Sunday, March 21, 2010

Put it in Writing! Nonprofits need a business plan too!

The hardest part of any project is getting started. We may have the greatest ideas but it doesn't mean much if we can't articulate it effectively to others. I have had a dream of starting a nonprofit for years but it didn't seem possible until I started taking the steps necessary to make that dream a reality. The first step was establishing a purpose and mission statement for my nonprofit. These statements are important because:

1) they state clearly that you are a nonprofit organization and that all earnings are exclusively dedicated to the charitable purpose of your organization,

2) they state clearly what you hope to accomplish through your nonprofit organization as well as who your target populations of need may be, and

3) they serve as tools for educating others about your nonprofit and gaining support for your efforts.

For examples of mission statements for other nonprofits, go to:

Writing a business plan is also a powerful way of thinking through your nonprofit. Yes, nonprofits need a business plan. After all, it is a business. Now, while it may seem like a daunting task, there are numerous resources available to help. For starters, a valuable website that I used was While most of the business plans on this site are for-profits, you can use the overall outline to create a relevant and effective business plan for your nonprofit.

For sample business plans, go to:

Finally, once you have a clear idea of what you plan to accomplish through your nonprofit, you must write your laws of incorporation and bylaws. Again, there are numerous samples of articles of incorporation and bylaws on the internet but, before you use these samples, I would suggest that you log onto the secretary of state's website for your state and see what their requirements are. This will prevent you from wasting time creating articles and bylaws that you cannot use. This will also let you know how much it will cost to file your paper work as well as any other requirements that your state may have. I am registering my nonprofit organization in Alabama.

The website for the secretary of state for Alabama is

If you are interested in starting a nonprofit in Alabama, go to this site and click on Business Services. This will take you to a section of the website that has all the paperwork necessary to start a nonprofit. If you are in another state, log onto the secretary of state’s website for your state and you will be able to find the information that you need.

Once you have verified the requirements for your state, then you can refer to the articles and bylaws of other nonprofits to provide an outline from which you can write your own articles and bylaws.

Here are a few articles and bylaws that are clearly written and can be used as examples as you write your own:,,

Because my nonprofit has an educational focus, I researched other educational nonprofits in my area and used their articles and bylaws as examples. This was especially helpful because they are registered nonprofits in my state and, therefore, had articles and bylaws that meet all the state's requirements. I hope you found this helpful. I'll continue to share advice as I move further into this journey. Good luck with all your efforts!!!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Embrace Your Vision

There are so many reasons why starting your own business does not make sense. Whether it's a for-profit or a non-profit, the amount of time, energy, and commitment it requires is enough to make anyone want to throw up their hands and call it a day. I mean, small business, especially non-profit organizations, are a dime a dozen, right? Well, that is true in some ways but not in others. For example, the world hasn't had the benefit of your great idea! Yes, you have something to contribute to the world and, if you feel like it is a business or a non-profit, embrace that vision and go for it. That's what I'm doing and it feels great!

Another reason that it's important to embrace your vision is because it is a part of you. My desire to start an educational non-profit was strong enough to wake me from my sleep at night but I always found a way of convincing myself that it wasn't the right time. The truth is that there is no RIGHT time. There is only now. And if you're interested in starting a non-profit organization now, be organized about it and get to work. I am a married graduate student who is working on her dissertation, starting a non-profit, launching a for-profit, and writing books. Oh, did I mention that I was a mother of a 10 month old and I commute to campus. You might call it crazy but, for me, now is the time. I could use all of my other commitments as reasons not to follow my dreams. People do that everyday but that is the fastest way of losing yourself. If you don't want to lose that youthful passion that you have, you better get busy following your dreams! Your vision is an aspect of who you are. EMBRACE IT! I'm no superwoman. I am a woman determined to follow her dreams so that I don't feel like a hypocrite when I tell my daughter to do the same.

There is nothing more exciting then working towards your dreams; even when it seems like the odds are against you. Be encouraged, get busy and vent here on The Nonprofit Diaries when you need to. We'll encourage each other! The world is waiting on you! Let's get to work!