What Does it Take to Start Your Own Nonprofit

If you’re thinking about starting your own 501c3 nonprofit, there are several things that you
should consider before deciding to move forward – but they may not be what you think they are.
Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of advising clients throughout the United States about
making the decision to start their own 501c3. Here are just a few things that I’ve found helpful that may assist you in understanding what you need to start your own 501c3 nonprofit:

3 Things You Need to Start Your Own Nonprofit


Starting a 501c3 nonprofit will require effort so it will certainly help if you’re doing something you’re passionate about. Being passionate about something just means that it relates to a core
value of yours to the point where you’ll be motivated to keep going because it is something that you care deeply about.

Personally, I am very passionate about helping students achieve their goals. I was a very motivated student, yet without the financial support from scholarships, I would not have been able to afford my dream of attending college. Since I am passionate about helping students, it is not hard for me to grow my non-profit because I love being able to help young people reach their goals. If you start a nonprofit that you are passionate about – you’re more likely to enjoy it more than if you were starting something that you weren’t passionate about!


You need to be willing to make a decision and stick with it! Despite how passionate you are, starting your 501c3 nonprofit will still require effort. Making a commitment to see it through will
allow you to keep going even if you encounter setbacks or obstacles along the way. When I started my nonprofit, I had a difficult time recruiting students to attend our leadership conference. It appeared that I was competing with too many options that seemed like more fun to the students that I was targeting. It felt very easy to quit because I initially was not seeing the results that I wanted. However, I had made a commitment to starting and growing Revolution Leadership. Instead of quitting when things became tough – I used it as motivation to increase my effort and it paid off big! Again, you want to be able to make a decision to start your 501c3 non-profit and then commit to seeing it through even when things get tough.


The last thing you need is a team. You may be wondering why I did not mention money, education, a non-profit plan or even time. I intentionally excluded those things because if you have a solid team on board, you can manage without the others. For example, at minimum, you’ll need someone on your team that has answers to the things that you do not know. For some people, it could be finding a mentor, nonprofit manager or colleague that can assist. The downside to an informal arrangement such as that is that the person has a limited commitment to you so they may only be willing to speak with you once a month or only on weekends. They may have limited availability and are only willing to share bits and pieces of what you need to know. They also likely will not be willing to be held responsible if you rely on their advice and something goes wrong since they were doing it for free. Instead, consider working with a professional that will make a commitment toward ensuring your success. Since you have hired them, they should have a schedule as to times that you will meet as well as a roadmap of the things that need to be done. Find someone that has worked with other people before with success. They should also have actual business systems so that they can stay on top of all of the things that need to be done.
Lastly, they need to have the legal knowledge and expertise necessary to do everything the right way for you. My law firm does just this for clients every day. Our clients are professionals that hire us because they know they want to start a 501c3 non-profit but do not know about the process and don’t have the time or desire to learn. Many of the clients of my firm do not have a business plan, have never worked for nor run a non-profit and have more questions than answers about the process. They are hiring us as experts to handle all of the details and ensure that everything is done the right way. We do just that. We answer all of their questions, handle all of the legal paperwork and structuring of their nonprofit as well as advise them on how to raise money, recruit volunteers, hire staff, apply for grants and grow. It is within your reach to have the same type of team working on your behalf to get things started the right way if you don’t have the answers yourself. All you have to do is ask. My firm’s contact information is in the resource section of the book if we can ever be of assistance.

Now that you understand what it takes to start a non-profit, let’s talk about some ideas for how you can get started small while still growing to have big results in the next article.


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