Planning for a Nonprofit- Easy or Hard?
I’m glad you ask!
Today we see many organizations springing up in the communities, all with a mission to help in some way. By the time we actually know about these organizations, most of the “hard” work has already been done (behind the scenes) and what we see runs smooth and looks “easy”. This is where the question comes in… Is it hard to start a nonprofit?
In short, NO. Starting a nonprofit organization is not hard to do but takes time, strategy and forethought. Often, organizations are started as the vision of one or two people with the common reason being to fill a need. The passion behind the vision is what is “easy” but the work to create, implement and share the vision is where the “hard” work begins.
We’ve all read or heard about steps to starting a nonprofit. If you haven’t, I’ll do a brief recap.
1- Have an idea that meets a need.
2- Register with your state
3- Apply with the Federal Government
4- Apply with your state for tax exemption
While the “steps to starting a nonprofit” are essential to being incorporated and receiving tax exempt status, the steps that follow can often seem blurry or “hard”. So let’s see if we can make the “hard” portion… more “easy”.
Once the vision has been created, you must seek out those that can help manifest your vision into an organization. These people will consist of your board. Every organization must have a board to run the organization and depending on your state, the required number may be listed within the laws that govern nonprofit organizations. Here, in Florida, the Florida Statutes govern nonprofits and requires no less than three people to serve on the board (F.S. 617.0803).
Now that you have chosen those to help manifest the vision, creating a strategic plan for the organization becomes the next step. We are all too familiar with the idea that businesses have business plans right? I mean, we have to know that Walmart’s Rollback promotions are apart of a strategic plan for the company and who doesn’t like to see lower prices (lol). Well just like Walmart, your organization needs to have a strategic plan that will outline the foundation of the organization, what its goals are, how the goals will be obtained and how the organization will be managed. Now this is a short list of what can be included in the organization plan and the plan will need to be tailored to what is most effective for your organization, but the topics are a start.
So now, let’s take a quick look back. The organization has 1) been approved as a 501c3 organization and received tax exempt status; 2) chosen the few that will help bring the vision to life for the benefit of meeting the need; and 3) developed a plan that provides strategies for the forward progress of the organization. Now, don’t get me wrong, all of these accomplishments are amazing, but they don’t do much good without implementation.
Implementation is the key that brings the previous steps named all together. It is the process of making something active or effective (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/implementation). So how is implementation handled by a new organization? The same way established organizations handle it, by putting in work. Without knowing it, you’ve already started the implementation process. You’ve taken the vision and made it a possibility (incorporated), backed it up with support (board members), mapped out a blueprint (strategic plan) and now you are at the building phase. As with any structure, you start with breaking ground for the foundation (you’ve already done this) and then you start with the first floor, and floor by floor you build according to your blueprint. The same is done with building an organization. If the plan has been done properly then the organization will use it as the instructions to move forward.
Strategies for implementation
1- delegate/assign tasks- this will help prevent board members from feeling overwhelmed
2- assign due dates- tasks given with due dates will prompt a sense of urgency and accomplishment
3- require reports be submitted at each meeting outlining the progress of the tasks
4- brainstorm (as a group) through problems that arise along the way
With each member participating and completing the tasks given, you will be able to check off items on the plan and see the forward progression of the organization. You have now started and are running an organization 🙂