If you're interested in starting a nonprofit organization, I'm sure you've searched on Google to figure out how to get started. Maybe you've even sought out a local food shelf or animal shelter and asked them about running a nonprofit corporation. But what is the first step in starting a nonprofit organization? Well, according to the internet, it is as simple as just filling out a few documents and filing them with the state to start a nonprofit corporation. Is it really that simple for nonprofit founders?

Is Starting a Nonprofit Organization Really That Simple?   

Here's the thing – I almost wish it was more difficult to file Articles of Incorporation and start a nonprofit. Why? Well, if filing the paperwork to form a nonprofit corporation is your very first step, you are putting the cart WAY before the horse. Technically, yes, you can start a nonprofit in this way. But let me tell you, it does not set you up for success as a nonprofit founder.

It's easy to fill in a few forms on the Minnesota Secretary of State website and pay a fee. It literally takes 10 minutes. It's a lot harder to develop your idea into a thriving organization that does real work in the community. There are all kinds of things YOU as the founder must determine (not the state, and not the IRS):

  • What is your mission?
  • Who is willing to volunteer their time and talents and be on your board?
  • What work will the nonprofit DO everyday?
  • Where will the money come from?
  • How will you know whether your work is making a difference?

These are all the questions that will make or break a new nonprofit organization – not whether you can click a few buttons on the state's website.

Related: Treat Your Nonprofit Idea Like Your Wedding

By creating the nonprofit corporation, you are signing up to deal with all the compliance that comes with nonprofits. And the reality is, nonprofits have WAY more to deal with compliance-wise than for-profit companies do. So why rush into the time-consuming and expensive of requirements before you even know whether your idea can work in the real world?

The first step for founders is not to form a nonprofit corporation. The first step is for you as a nonprofit founder to really decide if starting a nonprofit organization is truly a good idea. To do this, you need to ask yourself specific questions and be very honest about the answers.

  • Are you in the right place?
  • Is this really a good idea?
  • Is this going to work?
  • Are you prepared to make this commitment?

Learn More About Starting a Nonprofit Organization   

It's really easy to start a nonprofit corporation and have no idea what you're doing. My goal is to help you get started on your idea, the right way. To learn more whether YOU should start a nonprofit, download my e-book, Starting a Nonprofit: 5 Things Every Founder Must Know.

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