Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Where Do I Start? Advice for New Non-Profit Organizations

Here is some advice from non-profit consultant Derek Link for new non-profit organizations:

I get calls from leaders of new non-profit organizations periodically to help them raise money. Often these individuals have already gone through an awful lot of work to get their organization established. Usually they’ve already a) established a mission; b) written bylaws; c) established a board; and d) filed paperwork with their state and with the federal government to establish non-profit status.

They’re ready to find funds to get started and many think that foundations are the deep pockets they need to establish their services. Often at this point they’re a little frustrated because they’ve discovered that foundation grant seeking is difficult. They’ve probably written letters of inquiry with no return so they suspect they’re doing something wrong – because their mission is so worthy.

My guess is that what they’re doing wrong isn’t presenting the importance of their mission; it’s more likely to be that they haven’t built an internal case for funding – they very simply haven’t gotten started yet and foundations often see “start-ups” as risky investments.
Here is my advice to people wanting to start up a non-profit organization from scratch.
  1. Build a budget and strategic plan before filing your non-profit paperwork.
  2. Build an influential board that is willing to contribute financially or raise a percentage of the budget you need for year one.
  3. Build your local network with agencies that care about your mission, that may either have a budget for your services, or who may include you in future grant applications to provide services.
  4. Include other non-profits in your local network, including your local community foundation.
So, I suggest to you that you start your non-profit by building a local base of support before looking outside the community for funding. Foundations want to see that the local/impacted community is committed to your cause, and that you are doing a good job of establishing a solid business model for achieving your mission.

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Creative Resources and Research is a consulting firm specializing in grant writing, grant seeking, program evaluation and professional development training. We have worked with hundreds of clients including public and private schools, school districts, universities, non-profit organizations, and social service agencies throughout California, securing over $155 million from federal, state and private foundation funding sources over the past decade. Our primary grant writers and program evaluators have over 50 years of combined experience in the education and social services fields. At CRR we prefer a personal approach to the clients we work with; by developing long term relationships, we are better suited to match client’s needs with available funding sources. We provide a variety of services to help assist you, including grant writing, evaluation consulting, professional development opportunities, and workshops.