I’ve been approved. I have my non-profit charitable organization; now what? If you have made that statement or thought out loud about how to manage your new start-up; you are not alone. There are countless newly approved non-profits out there, and they don’t know what to do next.
For some reason, some founders thought all their problems would be solved once they were an officially approved 501 (c)(3), with tax-exempt status. Unfortunately, what many found out is that they now have a new set of problems. They have been approved by all the appropriate government licensing agencies to run their non-profit; serve their target market and live out their passion, but now the challenge is how to run the management piece of that non-profit. Many report that I know how to run an after school program for youth, (if that’s your reason for starting a non-profit) but I don’t know how to get the help I need to manage it and keep the doors open.
For some newly formed non-profits, the founder now believes, the next step is to find someone to write a grant and their troubles will be over. I’m sorry to report; it’s not as simple as that. Grant writing is just one way to raise money for your organization. It’s only one component of fund development. All successful non-profits that want to become sustaining institutions must learn how to raise money for their organization, and grant writing is only a small piece of the pie.
When it comes to fund development for the newly established non-profit, with no track record, some find themselves in a catch twenty-two. They are too new to have built up and maintained any collaborative partnerships, which is what most grantors look for when funding a project, and for the projects that they have completed, they don’t have a paper trail to prove they have served the population they are so passionate about. Every new non-profit needs to begin, if you haven’t already done so, building a portfolio to prove you are a serious organization and you are in this business of serving your targeted audience for the long haul. By all means, if you are serving youth, for example, have each participant complete an intake application to provide information that will not only help you keep up with who’s enrolled and participating in your program, but the information will be helpful for future quarterly or annual reports, should you receive grant funding. Pretty much, all funders require some type of reporting process to understand how their money is used in your program. Every funder is different. Some require a very comprehensive reporting process, and some require as little as an informal report, such as a newsletter, or newspaper clippings to verify your program is serving the community as stated in your grant request.
Ideally, every non-profit would love to have a paid fund developer on staff, but for most new start-ups that’s not feasible. Therefore, it would be wise if the founder learned how to raise money for the organization. Lots of classes or workshops teach on how to write grants. Some are free and some are not. There are classes through organizations whose job it is to teach grant writing for a fee. There are continuing education classes through local colleges and universities, and there are consultants who will tailor their services to the specific needs of your organization. But, don’t forget about your volunteer board members. One reason for selecting a volunteer board of directors is for them to help with fundraising. They may have the expertise themselves, or they may know someone who can provide pro bono or paid consulting services to your organization. No matter the size of your organization, every non-profit need help with fundraising. It’s not easy, but if you started your non-profit because you are passionate about what you are doing, you will find the resources needed to keep your organization growing and thriving.