While some entrepreneurs want to invent the next big consumer gadget that will make them billions of dollars, some just want to solve a big problem in their communities that is holding it back from greatness.
If you are in the latter category, you may want to try your hand at starting a nonprofit organization. Organizations such as the Joe Johnson Mercy Foundation have gone through the steps that we will outline below to great effect.
If you copy them and persevere through the trials and tribulations of running a nonprofit, we have no doubt that you will have great success making a difference in your community.
1) Is there a need for what you want to do?
The first thing that you should investigate when you want to start a non-profit is whether there is actually a need for what you want to do.
There may not be as much of a demand for your services that you think there might be, or current organizations working in the community may be already meeting the needs of vulnerable community members.
If you believe that there is a need for your services, be prepared to dig up research that makes the case that there is a gap in services that you plan to fill.
2) Draw up a business plan
Although you will not be seeking to make a profit with your organization, it is still advisable that you draw up a business plan.
This will demonstrate to community leaders that you will be running an entity that is capable of meeting the needs of at-risk citizens.
By articulating how you plan on achieving your mission, it will be easier to raise funds from corporations and curry favor with politicians.
3) Incorporate and draft board members
The next step in the process is to bring on board the people that you will need to pilot your non-profit charity towards success.
There are a variety of roles that have legal obligations when it comes to running a successful non-profit, so be sure to take the recruitment process seriously.
Furthermore, you should aim to incorporate your non-profit. This will allow you to structure the organization in a way that will lend legitimacy to your operation, protect your members (including yourself) from liability, and it will force you to run your nonprofit in a way that makes filing IRS documents easier at the end of the tax year.
This last part will differ if you are not based in the United States, but in general, being more organized can only help you at tax time.
4) Register as a non-profit with tax authorities
Once you have taken care of all of the previously mentioned responsibilities, then you should officially register as a non-profit with the tax authorities in your country.
If you are in the United States, you will be filing for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status with the IRS. In this case, you will pay a fee of several hundred dollars for the privilege of being assessed by tax professionals on whether or not you qualify for non-profit status.
Only do this when you expect your annual receipts to exceed $10,000 per year, as not only is the process an uncertain one, but it also takes forever to settle (anywhere between 3 to 12 months, depending on how many questions they decide to ask you).
5) Network incessantly in the local community
While you are waiting for the IRS to render their decision, use your time well by networking continuously in the community.
Constantly lobby business leaders, politicians, and other well-connected individuals in the community, and you’ll have the motivation and support you’ll need to hit the ground running once the IRS approves your application for nonprofit status.