Treat your nonprofit idea like your wedding
Planning a wedding is often a ton of work (assuming you don’t decide to elope). There are a lot of factors to consider, and usually you don’t even know all the steps. Naturally, we turn to the internet, right?
When I Googled “how to plan a wedding,” this is what came up:
Step one, start a wedding folder. Step two, make a budget. Seems reasonable, right? These are things everyone planning a wedding should do at the beginning so that they don’t find themselves in a giant mess later.
Buuuuuuuuttttt, this list doesn’t mention the MOST IMPORTANT thing you should do to plan a successful wedding……
Ummm, don’t you need to find a partner? That you like to spend time with? Who has values and goals that are similar to your own? Whose chewing sounds won’t drive you to divorce?
Yes, yes, I get it, this list presumes you have done all that ahead of time. But pretend with me for a second – what if you didn’t know much about weddings? Like maybe you are from Mars and you’re not sure what this strange human custom is, but you attended a wedding and now want to know how to have such a great experience again!? If this is the list you found, you might get yourself a wedding folder before you got a future spouse!
Look, a checklist on the internet isn’t going to give you enough information about weddings because it’s ASSUMING A LOT.
Any guesses what I’m going to compare this to? 😉
This is what came up when I Googled “how to start a nonprofit:”
Again, seems reasonable, right? Based on what the average person knows about nonprofits, this seems like it has a bunch of the touch points (pick a name, incorporate a business, get tax exempt, etc.).
But, setting aside that this list is TOTALLY WRONG (you definitely should be assembling the board and adopting bylaws BEFORE you apply for tax exemption), it also skips some huge steps.
- What is your nonprofit going to do?
- Who’s going to do it?
- Where will it happen?
- How will you make it happen?
- Who’s going to benefit?
- How will you pay for it?
These are all questions you should have answers to before you think about incorporating or drafting bylaws. This checklist (on top of being wrong) assumes you know that these things need to come first.
But those things are hard. The intangible things that you just have to figure out somehow are WAY harder than designing a logo and filing some Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State.
Those questions are not impossible to answer – you can figure it out, I know because I help people do this all the time as part of my work. But it’s still up to you to do your research and make a real, actionable plan.
Just like it’s up to you to find a spouse you’re compatible with before you start planning your wedding. 😉
40-50% of marriages end in divorce, which means that people aren’t always great at picking the right partner. Don’t let your nonprofit idea go up in a ball of flames because you are afraid of the hard stuff.
Get to work. Surround yourself with nonprofit experts and others who are passionate about the mission. Be ready for your successes and your setbacks.
You have an amazing idea, and you owe it to yourself and your community to make it happen.
Need some help? My e-course, Founder’s Roadmap, helps you with a TON of the prep work before you can incorporate. If you’re feeling lost or overwhelmed or unsure, check it out. It might just give you the support and information you need to make real steps toward your dream.