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I just founded and incorporated a nonprofit called "Veterans Counseling Veterans". Can I get advice on Nonprofits?

Veteran

Ellsworth Williams Tampa, FL

I spent over 45 years of my 53 years of life in the military. Either as dependent of career soldier or as a career soldier. After serving for over 24 years (8 enlisted and 16 commissioned) of active duty service, I retired in 2007. I rebranded myself by getting a masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with the sole purpose of giving back to the military community I truly love. I then founded and incorporated "Veterans Counseling Veterans" to provide veterans and spouses of veterans an opportunity to be served by one of their own with regards to mental health. I also created this organization to offer an opportunity for veterans and their spouses to network, mentor, receive professional development and advocate for their employment at the VA and DoD.
Challenges:
1. I am novice at running a nonprofit
2.Finding individuals committed like myself.

4 April 2015 4 replies Leadership & Management

Answers

Advisor

Carol Lindberg San Diego, CA

While every nonprofit organization is started with the very best of intentions, it's sometimes these same good intentions that get people and the operations they're responsible for running in trouble. There simply isn't enough time, talent and funding to bring every good idea to fruition. Thus, if you plan on starting a nonprofit company or are already running one, you should definitely take the three tips that follow to heart.

1. Don't Be Afraid to Say "No" When You Need To

Every organization has its limits and this is especially true for nonprofit organizations. Companies like these are run on donations, volunteered time and a tremendous amount of goodwill. They also tend to attract a lot of ambitious, forward-thinking people who are constantly thinking outside of the box. This means that you'll have no shortage of good ideas coming from your team. The reality, however, is that you can't jump on board with every idea that gets pitched your way, no matter how innovative or intriguing it might be. Understand your goals, know your limitations, and never be afraid to use the word "no" when you need to. Also, keep in mind that although people are giving away time, resources and ideas for free, this doesn't obligate you to jump on board with everything.

2. Clearly Define Your Vision

The best way to know your limitations is by first defining your goals. Decide what it is you hope to accomplish with your organization and just how you intend to do it. You should also be prepared to use change metrics to measure your progress. Do you want to give out so many mittens and hot meals during cold weather seasons? Are you trying to supply so many people or villages with fresh water? Use real numbers and set measurable objectives. Once you have a clearly defined vision for your business, it will be easy to sidestep any ideas or opportunities that might accidentally throw you off track.

Resource on long-term vision and productivity: http://acuonline.acu.edu/resources/ohrd/ohrd-infographics/a-higher-power-gives-workers-higher-productivity

3. Keep Things Simple

Keeping things simple in a nonprofit organization is the best thing that you can do to avoid wasting money and time. Know your starting point, know your desired endpoint and then determine the easiest and most straightforward way of getting where you want to be. If you still have a very complex theory of change, sit down with your team members and look for ways to revise it so that everything flows smoothly and succinctly from one point to the next.

Nonprofit resource: http://graduate.norwich.edu/resources-mpa/articles-mpa/7-key-differences-between-nonprofit-and-for-profit-organizations/

Advisor

Ponni Anand Seattle, WA

Hi Ellsworth,
Steven Sachs idea is great. Approach the local state university with a MBA program. They can hook you up with students looking for projects for their course requirement. Similarly, you can approach the law school in your state university. Most law schools have law clinics- that would provide legal counseling for free for nonprofits and other social causes.
Also, think about who you would want on your advisory board, they and their network will help in raising funds. Best wishes

Advisor

Steven Sachs Washougal, WA

Hi, Ellsworth.

There are some fine students in the nonsectarian Non- Profit MBA (Masters of Business Administration) program at American Jewish University, where I taught many years ago. They are at aju.edu.

The MBA program director there may be able to hook you up with a student who might either be able to help you directly or who may be able/interested in doing a project that may benefit your organization. If this happens, it should be free to your organization.

I don't know if they do that sort of thing now, but it's probably worth an inquiring email. I cannot help you directly; I taught research methods and statistical analysis. But non-profit law, procedures, and management are a big part of the program.

Thank you for your service and good luck with everything.

... Dr. Steve Sachs

Advisor

David Eastman Gresham, OR

Hi, Ellsworth

I would first establish yourself as a 501 (c) 3 which is a non-profit status for tax purposes. You can get the paperwork and applications online, pay the associated fees and then send it off to your state revenue department.

I also would look into non-profit organizations that may be doing similar or like work and see if you can "pick" their brains regarding how they started their business and the challenges these faced.

Non-profits are wonderful organizations; I have worked for a few and even managed one previously. The hardest part is getting operational money to run the organization including for your salaries, facilities and just daily operating costs. However, if you market it right and present your mission and goals to donors, then you can get your non-profit up and running fairly quickly.

I wish you much success in your efforts.

David Eastman, CEO, former US Navy ASW

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