To successfully start a nonprofit, you must do strategic research and planning….just like an entrepreneur would looking to enter a market.
The less you can say “I wish I would have known that” the better.
Unfortunately, nearly half of all nonprofits are set up to fail from the start because they don’t put enough time into research and planning.
But this shouldn’t scare you, it should guide you. These statistics are literally telling you what you need to do to garner the support necessary to make your mission a reality.
The importance of research and planning cannot be understated and it’s truly one of the main differentiators between nonprofit organizations making a real difference in the world, and those wishing they were.
A great example of this is our one of our customers, Book Trust, a national nonprofit that experienced 42% growth over the past year. Watch our interview with CEO Amy Friedman and learn the key growth strategies and mindset that led to this success.
You’ll inevitably experience challenges when starting your nonprofit, and it would be unrealistic to say that you could know everything before you start. That’s where the action comes in. Taking action is some of the best learning you can do and leads to the new levels of insight and growth.
That said, you want to eliminate as many problems as possible before you start so instead of wasting your time and energy worrying about unnecessary things, you’re executing on an intelligent plan that adds value to your community.
Answering these 4 questions will help you launch a successful nonprofit:
- Can you prove that your nonprofit will fill an unmet need? Just like a business owner would approach the market, you must define the problem that your nonprofit will address in the community and how you’ll add value. You’ll need to research the market and the demand for your services and have strong numbers to back up your idea.Let’s be honest, there’s competition for funding, therefore, to attract funding, you’ll need to demonstrate a demand for your nonprofit’s services and that your nonprofit organization is best equipped to address that need. One idea to get this type of data is to survey your target audience.
- Who is your competition? Are there other nonprofit organizations already doing the work you plan to? If so, is there a more specific niche you may want to consider? Essentially, you want to be a monopoly in your market, meaning you’re the “go to” for the problem you solve, not a “me too”. Think about how you might create a new category in your market that helps you stand out from the crowd. Maybe that category consists of your top 3 strengths and how they role into comprehensive solutions that solve problems no one else is addressing. To research the competition in your area and throughout the U.S. you can use the National Council of Nonprofits locator tool.
- Who will support you? You must gain support for your nonprofit quickly to be successful. It’s the same concept as a for-profit gaining customers. Knowing who you targeted demographic is will streamline your efforts and make it easier for you to find your tribe and create the resources they’re interested in. One good tool to help you research demographic information is the American FactFinder, but you can also gain actionable insights from social media, chat rooms, blogs, and any other mediums where your audience is spending their time.
- Do you have a business plan? While passion and programs are necessary ingredients, it’s likely you won’t experience success without a plan to execute on. Invest in yourself and your mission by taking the time to create a quality business plan. We recommend the One Page Business Plan For Nonprofits. This work is also necessary for filling out parts of the form 1023, the IRS application for getting your 501(c)3 tax-exempt status.
Do yourself a favor and put in quality time and effort into answering these questions. They’ll help get you started on the right path to running a successful nonprofit and making a real difference in your community.
Cheers to your mission,
Jacqui Long | Yippiekiyay