How to Start a Nonprofit: Research & Discovery

How to Start a Nonprofit
This is the first post in a five-part series on how to start a nonprofit organization. Keep in mind that the sequence in which you complete these tasks may vary, but each is important.  This post will explore the initial phase of Research and Discovery.

1.  Research and assess the need to be addressed:  What is it exactly that you want to achieve through your nonprofit organization?  Shelters for abandoned pets?  Legal services for the homeless?  Scholarships for college tuition?  Focus on the need first and foremost.  Everything else flows out of the need.

2.  Identify personal motives and goals:  Starting a nonprofit is often tied to a very personal life experience.  Ask yourself why you’re doing this, and specifically how you want to be involved.  These motivations are important and will play a key role in the formation and development of your organization.

3.  Define how the need can be met:  What activities will your organization conduct to address the need?  Narrow your scope as much as possible using the what, why, how, when, and where criteria.

4.  Define how success can be measured:  What defines a successful program, event, or grant?  How will you know if your activities are productive, cost efficient, and meaningful over the long-term?  Take the time up front to define how you will measure success.

5.  Identify similar programs:  Is there another organization that does what you are trying to do?  It’s not uncommon for a group to start a new nonprofit, only to realize soon after that a nearby, similar organization has been operating successfully for years.

6.  Explore opportunities to work with existing organizations as an alternative to creating a new one:  Flooding your community with similar-but-different nonprofits is not a recipe for success.  Instead of competing for the same donors and publicity, think about joining forces and working together.

In Part 2 of this series we’ll explore the stages of Concept Development.

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