A small spark of creative energy s all you may need in order to accomplish a life-changing impact. Always wanted to make a difference? Want to Get involved with nonprofit work? This is an easy to digest guide on how to kickstart your organization, with little to no resources!
From the outside, nonprofit groups seem like massive corporations beyond reach. To some extent, this may be true, but most, if not all, started from the same place: a group of individuals with nothing but a dream to leave a positive impact on the world.
Any organization can enforce a positive impact, but what sets nonprofits apart is the 501(c)3 status. Worried that your organization won’t meet the requirements? There are actually various types of 501 tax exemption forms that cover a multitude of categories ranging from religious purposes, political campaigns, agriculture, to even cemeteries!
Essentially, the 501(c)3 is a tax exemption form that allows you to evade federal income tax. This tax is enforced by federal and most local governments which tax a portion of an individual's income to then use that portion to invest into future assets (technology, health, education) to ultimately better the quality of life for people that reside within that government’s jurisdiction. As a nonprofit organization, it wouldn’t make much sense to have to succumb to a tax that is not necessarily your source of income. Once you get into the swing of filling this out, completing the 501(c)3 paperwork annually is not a problem (must submit one every year).
You have acquired your tax exemption status, so now what? From here, it is up to your imagination. Although easier said than done, having tax exemption status is already half of the battle won. It is only a matter of advertising and spreading your message.
From here, you can choose from the wide range of advertising methods to reach the minds of the people you originally started this for. In a digital age, advertising is just a click away! Ads can be completed almost anywhere from radios to social media platforms to websites and much more.
Keep Your Organization Afloat
Everything has seemed pretty straight forward up until now, but here is where your newly started nonprofit organization truly sinks or swims. You can have a nonprofit organization running on paper, but what good is it if proper funding isn’t keeping up with the employee strain, possible rent for meeting spaces and general expansion? One opportunity to look into is grant money, a possible source of funding.
Grants are funds usually sponsored by government corporations that can essentially be utilized as a source of steady money flow to better your organization. Grants require applications to the provider, and the process is relatively easy. One can literally search “Grants for…” on a search engine and discover the grant that is perfect for you. Each grant contains its own application process, and you would simply match the information that suits your organization and press submit.
Additionally, one of the most commonly used methods of funding comes from private organizations. This could mean a variety of things, one being membership fees. Imagine an organization with 100 members, each paying 1 USD monthly. That is already a steady flow of $100 each month guaranteed.
Secondly, private revenue is another option to keep your organization afloat. This private revenue could mean money gained from hosted events such as charities or donations. Keeping members returning to these events is a different story. Keep in mind, the members or followers of your organization have the same goal as you, otherwise, they would not have paid attention to your organization to begin with.
Always remember to prioritize members’ needs and to advocate on their behalf when it comes to decision making.
Common Mistakes or Misconceptions
When we envision nonprofit organizations, most of us imagine giant corporations like the Red Cross or St. Jude’s Hospital, but the reality is, anyone can start a nonprofit organization. Many high school students like myself hope to inspire change in some way but can’t even imagine where to begin.
Success stories are plentiful among nonprofit organizations founded by highschool students. In fact, Paper Bridges itself was started by two high schoolers with a dream. Founders Emily Yuan and Rebecca Huang kickstarted Paper Bridges in their school. Fast forward a couple of years and they have reached international levels, influencing the lives of countless children in orphanages around the globe. In an interview, Rebecca states her journey in making this organization started at, “16, with little to no experience and nothing qualifying us except for our passion and drive to help others.” If they can do it, anyone can!
Additionally, Rebecca explains how the creation process was riddled with obstacles that she and Emily tried to face alone. This is not recommended by any means; Rebecca explains how “it’s okay to ask for help from others. Emily and I spent a long time trying to figure things out by ourselves, and wasted a lot of time and frustration when we could have just reached out to a friend or a teacher.” Mentorship and aid is not something that should be looked down upon as spreading your message is hard enough as it is.
Above all, nonprofit organizations are not a mere checkpoint to add to your resume, nor are they an easy side job to make you feel good about yourself. Organizations require hard work, constant upkeep, and a determined leader. If your heart is in the right place then this shouldn't be a problem, so make sure you are in it for the right reasons. At the end of the day, you are pouring your heart and soul into a project in which there is no guaranteed reward. Taking that leap of faith is challenging, but always remember that your organization's positive outcome on the world will outweigh any second guesses you might have.
"Starting on a nonprofit isn't a passing extracurricular or a side-hobby - it's going to take a huge chunck of your time and energy"