step to apply for tax-exempt status; or you may decide you want to be nationwide and become a 501(3)(c). If you do not have the money to start a program, the structure you choose is critical for funding. If you are seeking private donations, many donors will give only to a tax-exempt 501(3)(c) business so they can take a tax write-off. Since it is possible to be a nonprofit without having 501(3)(c) certification, the potential donor may require proof of exemption status before making the gift. If you are looking at federal grants, a majority require 501(3)(c) status.
Funding Your Program
If you do not have the money in the bank, the primary ways to obtain funding for a new program are through personal and/or business loans, gifts from family and friends, donations, and fundraising events. Make a list of potential donors, fundraisers, and fundraising activities. Other viable options are angel grants from private investors and crowdfunding. While possible, it is difficult for a brand new program to obtain government grants. If you need help raising money, contact a grant researcher and/or writer.
Opening for Business
Begin the formal business establishment process by writing a business plan. It should have the same basic structure as a for-profit business plan. A formal, written plan will help you stay organized as well as have a professional document to present to possible partners and donors. While you are waiting to open for business, continue to support the movement by volunteering with other domestic violence awareness groups.
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.