Subscribe in a reader
Managing a Fundraiser
Starting a Nonprofit - Preparing For Success
by Jan Batts
The woman sitting across from me was crestfallen. The truth had dawned on her that there was a significant hole in her planning. She had researched and followed through on the basics of starting a nonprofit organization and she certainly had the zeal to make a difference. But after talking with me about the hidden costs of starting a nonprofit, she was beginning to realize that zeal and a 501(c)3 designation are not enough to be successful in today's fiercely competitive philanthropic world.
It's not that information about the hidden costs wasn't out there. The problem was that she, like many people who care deeply about a cause, are inexperienced and do not know the right questions to ask. Her dream was built without a strong structure under it and now she had to decide if she were willing to pay the price to build that structure.
It was the decision to succeed or fail. It was that simple.
Nonprofit management tools required for success
The hardest obstacle to overcome when starting a nonprofit is inexperience. That's not to say it can't be overcome, but it's not easy.
My client was going to have to work at it. Though she had done some volunteer work, most of it was as an event helper or in other non-management jobs. She had served on a board, but it was more of a window dressing position. She did not learn the basics of nonprofit administration, finances, board organization or development. She had never been on the inside, where the business is done.
This lack of experience kept her from even assessing correctly what it would take to run a successful nonprofit. In fact, she thought it would be easy because she had never been required to do anything when she volunteered before!
To overcome her lack of experience, my client needed to volunteer or seek employment with an established nonprofit that was associated with a cause similar to what she had in mind. She needed to apply herself to absorbing everything she could, all the back-office management ins and outs, both the good and the bad ways of doing things.
Time and the truth
In the course of discussing the cost of success, my client confessed that she didn't have time to spend equipping herself properly. She wanted to learn as she went.
The reason why she didn't have time was that she needed a job. She genuinely had a heart for a worthy cause that was not being addressed by the philanthropic community. As far as she knew, anyway. The ideal solution was to set up a nonprofit to address the need, do some fundraising, help people and get an office, a salary, benefits and an IRA. It was, she said, a win-win!
She had missed the greatest hidden cost of them all. The reason a person starts a nonprofit is to benefit a cause outside him- or herself. He can't go into it looking for personal benefit, although nonprofit professionals deserve and need appropriate compensation for their efforts.
Starting a nonprofit will cost you time and effort and you may not ever have enough donations to pay your salary. That's why it's called a nonprofit. The hidden cost was right there in plain sight.
Building a strong foundation
For a nonprofit to be successful today, its founders must become knowledgeable, equip themselves for success and build an organization with an eye toward longevity. If you are willing to pay the price for success, here are some of the places where you should spend your time and effort:
To be successful, you must be willing to invest the time it takes to create a realistic, workable fundraising plan. Committing the time and energy required to develop and maintain relationships with donors and volunteers is equally important and demanding.
Preparing for success
If you are starting a nonprofit and haven't addressed these issues, you've got the same decision to make as my client.
You have many of the same challenges that starting a for-profit business presents, but in addition to those, your competition for funding is stiff. There were almost 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the United States in 2006, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics*. To be successful, you have to maximize every potential for success.
Do you have the patience to prepare well? Can you keep the dream alive while building the foundation that will enable that dream to mature?
Plato said the beginning is the most important part of the work. Give your dreams a chance by starting strong.
* National Center for Charitable Statistics. Table, "Number of Nonprofit Organizations in the United States, 1996-2006." The Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute. 24 July 2008. http://nccsdataweb.urban.org/PubApps/profile1.php?state=US
Subscribe in a reader
About the Author:
Jan Batts, a public relations strategist, helps nonprofit organizations build their brand; interact positively with donors, corporate sponsors, the media and the public; develop fundraising campaigns; create communications materials and recruit and train volunteers. She is especially interested in helping new nonprofits establish strong foundations on which to build. Ms. Batts consults with for-profit and not-for-profit businesses and organizations. She lives in Texas.
copyright © 2000 - 2010 all rights reserved Fund$Raiser Group
ISSN 1530-6127 - Library of Congress, Washington DC, USA
Complete "how-to-do-it" fundraising guides - Free
Send newsletters, unlimited email campaigns, autoresponders, and more. Free customer service (800# with a real human), free HTML templates, and free email analytics. 3 months of service free to non-profits opening new accounts, followed by a 25% discount from regular pricing. This is the service that the Fundraising For Small Groups Newsletter uses!
Grant Writing for Beginners
Learn how to quickly and easily establish relationships with regional foundations and build a strong base of grant support for your nonprofit.
Read a Free Excerpt
Ask Without Fear
A simple guide to connecting donors with what matters to them most. Chock full of practical, easy-to-understand fundraising tools and secrets.
7 Essential Steps to Raising Money by Mail
Learn with practical examples, detailed checklists, writing helps and other tools. Sample letters for different types of solicitations and for different nonprofit groups. A step by step guide to writing fundraising letters.
Silent Auction Guide & Toolkit
Learn how to create a successful silent auction fundraiser. Silent auction strategies, timelines, auction items and how to organize and display them, how to close an auction and take payments, and other add on fundraisers to boost the bottom line of your silent auction.
Let's Raise Money
The inside scoop about small group fundraising. Learn from the founder of a national fundraising company as he reveals secrets observed over nearly two decades of fundraising.
Read a Free Excerpt
The Ultimate Guide to Planning a 5K Run or Walk Fundraiser
Plan a successful race from scratch. Proven marketing strategies, find and manage volunteers, maximize revenues, recruit and motivate teams. Checklists, forms, speadsheets, worksheets all included.
Secrets of the Charity Auction Experts
Learn from the experts! Discover the best selling auction items. How to get auction items donated. How to boost attendance. How to get more bids and higher selling prices. How to coordinating volunteers, staff and auction consultants.