It seems like there is a new disability-related nonprofit created every day. Some last and some don’t. As someone who has started a nonprofit, here are some things to consider.
First, the W’s:
The why is usually pretty obvious. Many parents want to give back or help other parents. That’s great!
The what is the one you really want to focus on. Do you have a unique idea? Or a great new way to do something to better serve the community? Be very clear about what you want to do. Then find out if any other organization is already doing what you plan to do. If there is, have you considered being a bigger part of them?
Many groups are open to new board members, volunteers and active members. If you have some fresh ideas for existing programs or services, you may be able to make the most difference by helping the organizations already in place. If you do not want to join them, how are you going to do it differently?
Now you are ready to move on to the who. Are you wanting to focus on a specific diagnosis or age group? Or do you want to support all disabilities? There is no wrong answer. But the answer will impact marketing and funding. Let’s say you want to focus on all diagnoses for adults with disabilities. This is a pretty big group. Many people who can relate to your audience know someone who would fit your population.
However, if you want to focus on supporting families with a very rare or specific diagnosis and only birth to age 3, you have a much smaller audience. There is nothing wrong with having a small audience. But expect that few people will know someone that fits your population. Many will not really understand what you are doing. Interest in it will be a little more challenging.
Next, you can tackle the where. Do you want to focus on a specific city, zip code, school district, county, general area (like Central Texas), the state, the country or do you want to set your sites on a global organization? The more people you are supporting, the more money you will need to raise.
If you are supporting people across the entire state you may have more options for funding sources as well. Just keep in mind, if you plan to support all of Texas, will you need to train people across the state? Will you need to travel? Or is your offering virtual and can be done from home? All questions you need to ask yourself.
Lastly, there is the how. If you have ironed out all the other details, how is your next big step. Are you going to have a website? If so, can you build one, or do you need to budget to have someone create one for you? Or are you going to just have a social media presence? Will you need a marketing person?
Do you need tax and/or legal people to help set everything up and make sure that you follow all of the regulations for being a nonprofit? You will be asking the IRS for a nonprofit designation and we know how difficult their paperwork can be. How will you pay for their work?
There are many costs involved in starting a nonprofit. And different costs for maintaining one. What is your budget and how will you fund it? Will you be self-funding, or have businesses that back you? Do you have friends and family who will be helping? Will your funding sources last a year, 5 years, 20 years?
Many new nonprofits don’t get funding for 3-4 years. Can you do what you want to do without a large funder? No one wants to start an organization to then run out of money in just a couple of years. Be sure that these are all things you consider.
If you have read this and still want to start a nonprofit, that’s fantastic! There are a lot of resources online that can help you to file and get things going. The disability community needs all the support it can get!
Have a look at what some other nonprofits offer as their services.