Nonprofit Insider: 4 Things to Do Before You Start a Charity

News and views for people managing nonprofits

Webb imparts nonprofit know-how

Are you ready to jump into the pool of over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the U.S.?  Have a great idea to change the world for the better? Before you embark on your journey to social entrepreneurship, consider the following four tips for starting a nonprofit:

Avoid duplication. Collaborate! Is there an organization in your community that addresses a similar need?  Chances are, yes.  Instead of creating a new nonprofit organization, consider volunteering for an organization that shares your interests, become a board member, or gather a group of your charitable friends together to raise funds for an organization.

Develop a mission statement. A clear and well thought out mission statement is the key to long-term success.  Ask yourself, “Why does your organization exist?”  What are your goals and objectives and how will you accomplish them?

Hire a fiscal agent. Do you have a thorough understanding of how to file a 501c3? Great!  If not, you’ll want to consider hiring someone who has knowledge of nonprofit tax laws, startup costs, marketing, accounting, and creating bylaws for your organization.  Try finding an existing nonprofit organization with a similar mission to host your organization. They’ll take on the legal, accounting and other important aspects so you can focus on your mission.  The Foundation Center has a wealth of resources to help you get started.

Network! Join affinity groups and membership organizations to connect with your peers not only in the nonprofit sector but in your chosen niche.  You’ll learn best practices, share resources, and recruit board members and supporters.  Most importantly, you’ll build relationships, which is important in getting that donation check!

Tracey Webb is the founder and editor of, a blog that highlights philanthropy in the black community.  She is also the founder of The Black Benefactors , a philanthropic membership network that provides grants to organizations serving the African American community in the Washington, D.C. region.  Webb has nearly 20 years of experience in the nonprofit, philanthropy, and grant making sectors.

Read these articles about black charities who are doing it right:

What You sow

Nonprofit: Doing Well By Doing Good

The 20-Bucket System

  • Trace, I love the article. Very impressive. Very informative.

  • SWT

    Great article. The collaboration piece is very important and one many don’t think about before starting a non-profit. I run across so many small organizations that have the same vision, client group, funding audience, etc., and then can’t find the money to keep it afloat. Instead of starting your own 501c3, see if there are others doing the same type of work and support their efforts.

  • Fabdogooder

    Very helpful post!

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