As I answer calls from good people around the state of Indiana wanting to know more about nonprofit management best practices, I often am asked what it takes to start a new youth serving organization.
While there are plenty of great checklists and instructional websites for the technical how-to’s (check out this site from the Foundation Center to get started), I often find myself recommending callers take a different set of first-steps:
- Find out who else is doing similar work: Is the community center down the street running a program that’s similar to the idea you have? Are there any schools or organizations running programs at the same times, in similar locations, or with the same type of kids you hope to target with your new program? If so, see if you can collaborate with them instead of starting up a new program. If collaborating doesn’t make sense, know how to set yourself apart from the other programs. Know what they do and know how to explain why your program is unique and necessary in the community. Need help finding similar programs in your area? Contact 211 Connect to Help or the Indiana Afterschool Network.
- Learn everything you can about the process: Check out books from your local library, check out the IRS website on the lifecycle of a charitable organization, and look at the state’s advice from the Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives. Take in as much information as you can, so you know what steps you will need to take in order to form your new organization.
- Talk to everyone you can: Set up time to chat with friends and colleagues who have a heart for your cause and people who have started their own organizations in the past. Talk about your plans, refine your elevator speech, and get people to buy into your mission – these people may give you great information, or may become future board members. Keep them engaged, especially since you will need at least three people to serve on your nonprofit‘s board of directors.
For more resources on nonprofit management best practices, check out the Ask IYI service from Indiana Youth Institute, which offers Indiana youth serving organizations free responses to quick questions on nonprofit management and youth service.
What is your top nonprofit management struggle?