May 16, 2013

Are you ready to become a non-profit organization? (Part 1)

Virginia's non-profits meet many housing needs. Monica Jefferson shares insight from experience in helping organizations blossom from thought to reality. 

Many of us have a desire or passion to make a difference in our community. We see needs or major issues that need to be resolved. We discuss it with colleagues, family and friends. Then the suggestion is made by your center of influence to start a non-profit organization.  Many of us have informal non-profit groups based on personal and professional networks. But is starting a new non-profit necessary to serve the community?

Consider the following questions before you begin filing your articles of incorporation with Virginia’s State Corporation Commission (SCC).

1. What is the purpose or mission of the non-profit?
2. Does the mission statement clearly state the primary benefits and services to clients?
3. Are existing programs or organizations addressing the public need?
4. Are there others –besides you—who believe this support is needed in the community?
5. Have you considered the restrictions or competition you will face?
6. Where is your funding support or resources coming from?

Starting a non-profit requires a well thought out process and purpose. The focus should be directed toward addressing a specific mission through viable programs to serve the community. You should determine if you have sufficient financial resources and organizational capacity to get started and remain sustainable for the long run.

It often helps to think of what inputs, process, outputs and outcomes are needed to be successful. Many non-profits are formed and established, but are unsuccessful due to failure in planning and lack of resources. Many advocates partner with other organizations that may address similar needs or programs.

What other things do you think should be considered before you begin a new non-profit organization? Also, do you feel it’s necessary to start a non-profit when there is a community need?

Monica’s role as a REACH Virginia team member is to focus on the development and implementation of housing initiatives for minority communities.  She provides training and technical assistance to local governments, housing authorities, non-profit organizations, community groups and faith-based organizations. Monica also serves on several housing boards and advisory committees for local and state organizations. 

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  1. My advice to starting organizations, please try to get listed in an online help directory, it'll help other organizations and people to connect with you.

  2. Are there particular free online registries you would recommend?