Non-Profit doesn’t mean you can’t make one

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There are some misconceptions about non-profit corporations I would like to clear up.

A 501c-3 is a type of non-profit.  It is set up in a way that any net profit roles back into the business.  Fundraising, grants, events, memberships, tickets sales, merchandizing… these are ways they may raise money, while providing a service to a targeted group.  When you shop non-profit your purchase may help others in need.  Just like any other business, a non-profit cannot continue to operate and take care of overhead expenses unless they manage money and can maintain a good budget.  But they are run differently than a for-profit business.

A non-profit may have a lot of volunteers who far outnumber paid staff.

They may be governed by a Board of volunteers operating under a set of By-laws.  The group may change annually.

The leadership will often build consensus before moving forward on a chosen path.  This is very different from a company where the CEO tells the rest of the company what the direction should be and they must follow.

Volunteers are often regarded with higher esteem than a paid person as they are giving their expertise and time willingly for free.

Being part of a non-profit can be a wonderful experience, but it depends on everyone understanding the concept, the goals and making a whole-hearted commitment to the organization’s cause and purpose.

  • Training of staff and volunteers-this should be in the budget
  • Accountability– having regular oversight of books and regular audits
  • Transparency– most businesses are have regular open hours.  Non-profits may not so meetings that are FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) compliant, in other words, open to the public and announced in advance are important.
  • Commitment of all involved to fully participate- want to start a new project?  Bring it to the Board to see if it is fully supported.
  • Review– I was at a non-profit that did a whole-staff brainstorming session.  We discovered our target market was different that when we originally formed the company.
  • Retreat– create opportunities to reenergize your core group.  Make it fun!  People who are not getting paid should not be subject to boring seminars.
  • Communicate with the community outside your group- Grow your volunteer and support base.  Look for new volunteers, new donors.
  • Focus on what works. When opportunity knocks- Be ready to change a plan if something is not working.
  • Be thankful!  Show appreciation to your supporters.

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