8 Things to do Before Launching Your Nonprofit

I’m a big believer that you need to be working full-time on your start up if you want to make it happen. There’s too much to do and it’s too hard to inspire donor confidence if you’re part-time. “I’ll go full-time once I have the money” won’t work very often.

And while you won’t know if something is working, well, until it works, there are things you can do before going full-time to see if your idea holds water.

1) Double your workforce without additional cost by finding a partner who is equally passionate. Someone who can go to a meeting when you have an exam, who has other networks, who has additional time, and can push each other.

2) Go talk with a lot of people and see what questions you’re getting asked, get better at answering them, and get a sense for what research you need to do based on FAQ. Pay special attention to people in the field of your nonprofit. Are they excited, threatened (which is probably a good sign), helpful, willing to make intros, etc.

3) Research what’s out there and have a good explanation why your organization is needed. You don’t need all the answers of what you’ll do, but you’ll need a solid answer about the high level need and your protential solution and how that’s different/better then what already exists.

4) Identify potential customers (i.e. funders) and see what they think.  If you’re looking to start a health related nonprofit, go talk to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation or Kaiser Foundation, for example. These big players have a national perspective. They can probably give you a decent idea if your idea has a market or direct you to someone who can.

5) But don’t let one or two doubtful meetings with big players deter you if you’re seeing positive signs elsewhere.

6) Find third-party validation. Is there press or a research paper that supports the idea your proposing since you’re young and unproven. Or some leaders in your field who will tell their peers they are behind you. This was absolutely essential for my organization — we don’t get off the ground without this.

7) Gut checks — are your conversations and research getting you more excited? Can you see yourself spending 70-80 hours/week on this and going broke in the process while having no social life.

8) Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Keep doing the things above. They build on each other and can create a virtuous cycle so you know if you’re on to something — or not.

Based on these eight factors, our founding team at ServeNext knew we were on to something. Game on.

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