Tips and Considerations for Running a Nonprofit from Home
The technological leaps made over the last couple of decades have made starting an independent enterprise more accessible. Entrepreneurs can connect with the global marketplace and even compete with larger organizations. This isn’t just applicable if you want to start a commercial business, either. You also have access to the tools, resources, and global donors it takes to run a successful nonprofit from your home.
While there is a lot of information out there about how to build a business from your spare room or garage, the same doesn’t seem to apply to nonprofits. Yes, you have a passion to do good in the world on behalf of a cause. But the way to go about this is not quite the same as you might if your goal was to make a profit. There are different priorities, tools, and considerations at play.
So, let’s take a look at some practical elements you should bear in mind when running your nonprofit from home.
Plan Your Model
Much like starting a business, it’s difficult to operate all forms of nonprofit models from home. Let’s face it, you just don’t always have the space or resources to run an international emergency medical aid operation center from your basement. As such, it’s important to narrow down the most appropriate model options for the size of your enterprise, at least to begin with.
The main elements you’ll be looking at include:
- Fundraising Approach
Though your enterprise won’t be generating profits, you’ll still need money to enact meaningful change. As such, you need to establish the methods you can practically apply from home. Holding regular project-based crowdfunding campaigns is an accessible format. You could also generate donations through a membership format run via your website. It is also increasingly practical to hold hybrid in-person and online fundraising during public events. With the relative ease of ecommerce, you may be able to sell products related to your cause. As your nonprofit grows, you may be able to adopt a range of these.
- Program Focus
It’s important to have a solid idea of what you plan to do with the funds once you’ve raised them. Clarity on this can give potential donors the confidence to engage with you, too. Research what types of programs are feasible for a small nonprofit to execute within your specialist area. If you’re environmentally focused, you could arrange native plant restoration events in the community. For a social enterprise, you could provide regular basic refugee support or host a food bank.
The internet can expose your small nonprofit to a sizable possible donor base. However, you also have to make certain everybody who wants to engage with your programs can do so. It is both a practical and ethical imperative, therefore, for you to commit to making all aspects of your nonprofit accessible.
This begins with your website and online tools. All the information about the cause you represent and the activities you perform should be easily consumed by visitors to these resources. Enrolling in an online content accessibility class is an effective way to gain a thorough knowledge of the methods you need to utilize to be compliant with accepted standards. This will include adapting layouts for ease of navigation and adding alternative text to images. However, it can also be helpful to utilize plug-ins on your website to regularly scan your content for accessibility issues.
As a nonprofit, it’s not just your web design and materials that should be accessible, though. Many of your activities will rely on community engagement and volunteers. As such, you need to plan your programs to ensure they are as inclusive as possible. Choose meeting places with wheelchair access. Prepare quiet break spaces in which those who find social stimuli overwhelming can decompress. Indeed, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you may have some obligation to provide reasonable accommodations during a public event.
Build a Strong Remote Team
Running a nonprofit on your own is an arduous task. Even with a simple operation, there will be a lot of moving parts and responsibilities you need to attend to. You’re probably not going to find it practical or sustainable to regularly bring a group of staff into your home. So, build a strong team of remotely working professionals.
This doesn’t have to be a huge team at first. You can focus on employees with the expertise you can’t quickly learn but are essential to run a nonprofit. This is likely to include a financial administrator or accountant experienced in navigating the record-keeping and tax standards for nonprofits. A marketer can also be key to developing the right branding strategy for a nonprofit of your size. You may also need to keep an information technology (IT) professional on staff to maintain web design, cybersecurity, and virtual fundraising platforms.
Using remote workers in these roles has the advantage that you can access a global talent pool while operating from your home. However, it also means you need to adopt the right tools to manage this distanced team. Choose a reliable and agile communications platform, where you and your team can perform video meetings, audio calls, and direct messages.
There are also project management applications — like Trello and Asana — that can help you and your remote workers keep tasks organized. These platforms also tend to have free options you can utilize as you grow your nonprofit. The key is to establish the most appropriate software to empower your team in collaborating effectively while geographically distant.
Starting a nonprofit at home can be a challenging experience. Take the time to plan the most appropriate fundraising and program models. Ensure your materials and methods are accessible for all interested parties. Remember that a strong remote team can provide you with valuable support. It takes a significant amount of commitment to run a nonprofit, but it can be a rewarding way to make a meaningful positive impact on the world.