Starting a Non-Profit Organization
By Sandhya, age 27, South Carolina
Summer's here, the days are hot and long, and if you're anything like me, you have the itch to do something bigger and better than just sit around in your swimsuit all day. Entrepreneurship is all the vogue now with young adults. But have you considered starting a non-profit organization?
Non-profits are awesome in that they're businesses with a conscience. You can still have the thrill of having people listen to you, and follow your lead, but with the added bonus of helping the community in some way.
The first step is deciding what really gets you raring to go. What causes are close to your heart? Do you love animals? Do you feel strongly about world hunger or poverty? Do you think teens in your area need better arts programs?
Whatever your purpose, you're going to have to get organized. Once you've decided what you want your non-profit to be about, come up with a mission statement. This should be no more than a paragraph, and should answer the question, "What does your non-profit do?" Answering this question will help you narrow your focus. For instance, "I want to protect land resources in Idaho" is too broad a statement. A much better one would be, "I want to stop the proposed construction of the shopping mall in Anywhere, Idaho." The latter statement is very focused, and gives you a starting point.
The next step is deciding how you want to operate. Do you want volunteers for your non-profit? Do you want to have it exist solely as a website? Obviously, setting up a website is a simpler option. But having volunteers has its advantages, too. For instance, in the above example, you'd need other advocates to sign a petition or picket for the stopping of the construction of a mall. A website would be a good additional marketing technique, but probably wouldn't be as effective as having volunteers.
On the other hand, say your mission is to educate teens in your community about the detrimental effects of teen pregnancy. In that case, you could get away with setting up a website or blog dedicated to your cause. For interesting content that others will want to read, you could interview teens who are pregnant, and show how their lives have been affected by the pregnancy. You could also put up information on safe sex and abstinence. As far as marketing goes, you could distribute flyers, leaflets, and brochures in places that teens frequent, such as youth centers, local libraries, and high school counselor's offices.
As you can probably see, the choices are limitless when it comes to starting a non-profit close to your heart. With my non-profit, Sisterhood of Strength, I chose to educate people about mental illness, and remove the stigma associated with it. So I publish artwork and writing by women and girls with mental illness. I promote the website through Twitter and Facebook, which can be very valuable in drumming up traffic for your site.
Whatever cause you decide to pursue, the best part is that you are affecting your community positively. And that's something nobody can put a price on.