Thank you for joining us again! Last month we touched on four different aspects of your non-profit planning process. As a recap, these points were:
- Understanding Your “Edge Factor”
- Securing a Proper Location
- Researching Your Specific Sub-sector
- Developing a Timeline
As promised, I will reveal the other five points in this month’s article. Keep in mind, these points are not listed in terms of their priority. Depending on the need of your organization, you should be able to gauge which items are more important to you.
Let’s get cracking!
Here are five more things you should put on your to-do list when preparing to incorporate:
- Executive Structure: The saying “You are known by the company you keep” is a very accurate statement. The people you have around you is key to the development of your organization. From the Board members to the volunteers, it is vital that you know the type of personalities around you. A good organization has a mix of backgrounds but a great organization fits these backgrounds into the bigger picture. Remember, everyone on your team has strengths and weaknesses. The trick is being able to find individuals whose strengths can compliment the weaknesses of those already on board. This can take a lot of time but once you have a team together heading towards the vision of the organization, you will quickly see that it was time well spent.
- Financial Resource Development: One top misconception about the nonprofit field is that it is full of starving do-gooders. This is not the case! Our sector is chock full of financial help. In actuality, it is easier to get funded as a nonprofit than it is for a corporation. So what’s standing between you and the money? Elbow grease! Chances are, the money will not be lining the streets near your house. However, this does not mean it is not there. You simply have to be persistent in searching for it! Your vision is your ticket and your passion will close the deal. People who have a stable financial background will generally invest in ideas that the owners believe in themselves. If people can see that you are willing to invest your own money in your dream, this can help them make the decision to do the same. I’m sure you have heard about grants, contracts, corporate sponsorships, and the works. These are real terms backed by real cash. But you won’t get anywhere if you are stuck in your comfort zone and not willing to go the extra mile. Who knows – that extra mile can be the difference between Dora the Explorer and Dora the Expedition Consultant.
- Back-up Plan: So you think that your plan is 100% fool-proof and you have all the kinks worked out for you, aye? Good for you! Come back to this site if things don’t work out. For those of you who understand unexpected things beyond your control can happen, please continue reading. It’s very easy to be blindsided by the possible shortcomings of our ideas when we are wrapped up in bubbling happiness. Although the emotions are fantastic and it is good to stay upbeat and positive, it goes without saying that this feeling will not always last. What happens when someone in your organization decides to sabotage your success? Or what happens when you make an innocent financial mistake that costs your organization more than your starting salary? What do you do then? You turn to your back-up plan! Not saying that the back-up plan will wipe the slate clean but it will help in turning a very ugly situation (or a potentially ugly situation) into a better one. It does not have to be complex. It can simply be a few notes written down concerning what you would do if things were to ever go awry. Just knowing that you have a simple plan in place should bring some sort of relief to you (….and that’s always a good thing!)
- Fee Schedule: You’ve done your research and you realize that there is money involved. Now what? First – double-check that the price listed for certain processes (such as name reservation) is correct. There are many organizations out there eager to help you with these fees. However, they end up tacking on a few (or a lot) more money so that they could make a profit. Case in point: A young woman who is starting her own organization came to me a few months ago and asked me about this very topic. She told me that one company was willing to take care of a specific process for her which would amount to roughly $25. Man, am I happy she came to me for advice! I was able to save her $15 on the process by teaching her where exactly to go and how to do it. Had she gone through this independent company – she would have spent almost double the amount for a simple process she could have done herself. Moral of the story: Do. Your. Research. Make sure that the prices you come across match up to whatever is listed on the state’s website (e.g. For those who live in New York State, you should check this website for the appropriate fee schedules http://www.dos.ny.gov/corps/). This can get overwhelming pretty quickly so if you need help, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or seek the advice of an attorney who has experience working with non-profit organizations.
- Business Card & 30-Second Elevator Speech: Yup. You read this right! Your business card is extremely vital in today’s world. Everyone is on the go, especially in big urban cities such as Houston and New York City. So how do you get the attention of someone who is extremely busy? With a powerful speech lasting about 30 seconds hitting all the key points (i.e. your name, your position, who you work for, and what that person can do for you). Once you are done with the little speech, if you sense that they are ready to jet out the door, offer up your business card. This is a permanent snapshot of who you are. It reinforces the key points you mentioned before and it allows them the opportunity to contact you at a time when it is convenient for them. Creating the right business card can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. There are plenty of tools at your disposal to use, such as Vistaprint. Pick a template (or create your own if you have a logo), put key information (e.g. name, position, email address), and get them printed. Carry them around in your purse or wallet at all times. This doesn’t mean that you have to network with every person you come across but it does mean that you will be prepared when the opportunity arises! As far as your speech goes, practice on a friend. Make sure that you are comfortable when saying it because this is the foundation for a future conversation with whoever you will be speaking to. It will take time but once you have it downpact….you will be unstoppable!
I hope these items have helped you understand the Nonprofit preparation process a little more. Of course, this list can be expanded to include a whole host of other items but I believe these are important and will get you off our feet and onto planning!
Next month, we are going to cover the topic of Organizational Structure.
It is vital that you start thinking about the people you want around you. If you have people serving in your organization, I hope this next article will help you with assessing their productivity and seeing if they are a good fit in terms of the vision of your group.
If this article helps you at all, please feel free to share it with your circle!
Until next time,
~ Tiffany J. (Executive Director)