Non Profit Startup

Question: I am considering forming a not for profit. Any tips from those that have gone before me?

Answer: Richard Brothers and James Lehane have five tips that they think every not-for-profit should consider whether it is a startup or an ongoing enterprise.

Not all not for profits are created equal.

There is a misconception that all not for profits are all social service agencies. Some are foundations, research centers, schools, conservations trusts and even golf clubs. Some are very, very large, but most are small.

I’m doing G-d’s work, but he forgot to leave me a business plan

The only difference between a not-for-profit and a for-profit organization is their tax status. A not for profit needs a business plan (albeit smaller and maybe less complicated) just as much as a for-profit organization. It is all about setting objectives, creating strategies and tactics to achieve those objectives and having defined metrics related to achievement of the objectives. Most not for profits have an overabundance of passion and zeal but have less enthusiasm for process and procedure that will keep them solvent.

Having a mission statement is not a perfunctory requirement for a not-for-profit since it is the guide to the purposeful work of the organization. However, it is a living document and needs to be regularly reviewed.

There is a reluctance for not-for-profits to look and sound too much like a business, but it is a business, and if it is not viewed that way eventually it will find itself wondering “who are we, what do we do and what is our value to our community” and then become irrelevant.

Nobody does it better, makes me feel sad for the rest.

Unfortunately, there are too many independent not for profits for a small community like Cape Cod to adequately fund and maintain. Collaboration and cooperation are two key words that must be in every organization’s vocabulary to attain efficiency and serve their constituencies most effectively. Barriers to collaboration such as geography can be overcome, but not without a cooperating Boards of Directors that can see beyond their parochial biographies.

Business focused board members, are people, too.

Successful not-for-profits are governed by a cross-section of professionals representing experience in law, accounting, business management, and fund-raising, as well as directors who have a passion for the organization’s mission. Directors on not-for-profit boards are not ceremonial positions. Board members have a fiduciary relationship to the organization to provide oversight and apply sound management principals to operations that include more than fundraising.

Show me the money – “I’m not asking for me. I am asking for them”

Just like any business, cash management is the key to success. Understanding the sources and uses of funds is the beginning of the fundraising process. Right up there with life fears like snakes, flying and death, is asking other people for money. Fundraising is an integral part of a not-for-profit’s fundamental operations. But, one of the key roles of a Director on any not-for- profit Board is to help raise the funds that are integral to funding the organization’s mission.

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