How to form a 501(c)3 nonprofit:
Before forming a nonprofit, your first step is to find out if organizations are already doing the same or similar work in our community. It will be harder to get support if you are duplicating existing services.
After you determine that the work you will do will meet a real and already unmet need in our community, you need to spend some time developing these essential ingredients of a successful nonprofit :
- a vital mission and clear goals
- high-quality, responsive programs and services
- reliable and diverse revenue streams
- clear lines of accountability
- a place to run your programs and services
Starting a nonprofit generally requires these steps to formalize your organization:
- File articles of incorporation with the Secretary of State.
- Apply for exempt status with the IRS.
- Register with the state where you plan to do fundraising activities.
Alternatives to starting your own nonprofit:
- Volunteer or work for an existing nonprofit that shares your mission.
- Find a nonprofit that will act as your fiscal sponsor. This arrangement may help you become eligible for more funding opportunities without obtaining your own exempt status.
Collaborations have been a particularly hot topic lately for nonprofits. But how do you know whether a collaboration is right for your organization?
There are quite a few reasons why nonprofits choose to collaborate with one another. One reason is that it allows organizations to better respond to complex issues and community needs. Another reason for collaborations is the potential for reducing overhead costs and better access to resources. Furthermore, collaborations can be very useful for advocacy work. One small organization can sometimes find its voice drowned out when trying to get a message across to our community or legislators, but merged with others your organization’s voice gets louder.
Why NOT collaborate?
For all of the benefits of collaboration, it’s not always the right choice for every organization. Collaborating requires a significant amount of time and resources. Your organization needs to think about whether they can realistically afford to devote so much time and so many resources toward collaborative projects.
In addition, collaborations are most likely to be productive when everyone involved knows exactly why they want to collaborate and what specific purpose they are to perform in the collaboration. In advance of beginning any partnership, the organizations should sit down and write out a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) to clearly articulate what is wanted out of the collaboration and precisely what your organization will bring to it.
Does your team have what it takes on a personal level to be a collaborator?
Collaborating involves multiple people with multiple ideas, goals, and missions trying to work together for a common purpose. There will inevitably be conflict along the way. The conflict itself is not necessarily the problem; the issue is how you deal with said conflict. You and your partners need to be able to recognize the conflict and take thoughtful, rational steps toward communicating and resolving it in a healthy manner. If you cannot see this happening then collaboration may not be the best decision for your organization.
Ways to collaborate:
- Purchase goods or services together
- Share (co-locate) or better utilize space
- Combine marketing efforts
- Share fundraising activities
- Share developing, offering and / or delivering projects, programs, and / or services
- Form a confederation
- Merge – resulting in one integrated organization
- Merge – resulting in an affiliate and / or subsidiary relationship
- Share staffing
- Share staff training