How to Start a Nonprofit Organization With No Money

How to Start a Nonprofit Organization With No Money

Starting a nonprofit organization with no money is totally possible, if you can some how raise at least a little funds. The truth is all legal business must file paperwork plus other things that do have fees. Even if you don't use an attorney and do all the work yourself, you still will need some money, it's just not a lot.

If you have the passion and drive it takes to start a nonprofit, chances are you'll be just fine and get over the hurdles that will come up. And don't worry, we're going to go over everything you'll need on how to start a nonprofit organization with no money step by step.

Can You Start a Nonprofit with No Money?

Actually, if you really have zero dollars, then no, you can't start a nonprofit legally. You can however be smart and raise the little money you do need in order to create a legal entity for your nonprofit organization without needing your own money .

The initial costs aren't really that much. You can probably start a completely legal nonprofit organization with less than $1000 which will go to state and federal government fees. ,which really isn't a lot considering what your charity can become.

How To Start a Nonprofit Organization With No Money: 10 Steps

Step 1: Mission And Vision Statement for nonprofits 

We always advise people to start with a clear and powerful mission and vision statement for a variety of reasons. The most important reason being it should be what drives you to go through all the steps it will take to get your organization of the ground. Having everything crystal clear in your head gives you the passion to move forward and a clear goal to get to. They are far more important than most people think.

They are also necessary documents you'll need to actually get your tax exempt status, and anyone looking to support or back your cause or any grants you apply for will also expect clear statements. So take this step seriously and really nail what you are trying to accomplish, and how exactly you plan to accomplish it.

You vision statement should be explicit in why you want to create your organization, whereas you mission statement is a plan of how you will make your vision happen in the real world.

Personally I'm old school and start with pen and paper for my writing, it's a great way to start and get your ideas flowing. Write down what comes to you and after you've written as much as you can, start asking questions like, "Why do I want to do this? How will this help? Will this really fix the problem? What would I do if I had unlimited funds?" If you keep at it, you will come up with a mission an vision statement that will create passion both in yourself, and your donors and supporters.

Step 2: Create a Business Plan for your Organization 

This is another necessary step for any startup and one that puts a lot of people off. But don't worry, with your clear mission and vision statements completed, this will be much easier, that's why they were step one! Plus, I'm going to share a cheat with you as well that can speed all this up!

Creating a business plan isn't really all that difficult. It really about defining your organization’s short-term and long-term goals and the resources and steps you'll need to archive them. It starts out with an executive summary which basically describes your nonprofit and what's in the summary. We suggest you do this last even though it's the first thing that should appear on your business plan.

Next you should include an overview of your organization and anyone that's involved. This should include things like what type of nonprofit you are and list any board members or volunteers and any grants or funding you have found thus far. Then you need to include a mission and vision statement which is basically your statements in step 1, but condensed in a few sentences. Then explain what your activities will, things like 'bring food to street people on Avenue A' and any future plans you want to create or expand on.

Pro Tip: Did you know you can basically ask ChatGPT to create a business plan for you? And it does a great job too! Just ask it to create a well laid out business plan using your Mission and Vision statements. Feed Chat with the information and what you get will have 80% plus of the work done for you!

The last things you'll need to include are your and budget and marketing plans. These will need to be researched and clearly laid out. You should understand how much money you're going to need to launch and operate your charity, and how you're going to attract donors and volunteers to help. And this should all be broken down into long and short-term goals.

Step 3: Create a Nonprofit Board of Directors

Recruiting a solid BOD is far more crucial than you think. When done right, your board will not only work with you throughout your charity's lifespan, but also help finance its startup. Most nonprofits initial board members are recruited with the understanding that they make a contribution to the startup as well as management, and possibly continue to make contributions on a yearly basis as a membership for further income and also assist in fundraising when the need arises.

Furthermore a solid board also means those members have friends that are most likely inline with their charitable beliefs which means more possible donors both short and long term. These are also the people that will oversee compliance and finance issues and whether or not your nonprofit is sticking to its mission statement, so they must be trustworthy as well.

Thinking strategically, you may ask a attorney to join the board with the understanding they will take care of all legal matters pro-bono and won't require money. Or a marketing executive that can bring marketing skills to your organization, again with no fees attached. Think about key people you will need to build your nonprofit  and try to include them from the start. It will make growing pains much easier!

Step 4: File your Nonprofit With or Without a Lawyer 

Starting a nonprofit corporation doesn't necessarily mean you need to use a lawyer, but it's better if you include one as there are different legal topics depending on where you are. Hopefully you've included a board member that's willing to do the paper pushing for free. This is also where you'll need some sort of money to pay all of the fees that are involved in incorporating your nonprofit, this is the same for any corporation and is simply the law.

To form a nonprofit, you'll need to file a form for 501(c)3 nonprofit organization status and tax-exempt status with the federal government. This carries a fee of a minimum of $275 and goes up according to your revenue and operating budget, and how you've structured the nonprofit's business.Then there is the money involved for state level business registration which completely depends on which state you live in.

Furthermore, all charitable organizations are required to file a Form 1023 or Form 1023-EZ with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as this is what registers you as a nonprofit with the IRS. You can find a lot more information here on all the documents required and the necessary steps for your startup if you just do a search.

Step 4: Assemble Supporters and Passionate Volunteers for your Startup 

Nonprofits will never thrive without the support of volunteers and other supporters like donors. They are the backbone of any nonprofit startup and will be the ones that give your charity a voice and help spread the word as well as money. They are also the ones that can perform tasks for your charity so it's important to get to know each one on a personal basis if at all possible. This can help you organize everyone according to their natural skill sets and take advantage of them in a strategic way.

Make sure you tell all your friends about your nonprofit and what your doing, your Facebook page and other social media is great for this. You can also ask other nonprofits and organizations in your community for references that might be interested in your specific cause. Attending events and visiting local businesses can also be a great way of bring awareness and getting more volunteers.

Talk to everyone you come into contact with, you never know who's looking to make a positive impact and when!

Step 5: Free Software and Tools for your Nonprofit Organization 

Starting a nonprofit with no money means looking for all the free help you can get! And having a suit of tools can really make things easier and save you tons of time. Luckily there are many tools that can be had for no cash until you grow enough to start investing in better ones. Here is a quick list and what they can offer your and your team for free until you have the budget for an all in one platform like PayBee:

  1. PayBee Manage everything you could ever need for your nonprofit in one place, a complete business online
  2. Canva Create visually appealing graphics and designs for promotional materials without design expertise.
  3. Pixabay Access a vast collection of royalty-free images and videos for enhancing marketing materials without copyright concerns.
  4. Slack Enhance team communication and collaboration, facilitating efficient teamwork even for remote nonprofit teams.
  5. Trello Manage tasks and projects visually with boards, lists, and cards, fostering collaboration and organization.
  6. Evernote Store and organize information centrally, aiding nonprofit teams in sharing and collaborating on essential content.
  7. Zapier Automate workflows by connecting different apps, streamlining tasks without requiring custom development.
  8. Basecamp Manage remote teams with task assignments, chat, and to-do lists, facilitating project coordination.
  9. Zoom Conduct virtual meetings, workshops, and presentations, allowing nonprofits to engage stakeholders without physical presence.
  10. Mailchimp Execute targeted email marketing campaigns for donors and volunteers.
  11. Buffer Manage social media presence and grow the audience with a reliable engagement platform for sharing the nonprofit's story.
  12. ChatGPT We discussed how to use this tool above to make a business plan, but it can do so much more!

And don't forget your own smartphone! With today's technology, it's super easy to take an event picture or video right on your phone and upload it to anywhere on the web instantly. It doesn't necessarily need to be amazing quality to demonstrate your message.

Step 6: Start an Online Presence

Now that you have all the tools you should need for starting a nonprofit organization with little money, it's time to give donors a place to actually be able to donate some money to your cause and potential fundraising. Although nonprofits don't technically need a website, but it's definitely a smart way to show you are a real nonprofit and not some fly by night. Plus there are so many ways to get a website online for free that it really only takes a little time and knowledge.

For starting a nonprofit website on a shoestring budget and without a lot of money, we suggest using WordPress for your website. It's easy to use and can do practically anything you should need. Plus many people are familiar with the platform and can help if you should need to hire a developer for something special.

Once you have your online presence, it's time to create the donation pages, fundraising pages and all the pages you should have as a nonprofit. They include an about us, a mission statement (just use what you wrote in step 1), a mission statement (same as step 1), a contact page  with a contact form with all the ways someone can contact you, and anything else you'd like someone that is not familiar with your nonprofit to know about you like proof of your tax-exempt status.

Your blog is where you can communicate with your follows online about anything you deem worthy. It can be just simple pictures to personalized thank you notes for people who have donated to your cause. Once you have some content, make sure you spread it to all your social media accounts as well to get the word out to as many people as possible. The more you can interact with your potential donors and stay in front of them, the more money your sponsored organization will potentially make.

Step 6: Start Marketing Your Nonprofit Fundraising 

Starting a nonprofit with no money also means marketing your organization with as many free avenues as possible. And if you've followed all the steps we've listed above, you in the perfect position to begin your organization's marketing campaign both online and off for everyone to follow.

We've already talked about social media marketing and getting the word out online, but offline is just as powerful or more so in getting your message out about your nonprofit and fundraising endeavors. Meeting people face to face in front of a supermarket as you hand them a flyer can be a great way to meet potential donors and volunteer alike. You can also ask local businesses if you can hang a poster in their shop window, or if they could leave a pile of brochures on their counter and hand them out to their employees. There are a ton of ways to spread the word face to face. So get creative!

One of the easiest ways to start generating some revenue is to hold an event. Something that can really get people feeling passionate and possibly even getting the media involved. One of the easiest ways to do this is becoming a partner with another nonprofit that wants to also hold an event but may not have enough support or money either to launch one successfully. Combined you can feed off each others strengths to get the job done. So for example, if you're a dog charity, partner with a cat charity. Or if you're a medical charity, partner with another closely associated cause, but one that doesn't overlap.

Wrapping Up

We've listed and discussed all the steps needed on how to start a nonprofit organization with little money for all types of nonprofit organizations with no money. And most of these steps require little money or a loan, just a bit of work an organizational skills. We've also covered how a nonprofit with no money can use the plethora of free tools available to help grow the nonprofit until it has a budget to work with and never needs loans.

Once you nonprofit starts generating some income through a grant or other good fundraising opportunities, it's best to go back  and see what free tools your were using and what you're able to spend money on now. A complete platform like PayBee is a perfect option for any nonprofit or even other organizations and you can review it here.

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