I often receive calls from people who want to start a nonprofit. I first carefully listen to their ideas and ask questions to better understand what they want to accomplish. I then probe their motivation and explore some of the risks. This sometimes surprises people because they assume that after they have explained their model, which surely is designed to provide an important community service, that I will just go ahead and start the paperwork.
In probing I sometimes can help a client discover issues with the proposed timing, design, planning, goals, structure or funding. Sometimes the best counsel I can provide is to encourage someone to step back, do more research, gather more information, find a partner or pursue another goal entirely.
Here are some of the questions I like to ask:
- Meeting with Existing Nonprofits: What nonprofit comes close to doing what you want to do? Have you considered meeting with them to explore your idea – perhaps to better understand why they don’t do what you want to do or perhaps to explore a potential collaboration?
- Start-up Budget: Have you developed a budget for your first-year start-up costs? How will they be paid?
- Fundraising: Do you have a written fundraising plan? How does it envision contributions from foundations, friends, family, planned events, media and social network solicitations?
- Board of Directors: Who have you identified to serve on your board of directors? (For an Illinois non-profit, you must have three people.) Have you met with them? What resources (i.e., money, expertise) will they contribute to the organization?
- Money Management and Reporting: Who have you identified to handle how money will be deposited and spent on a day-to-day cash basis? Who will handle annual accounting, tax and report filings?
I measure how impactful my services are to a client by what ideas grow into successful and rewarding ventures.