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Nifty Fifty Fridays

50 Steps to Starting a Nonprofit

If you want to start a nonprofit, it’s good to have a roadmap for success.  The following 50 steps are key to launching a nonprofit.  These aren’t in any particular order, so map them out as you see fit.  And I might add a 51st – Come to the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference!

1. Identify a Need: Ensure that the need your nonprofit plans to address is not currently being met in your community.

2. Do Market Research: Conduct surveys, interviews, and focus groups to determine community support for your nonprofit.

3. Define Your Mission: Clearly articulate the purpose and goals of your organization.

4. Create a Vision Statement: Identify what you ultimately hope to achieve.

5. Determine Your Audience: Who are you serving? Who would be interested in supporting your cause?

6. Write a Case Statement: Document why your nonprofit should exist and what it plans to do.

7. Establish a Business Plan: Detail your organization’s strategy for achieving its goals.

8. Identify Key Roles: Determine what roles will be necessary in your organization.

9. Recruit a Board of Directors: Identify and recruit individuals who are passionate about your mission.

10. Determine Legal Structure: Will your organization be a trust, association, or corporation?

11. Choose a Name: Make sure it aligns with your mission and is not already in use.

12. File Articles of Incorporation: This establishes your nonprofit as a legal entity.

13. Develop Bylaws: Create the formal rules that will govern your nonprofit.

14. Conduct First Board Meeting: Officially establish your organization and its board.

15. Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN): You'll need this for tax purposes.

16. Establish a Record-Keeping System: This will be essential for legal compliance.

17. Register for State Tax Identification Numbers: Check the requirements in your state.

18. Apply for Federal Tax-Exempt Status (501(c)(3) status): This allows donors to make tax-deductible contributions.

19. Register with Your State's Department of Charities: This is typically required for fundraising.

20. Apply for a Nonprofit Mailing Permit: This allows you to mail materials at nonprofit postal rates.

21. Develop a Fundraising Plan: How will your organization raise money?

22. Identify Potential Grant Opportunities: Start researching potential funding sources.

23. Write a Budget: Plan your organization’s financial activities for the year.

24. Open a Bank Account: You will need your EIN and a copy of your articles of incorporation.

25. Purchase Insurance: Make sure your organization is covered against risk.

26. Create a Logo and Branding Materials: Make sure they align with your mission and audience.

27. Build a Website: This is essential for credibility and fundraising.

28. Establish a Social Media Presence: This is a great way to engage with your community.

29. Recruit Volunteers: Many nonprofits rely heavily on volunteer work.

30. Develop a Marketing Strategy: How will you get the word out about your nonprofit?

31. Plan a Launch Event: Celebrate the official launch of your nonprofit and attract initial supporters.

32. File for Trademarks (if necessary): Protect your logo, slogan, or program names.

33. Create Key Partnerships: Look for organizations that complement your mission and can help further your goals.

34. Develop a Donor Management System: Keep track of who's donating to your organization.

35. Create a Donor Recognition Plan: How will you thank and recognize your donors?

36. Design a Program Evaluation Method: How will you measure the success of your programs?

37. Start Offering Programs or Services: Begin doing the work your nonprofit was created to do.

38. Continually Evaluate and Adjust Your Business Plan: Things change. Be ready to adapt.

39. File Required Annual Tax Forms: Make sure to stay in compliance with all tax laws.

40. Develop a Succession Plan: Plan for the future of your organization.

41. Join a Nonprofit Association: Networking and professional development are key.

42. Create a Major Gift Strategy: How will you attract large gifts to your organization?

43. Invest in Professional Development for Staff: The stronger your team, the stronger your nonprofit.

44. Plan and Execute Regular Fundraising Events: Keep funds coming in to support your work.

45. Cultivate Relationships with Major Donors: Personal relationships are key in fundraising.

46. Apply for Grants: Diversify your funding sources.

47. Communicate Regularly with Supporters: Keep them informed and engaged with regular updates.

48. Acknowledge All Contributions Promptly: Always say thank you!

49. Regularly Review and Update Your Strategic Plan: Stay aligned with your mission and goals.

50. Keep the Passion Alive: Remember why you started your nonprofit in the first place!

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