What Are the Best Tips for Starting a Non-Profit Foundation?

Lainie Petersen

When starting a non-profit foundation, it is important to first establish the mission and purpose of the foundation, to speak to an attorney about the legal requirements for non-profit foundations in the area in which the foundation is to be established, and then to address logistical issues. These may include nominating officers and directors and establishing financial accounts. The process for starting a non-profit foundation can vary considerably by jurisdiction, and in some cases can be legally and financially complex. This is why it is a good idea for foundation founders to seek legal advice early in the process, as this can prevent problems resulting from improperly incorporating the non-profit or failing to follow pertinent regulations or proper accounting procedures.

The American Cancer Society is a non-profit organization.
The American Cancer Society is a non-profit organization.

Before starting a non-profit association, it is a good idea for those involved to sit down and establish a written statement regarding their vision for the organization. This process not only clarifies the mission for those who may be working with the organization, including its incorporating attorney, but it can also help the initial leadership of the group establish a similar vision and understanding of what the organization is to accomplish. When the leadership shares an understanding of the organization, conflict can be minimized so that their energies can be focused on performing the tasks necessary to starting a non-profit foundation.

Paralyzed Veterans of America is a non-profit organization.
Paralyzed Veterans of America is a non-profit organization.

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After the founders hammer out a written mission statement as well as some initial goals, it is time to contact an attorney who specializes in working with nonprofit organizations. The leadership should explain that they are interested in starting a non-profit foundation and ask for the attorney's assistance in drafting and filing legal papers necessary to do so. The attorney can also advise the organization's leaders as to the appropriate way of managing their legal requirements and finances.

As part of the process of incorporating as a nonprofit organization, its leadership may be required to take on formal roles within the foundation. The organization's attorney may be able to advise on the process needed for nominating or electing officers. The foundation's treasurer should also open a bank account for managing the foundation's funds. Once the organization is established, the work of securing funding can begin.

Receiving funding is a critical, though difficult, aspect of starting a non-profit foundation. The leadership may wish to contact their associates about the possibility of contributing to the organization. In many cases, the board of directors of the foundation may appoint or hire a development officer who can begin the work of raising money and obtaining grants for the organization.

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