Choosing the right charity can be difficult, especially if no nonprofit seems to tackle a problem from the right angle or use the right strategies. Instead of settling and supporting an organization that does not exactly align with your expectations, you may want to consider creating your own charity. Establishing a charity allows people to address common problems in the way they think is best, or to focus on an issue that has not yet received attention from other groups. Establishing a charity takes a great deal of work, research, and diligence. However, it is not impossible, especially for people who have passion for a particular cause. Some of the key tasks that go into establishing a new charitable organization include:
Create a business plan for the charity.
While a nonprofit organization is not a business in the traditional sense, you should still create a business plan. After all, your charity must bring in money to operate, even if you aren’t selling a product or service or trying to turn a profit. The business plan provides strategic guidance in establishing the organization and helping it grow over the years. The plan should also include details about what needs to happen during the first year of operation and then map out necessary steps in growth for the coming decade. A successful plan clearly outlines the vision and mission of the organization, which in turn guides the strategic planning process. When creating your business plan, think carefully about your budget, fundraising, and operations. Doing this will impress potential donors while keeping your new organization on track.
Seek out potential partners.
You can establish a charity without partnering with another organization, but doing so can remove many of the hurdles involved in the process. One of the most critical benefits of a partnership relates to funding. By partnering with an organization that has a similar focus, you can connect to potential supporters. After all, individuals who support the similar organization may also be interested in investing in a different approach to the same issue. Beyond funding, partnering with a more established organization can lend legitimacy to your fledgling organization in the eyes of potential donors, and your counterparts at the other organization can point out some of the common pitfalls in working in a particular field. The partner organization may have invaluable experience from which you can learn.
Understand the legal aspects of establishing a charity.
Too often, people create a charity without understanding all of the legal implications of a 501(c)(3), which can lead to serious trouble. Even when organizations qualify as a nonprofit, they must still abide by some important legal frameworks. Both individual states and the federal government regulate nonprofits heavily to guard against fraud and ensure these organizations use donations responsibly. Even organizations that have not intended to commit fraud have gotten into trouble by not understanding the regulations in their jurisdiction. Often, it makes sense to meet with an experienced lawyer to go over all of the legal aspects and establish a rapport in case issues arise in the future.
Think critically about marketing.
Nonprofit organizations resemble businesses in a number of different ways, including the fact that marketing is key to both. Organizations have little hope of securing donations without communicating their message to potential donors, whether that means larger trusts and foundations or some segment of the public. The charity’s name and brand will go a long way in communicating its mission and its values, but marketing involves much more. Social media is particularly vital for nonprofits as a low-cost way of creating buzz about the organization and its mission; more traditional forms of marketing may also be warranted. At the same time, money needs to be allocated wisely as high marketing costs will cut into the budget for your core activities.
Establish an impressive advisory board.
Charities need to demonstrate to potential donors why their solution to a problem will have a lasting impact. Part of gaining this confidence is recruiting the right advisory board. This board should consist of people who have significant expertise in the particular field in which the organization will operate and, ideally, a great deal of experience with nonprofit development. Having great minds involved in the charity says a lot about its overall feasibility and increases its chances of success. Of course, establishing the board is not enough. Founders must meet regularly with their board and take their suggestions and criticisms seriously. Ideally, these meetings should occur at least monthly, if not weekly, until operations are established. Mature charities usually have around 20 board members.
Figure out a fundraising strategy.
Virtually all charities need to raise money, even if some of the initial capital comes from the founders. Raising money can prove much more difficult than it seems at first, so it is important to think critically about potential sources and how to approach them. Asking people in related organizations what they did is a good starting point, but each nonprofit will have a different strategy. Some organizations rely heavily on donations from individuals, while others seek the support of larger foundations. Another valid strategy is to partner with corporate funders. Government grants may also be an option for certain organizations. In addition, a model that has gained traction in recent years is social entrepreneurism, which involves selling a product or service to generate money for a charitable cause.