9 Myths About Starting a Nonprofit

So you’re thinking of starting a nonprofit, but you might have been told a few things that make you uncomfortable taking the leap. There’s a lot of misinformation out there so we want to share with you the truth about starting a nonprofit. Here are nine of the most common reasons or “myths” that keep people from starting their own nonprofit.

1. It’s too expensive

Many people believe you have to have enough startup money to lease an office downtown, pay five people full-time salaries as staff and have a six-figure first-year operating budget to be able to start your own nonprofit. This isn’t necessarily the case. You can have a six-figure start budget – or you can simply have the funds to pay your initial costs and then work toward gradually increasing the budget.

2. You have to be independently wealthy

Although you have the option to start a private foundation and fund it yourself from your own wealth, public charities (which are also 501c3s) are not expected to do this. Instead, a public charity is designed to be funded by donations from the general public, not your own pockets. This means you can get money from donations, grants, corporate sponsorships, etc. to run your nonprofit.

3. You need a nonprofit degree

Thanks to technology, managing and running a nonprofit has never been easier. There are a host of apps, websites, and online tools that are available to simplify the process of project management, donor relationship management, payroll, record keeping, bookkeeping, tracking donations, and more. You do not need a college degree in nonprofit management to successfully start and run your own nonprofit.

4. You need lots of free time

Many people feel that their schedules are already full with demanding jobs, family commitments, and church and community involvement, in addition to finding time to work out, travel, enjoy hobbies, spend time with friends, etc. They may feel that spending valuable time working on their nonprofit means they may have less time to advance their own career or professional goals. The good news is that you can do all of those things while still having a successful nonprofit.

5. You need experience running a nonprofit

Some people feel you need actual past management experience running a nonprofit before starting your own. This is not true. You need to be willing to educate yourself and/or hire professionals that can offer guidance to supplement your inexperienced – but you do not have to have had a previous career in the nonprofit industry to be successful.

6. You need to already have a nonprofit plan

To get started, you don’t have to have anything except your idea. Chisholm Law Firm has helped many nonprofit founders over the years start their nonprofit when all they had was their concept. If you build a good team around you, including someone experienced with nonprofit startups such as a nonprofit attorney, you can share your vision and allow them to handle the paperwork and execute your plans.

7. You need to be able to live off of your savings since you can’t get paid

Nonprofits can legally pay competitive salaries, offer benefits, and retirement plans to founders that choose to work for the nonprofit. You can also hire staff and employees to help fulfill your mission.

8. You can’t charge for your services

Some people want to offer professional services through their nonprofit (music lessons, computer coding lessons, etc.) but are discouraged thinking they would not be able to charge for them. Nonprofits can earn a profit and can charge for their services as long as they are following the rules.

9. There are already too many nonprofits

Some people feel that all of the “good” ideas are already taken. They feel that everything has already been created by other people and that surely their idea of a nonprofit is already being done. They fear that there is simply too much competition among the millions of nonprofits already in existence and that donors will feel even more frustrated with yet one more choice if they start their own nonprofit. 

The truth is there a lot of nonprofits in existence. And there may in fact be someone else that is doing something similar to what you want to do. But none of those things in and of themselves should discourage you. Why? Because if the existing nonprofits were doing such a great job – you wouldn’t see the need that you’re seeing.

Overall there a number of “myths” that can stop you only if you let them. Many people have overcome these same myths and have started nonprofits that have impacted others. You can do the same thing! Call Chisholm Law Firm today so we can help you start your nonprofit the right way.


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