Starting a Non-Profit: Where do I start?
If you’re like most non-profit founders, you like to get stuff done. You see a problem in the world that you think can be fixed. You’re ready to start making a difference. You ask yourself, where do I start? What is the first step? 3 min read
2. What does a mission statement not look like?
3. Why is a mission statement important?
4. How should I begin writing a mission statement?
5. I’ve got the mission statement ready. What should I do next?
Many organizations want to jump in right away with forming a legal organization and applying for tax-exempt status. However, first, you must decide the purpose of your non-profit. To do this, you should think about the need or problem to be solved and how you could solve it. Researching the problem, talking with people in the area, and spending time thinking about how you will make a difference are some great ways to get the ball rolling. You should be able to answer the question “Why does this organization exist?”.
The second step in creating a non-profit organization is writing a mission statement. Your mission statement explains the purpose of your organization and acts as the guiding principle for your non-profit. Drafting a good mission statement is very important, as it will guide the decisions you make as an organization. Once you’ve crafted your mission statement, you’re ready to hit the ground running in forming your non-profit.
What does a mission statement look like?
A mission statement should be one to two sentences long. It is clear and concise. It states the big-picture strategy of what your non-profit organization is going to do. Usually, this will include the problem or need, the stakeholders (people around the problem), and how the non-profit is going to solve the problem or need.
What does a mission statement not look like?
The mission statement shouldn’t be overly complicated or have a big, fancy vocabulary that no one can understand. You want your mission statement to be understandable for everyone! Also, your mission statement isn’t a catchy slogan and shouldn’t have any buzzwords. The substance is what’s important.
Why is a mission statement important?
From a legal perspective, a mission statement is important because it is necessary to include it in your organizational formation documents and application for tax-exempt status. But, a mission statement is even more important because it motivates your team, serves as a reminder of the goal of your non-profit, and tells the world who you are and what makes you special. In the future, your non-profit may run into a problem or tough decision. You should be able to use the mission statement as a tool and reminder of the ultimate goal. Also, you might want to work with another non-profit or business in the future, or you may need funding from a third-party. Your mission statement adds value to your nonprofit because it helps other people see what you do and why it's important.
How should I begin writing a mission statement?
Writing a mission statement can be hard, but you don’t need to write the mission statement alone. You can start by asking your team, prospective board members, mentors, and other stakeholders about your mission statement ideas to see if they have any ideas. You can spend time thinking, talking, and debating different ideas and wordings. It's important to get the team around you involved since they will be joining you on the mission. You want everyone to be on the same page!
I’ve got the mission statement ready. What should I do next?
Congratulations! This was an important first step. Now it’s time to start making your mission a reality with the next installment in this series: Preparing a Business Plan.