When you come up with your idea for a non-profit, it’s usually because you are passionately interested in making some sort of social change. You’re probably incredibly excited about your idea and more than likely it will change your community for the better. Before you start this magical journey, it is important to ask yourself a few questions. Not only do you want to know if this idea is feasible, but you also want to know if the non-profit life is for you. Take a few minutes and ask yourself these questions OR better yet, download the PDF which guides you through answering these questions.
Is another nonprofit doing the same thing?
If the answer is yes, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start your non-profit. You’ll just want to ask some follow-up questions like “are they in the same geographic area” or “do they target the same audience?” Once you examine those follow-up questions, you’ll be better able to answer whether it matters if another non-profit is doing the same thing.
Is this enough to be a whole non-profit?
I ask this question because many people come to me with a small idea that is more like a program than a full non-profit. Again, it doesn’t mean this is a bad thing! You can run a small part-time non-profit and expand into additional programming later. Or you could find another non-profit looking for a similar program and possibly even gain funding.
Is this a full-time job?
While that might sound ideal, you’ll also want to figure out if there is any funding for your non-profit because if you are working 40 hrs/week on something, you’ll want to be sure there’s a paycheck so you can buy groceries.
Is funding available for this non-profit or program?
The likely answer is yes, though sometimes you have to dig. For example, my non-profit focuses on women, who are generally professionals in their mid-20s to early 40s. We get a majority of our funding from those women because there’s not a ton of funding for an organization for professional women. And that’s ok! It just means we have been creative about finding funding.
Can I put in 20 extra hours a week to get this off the ground?
Did I just say 20? Yes, yes I did. You have to be committed to giving this non-profit all you’ve got in the early days. Heck, there are still some weeks where I put in 20-25 hours with no pay. But I love it and I know one day we’ll be there. You have to have the dedication to make it work.
Do you have enough love for this work?
Kind of a crazy question, but you have to be a little crazy to start a non-profit. This work is hard. Don’t let ANYONE tell you otherwise. You may not get paid a lot. You may spend 60 hours a week. There may be people who tell you it won’t work. You may have naysayers, cranky folks, negativity. You have to love what you are doing because some days you may have to remind yourself that you LOVE this no matter what.
What support or network do you currently have?
Take a good hard look at who you can reach out to for help. Because you will need it. Everyday. Whether is a pep talk, donation, contact at a local corporation, you will be leaning on the people you love. I recommend making a list because having the knowledge that you’ll have support will help you feel more confident.
Can you learn quickly?
One of the biggest challenges in starting a non-profit is learning all the legalese, new terminology, sources of funding and so on. If you learn quickly and are willing to seek out the information, the process will go much more smoothly.
This is certainly not a comprehensive list. Depending on your non-profit idea, you might have some very specific questions. Perhaps you want to build schools abroad, so you might need to ask whether you’re willing to live abroad for a long period of time. Or you want to start a community garden in a truck that travels the city. You’ll want to know if you will mind driving in the car for long period of time or working in the sun frequently.
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Have you already started a non-profit? Share the one question you would tell folks to ask themselves before launching on this beautiful adventure!