Lessons I’ve Learned from Launching a Nonprofit

The past two years have been a roller coaster for me when launching a nonprofit my senior year of college. I’ve learned a lot about the nonprofit world in a short period of time. I wanted to share a few take away points. These are points I would give to anyone before they launch their own nonprofit.

  • Check with your established nonprofits in the community and see if your idea is already put into place. It is better to use your gifts and talents with an already established nonprofit.
  • Develop partnerships with other local nonprofits. Starting a nonprofit is a lot of work but getting support from established nonprofits makes the process a little easier. This shows that you are there to help the community and are willing to work together.
  • Develop a board that is not all your best friends. Have a board that comes from a variety of backgrounds and careers. For example on our board, we have a lawyer, sociologist, pastor, digital media manager, IT specialist, three business owners, and a handy man. They are friends of mine but I do not hang out with them everyday.
  • Develop a system before fully launching. In the beginning, we were helping anyone that called with a need. We launched with no system in place and got overwhelmed really quick with people in need. You can’t help everyone but you can help someone. I learned to narrow the focus so we could serve people more effectively. For example, our nonprofit is called Transition Furniture, we restore hope in hopeless situations by giving furniture/appliances to families/individuals that have had a house fire, moving from homelessness to housing, domestic violence, natural disaster, and grandparents getting custody of grandchildren.
  • Get involved in the need before launching an organization. I was the volunteer coordinator over the summer in April 2011 when tornadoes ripped through our town and in March 2012, my role switched to unmet needs when we had a smaller scale tornado come through our town. I had families calling me saying they lost all their furniture and if we could help them. This was the first time I was involved in a need that was bigger than a one-time event. I realized that none of our agencies helped with this need and the idea of Transition Furniture started.
  • Push through! Starting a nonprofit will be hard! You’ll run into a lot of brick walls but every brick wall built can be knocked down. It’s up to you to determine if the brick wall will be a roadblock or a hurdle you learn from.

Please feel free to contact me about any questions concerning launching a nonprofit. I would love to hear your idea! I’m new to this whole nonprofit world but it’s always fun to connect with other nonprofit leaders and founders.