Make a Difference—3 Steps to Kickstart Your Own Nonprofit Organization

Jori Hamilton is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest who enjoys covering topics related to social justice, business, and feminism. You can follow her on twitter @hamiltonjori or keep up with her latest work on her Contently.


As a person who is passionate about humanity, it isn’t difficult to see the disheartening array of hardships and problems that desperately need addressing. After recognizing the issues, the next step is to do something about them. Are you passionate and organized? Maybe it’s time to consider starting a nonprofit. 

Starting a nonprofit is not exactly an easy task, but it is a powerful way to direct funding, people, and attention toward the causes that matter to you personally. Nonprofit organizations provide a substantial benefit to the communities where they are focused and play a major role in helping to address concerns. If you believe that you have the dedication and ability to start a non-profit organization, here are steps to help you get going. 

1. Address Your Issue

There are so many reasons to start a nonprofit. So many, in fact, that it can be hard to choose just one to focus on. Some of your reasons may be:

  • You’ve suffered through a terrible situation but are willing and able to share your experience to help alleviate the same scenario in other’s lives.
    The Pablove Foundation, a nonprofit that raises funding for cancer research, family education, and grants to improve the lives of children living with cancer, is the perfect example of this. Jo Ann Thrailkill lost her son, Pablo, to a rare type of kidney cancer at a young age. She turned her experiences from this hardship into a nonprofit that makes a positive difference in the lives of children living with cancer and their parents. 

  • You have lived through difficulties you hope future generations can avoid.
    The types of issues you see in the world can be greatly influenced by your background, and you may be in a unique position to help make a positive change. For instance, if you are a minority, it may be perfectly obvious to you that there is a need to increase diversity in STEM. A nonprofit designed to offer assistance and opportunities for minorities in the field may be just the ticket. 

  • You are in a strong position to make a difference. Your upbringing or educational background may give you greater insight into how exactly to solve specific problems in the world today. Take Shanay Thompson, who started the nonprofit Every Kid Fed. Thompson was previously a model and is now a medical school student who realizes her unique experiences give her a profound opportunity to help tackle childhood hunger in a way that helps avoid common stigmas. 

  • You are passionate about tackling difficult topics and reaching people.
    A large part of running a nonprofit is convincing people to donate money or time to your cause. This means you have to be passionate enough to make them see why your cause matters. Some of the most difficult tasks to garner support for involve problems that are not in our backyards, such as wildlife conservation or climate change action. If you are passionate about a cause, a nonprofit may be the perfect way to express it. 

2. Recruit Passionate People

After coming up with the perfect idea for a nonprofit and thinking through the ways you’d like translate your passion into action, the next step is to find the right people to help you make it a reality. Running a nonprofit is a great deal of work that may done on a volunteer basis for a long time, and you cannot be expected to do it all by yourself. Finding the right people who share your ideas and goals can ensure your nonprofit will thrive throughout the potentially difficult times ahead. 

As you begin to put together your team, take steps to make sure everyone is on the same page and moving toward the same goals. Develop solid working relationships and work on team building right off the bat. This can help you to identify strengths and weaknesses, as well as communication styles in the team that can help you to move through workflows more efficiently in the future. 

Additionally, start looking for partners and organizations that you can do work with. For example, if your nonprofit will focus on increasing English literacy in neighborhoods with recently settled immigrants, connect with local refugee centers and schools that may be looking for additional help. Consider your costs as well: Are there local businesses that may be willing to contribute time or space for practicing conversational English or exploring job opportunities?  

3. Organize, Finance, Market

You have an idea, a plan, and a team; now it’s time for the most important and difficult step: getting off the ground. Organizing and financing a nonprofit can work in similar ways to a for-profit company. Clear budgets that account for all monthly expenditures are necessary to meet qualifications of a nonprofit and attract investors.

Nonprofit organizations are tax-exempt, which means they are able to redirect those funds into community-benefitting activities. It also means a boatload of paperwork at both the federal and state levels. Documents must be submitted yearly to both the IRS and any state-level revenue agencies to ensure you retain your nonprofit status. 

Finally, you’re cleared to implement your idea with your team. In order to get off on the right foot, start with a strong marketing plan for your nonprofit—one that exemplifies who you are and what you have to offer your community. Get your name out there as much as possible. When it comes to your first public appearance, make sure it is clear everyone knows what you’re about. Work to create demonstrable improvements that you can point to and show off your success. 

There are many, many noble reasons to start a nonprofit. If you are considering doing so, evaluate your idea and develop a strong plan. As things begin to come together, build a strong team, organize finances, and start marketing. Soon you’ll be making a difference to be proud of.

Are you starting a non-profit organization? Or do you have one already? Share it with us below.