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tom1987
Auburn Fan
Member since Aug 2011
560 posts

Starting a Non Profit
I plan on retiring in about 5 years. For the past 15 years or so I have spent considerable time volunteering in an impoverished area of Alabama. One of the things that I want to do with my time in retirement is spend more time helping that community.
I'm considering starting a non-profit now and running it part time until retiremtent at which time I will commit more time to it. My background is sales and fundraising, so that would allow me to do good things for the community while still earning a small income running the organization.
Does anyone here have experience with this or advice?


hungryone
LSU Fan
river parishes
Member since Sep 2010
11253 posts

re: Starting a Non Profit
Career nonprofit person here, 25+ years in roles from fundraising to marketing/comms to programming to ED for a tiny org, to roles with huge orgs:
--think hard about whether an organization already exists in the area you want to make an impact. All too often, people put ego before service: they assume they need to create an organization from scratch to make things happen--when one already exists, or an existing org would have been happy to expand their services or impact area. So, I challenge you to become a student of the services available in the geographic area you wish to serve. Who are the players? Is there a local United Way? UW is a great place to start: they distribute $$ to other orgs, so you can often get a feel for the organizational infrastructure of an area if you network with the UW staff.

--A background in sales & fundraising do not translate to actually doing the "helping"....IOW, your experiences qualify you to fuel the plane, not be the pilot. What services do you plan to provide? Who are the experts at delivering those services? For example, if you are tackling food insecurity, you will need to develop an expertise (or hire someone who has one) in various food assistance programs, in nutrition, in your regional challenges in the space of food assistance, etc. If you're planning to do mental health counseling, or early childhood education, or victims' assistance, or crime prevention: whatever "good" you're trying to do, please know that you will need to have qualified people delivering the services.

--finally, your idea of creating an organization to do good while paying you a salary to run the organization is a flawed view of how nonprofits should work. 501(c)(3)s aren't like entrepreneur-led small businesses: they're governed by boards who have fiduciary obligations to the organization. If you did form a brand new org, you will be required to have a voting board who oversee the org. You may be the founding director, but what happens if the majority of the board disagrees with you about major decisions? Let's say you want to buy a building, but the majority of the board doesn't want to obligate the org to a mortgage...GOVERNANCE is what kills most startup nonprofits, not lack of funding.

Running a successful org in an impoverished rural area can be hugely stressful, complicated, and also endlessly rewarding....if you're in it for the right reasons.


hungryone
LSU Fan
river parishes
Member since Sep 2010
11253 posts

re: Starting a Non Profit
Your state likely has an association for nonprofit organizations full of very experienced NP executives and service providers. You can likely join for a modest fee & participate in their meetings/listservs/group chats. You can also find a whole slew of classes and even online master's degrees relevant to what you're thinking of as a retirement career.


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lsuguy13
LSU Fan
Laffy; Friend of Bill
Member since Mar 2004
9199 posts

re: Starting a Non Profit
Hey hungry one what’s your email? Would like to discuss something with you


kywildcatfanone
Kentucky Fan
Wildcat Country!
Member since Oct 2012
71228 posts
 Online 

re: Starting a Non Profit
quote:

I plan on retiring in about 5 years. For the past 15 years or so I have spent considerable time volunteering in an impoverished area of Alabama. One of the things that I want to do with my time in retirement is spend more time helping that community.
I'm considering starting a non-profit now and running it part time until retiremtent at which time I will commit more time to it. My background is sales and fundraising, so that would allow me to do good things for the community while still earning a small income running the organization.
Does anyone here have experience with this or advice?


I applaud you for giving back to your community. I hope to retire in 5 years or so, and I plan to do a lot of volunteer work to remain active.


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tom1987
Auburn Fan
Member since Aug 2011
560 posts

re: Starting a Non Profit
Hungryone, Thanks for the valuable feedback. I currently serve on the board of 2 non-profits, so I have some experience seeing "how the sausage is made". I've done some homework in identifying a void to fill, but there are also existing small organization who are underfunded. One of the things I'd like to do is fundraising to help support those other non-profit groups who don't have the knowledge, experience, or contacts. Can you start a non-profit whose goal is to support other non-profits?


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hungryone
LSU Fan
river parishes
Member since Sep 2010
11253 posts

re: Starting a Non Profit
quote:

Can you start a non-profit whose goal is to support other non-profits?

Of course....that is exactly what United Way does....it solicits money from individual donors working at large corporations through payroll deduction, then turns around and hands that money to other orgs.

Gentle suggestion: start working to support the existing orgs in the rural area, whether through direct giving, grant writing, or convincing others to give. Are you serving on boards of orgs in this underserved locale already?

Please remember that it’s widely considered unethical to fundraise on commission. No, it’s not illegal, but it’s definitely considered shady. If you’re truly serious about all of this, check out the CFRE certification coursework. Your prior board service may have been with stellar orgs, or they may have been terrible. Unless you’ve got loads of experience, you may not be in a position to judge how effective or well run, etc.


hungryone
LSU Fan
river parishes
Member since Sep 2010
11253 posts

re: Starting a Non Profit
quote:

Hey hungry one what’s your email? Would like to discuss something with you

I don’t consult via email, sorry. If you want to summarize it here I’ll try to respond.


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tigergirl10
Member since Jul 2019
1773 posts

re: Starting a Non Profit
God bless you! What a beautiful thing you’re doing.


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tom1987
Auburn Fan
Member since Aug 2011
560 posts

re: Starting a Non Profit
quote:

Gentle suggestion: start working to support the existing orgs in the rural area, whether through direct giving, grant writing, or convincing others to give. Are you serving on boards of orgs in this underserved locale already?

I am on the board of two orgs who are serving this area. They are very grass roots and don't have full time employees. I could work to raise funds for them as well as others.

quote:

Please remember that it’s widely considered unethical to fundraise on commission. No, it’s not illegal, but it’s definitely considered shady.

I had read this on other sites as I have been doing my research. As a person with a history in sales, I admit that I honestly don't get what's shady about it, as long as 90% is going to the mission. But yes, I would adhere to that industry standard of not fundraising on commission.


hungryone
LSU Fan
river parishes
Member since Sep 2010
11253 posts

re: Starting a Non Profit
quote:

As a person with a history in sales, I admit that I honestly don't get what's shady about it, as long as 90% is going to the mission.

Because people paid on commission are motivated to close the deal bc it lines their pockets. They don’t have to concern themselves with whether the client needs as much of the product they’re seeking, or whether the product/service is the best fit for the client’s needs. They just sell, period.

Fundraisers are absolutely not supposed to “close at any cost”. There are countless scenarios where accepting a gift might be morally questionable, or leaning on someone for a larger gift would be very wrong. Most good fundraising, at least for major gifts, is done over years of cultivation. Fundraisers work closely with donors for years. Would you really expect to get 10% of Mrs Moneybags‘ seven figure estate that she is leaving to the Food Bank? If that remotely feels okay to you, that you should get $100k that could be feeding the needy but goes to you simply because you asked her for a gift, then don’t go into nonprofit fundraising.

Large orgs run campaigns in the multi hundreds of millions: 10% of the average major gift officer’s annual fundraising haul at a private university during a campaign would leave most ppl set for life. It is just NOT okay to think that you deserve 10% of the money simply because you represent the organization. You’re not even doing the actual “good work”—the mental health counseling, teaching, job skills assistance or whatever the org does—you’re just sharing the message and asking ppl for money. The actual service is the worthwhile part that should be amply compensated.....not the fundraiser.

Another scenario: donor is elderly, lonely, and you write/visit frequently on behalf of the charity. Little old lady wants your attention, and she wants to help the starving children. She pulls out her checkbook and writes a check that she tells you will empty her account. If you’re an ethical professional, you decline the check, tell her to consult with her family and financial advisors, offer to refer her to an estate planner you trust, etc. If you’re paid 10% of her big fat check, you are far less likely to be working with both the good of the charity AND the donor in mind.

I’ve known fundraisers who were named as beneficiaries in donors’ estates....one simply declined the bequest, realizing it was ethically untoward though a lovely gesture. The other simply couldn’t resist the cash, and his employer told him it was the money or his job. He took the money and no longer works in fundraising.

United Way has a program called “loaned executives”— people who are paid by their employers but work for the UW campaign. UW also has many volunteer fundraisers, UW is a good place to learn best practices.

I’m reminded of another scenario: a young exec director called me and asked if this gift sounded okay: local insurance agent and pillar of a church called to say he wanted to make a $2,500 contribution, but only if the org raised $2,500 as a match. OK, but here’s the rub: he wanted them to send him the $2,500 to “document” the match, and he would send back a check for $5k. I LOL’d and explained money laundering and false transactions to this young social worker.


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