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Starting a Non Profit for veterans


Bernice Williams Marietta, GA

I would like assistance in starting a Non Profit for veterans

1 August 2019 11 replies Mentoring



Jennifer Polhemus Santa Monica, CA

This advice may be hard to hear: consider working for an existing nonprofit, or at the very least partner with one before striking out on your own. In the future, you'll then have a track record and better understand about regulation, needs analysis, annual reports, stakeholder communications, grants, advisory boards, etc. because you will have learned in the context of an existing, successful nonprofit organization. Failure rates for small, independent nonprofits are high, and you want to spend your time and devotion productively.

Running a nonprofit is even more complex than running a for-profit business. Administrative tasks and expenses can end up diverting time away from your passion.

So try this -- figure out your particular passion within the "veterans" world, and then take a hard look at whether that area is being served (and served well) by an existing NGO or agency. What would YOU do to make things better? What evidence can you find (i.e., research) that supports your method/improvement? Then make friends with an existing nonprofit and pitch your idea(s).

If you want this to be a paying job for you, then include some solid ideas for funding, because new ideas/programs need new funding. Many cities have nonprofit resource centers that will help you, such as Also, check out Nolo Press; they have great books on nonprofit management.

Best wishes!

4 August 2019 Helpful answer


James Mingey Oregon City, OR

Whether your NP or Profit, sustainable income for your mission is key. Fund raising from contributions, especially repeat donors, is hard work. Get a Board willing to shoulder some of that work.

Although working at NP would be a great way to experience the nonprofit world, partnering with an existing NP can accelerate your niche. But of course its got to be complementary to your partners mission. For example if you want to do Veterans housing partner with an experienced housing provider and bringing veteran housing connections to a real need in the community

8 August 2019 Helpful answer


Paul Gallagher New Braunfels, TX

Hi Bernice! You've gotten some great advice here. I'm curious what your mission statement is for the non-profit you're contemplating. I'm on the boards for several veteran non-profits and can tell you that there is a lot of clutter out there in that space. My recommendation is not unlike others. I recommend that you find another VSO non-profit to work with and get on their board and see where that goes. I ask about your mission because it's not just getting on any veteran have to get on a good one...I've seen a lot of them that, for want of a better way to put it, are all talk. If you share your mission with me I can give you more suggestions.



James Bishop Columbus, OH

I think Jennifer nailed it. If you do not follow the rules of following a charity (in every state you raise funds) you can be in trouble personally. It is way to easy to start a non-profit but that does not mean you should. What is your vision?


Elliot Young Brooklyn, NY

Hi Bernice there are many resources but it seems that they are all being bought up by this new company called Candid. So go to (They bought the and Also cost keep in mind when non profit companies go out of business they have to give their assets to other non profits. So ask around for those type of organizations as well. You have to sign up and provide some documentation but thats usually the process. Everything else lease it so you can have newer items to serve your purposes. Jordie is right too is a great place and the Small Business Administration as well. DIY startups for the funds you need just to begin are places like because crowdfunding continues to certainly prove itself. Those are great startup tools. Please start off with a professional logo and professional email. Using public email for your business is not a good look too many think its ok. Go to and get a URL (.com) with 5 free emails with the URL being FREE when you get hosting. (Shared Hosting and choose Plus). You want people to be professional and take you seriously you should be yourself. Use professional graphics like or I would also say that when you do start this process keep in mind to translate your business. English, Spanish, French, Chinese, and Hebrew. Opening your business to just French and Spanish speaking opens your business up to 50 countries. So when you start talking about donations to help you help veterans remember that obscurity evades support. The more that know your story the better the messages gets out there. I would also say build a mobile app while having a mobile website. Mobile apps take appointments, use forms, also translate into multiple languages. The Google and Apple marketplaces (itunes and Android have 360 million downloads per day and is already on every mobile device) Traffic you wont ever get free from just having a website. They also use geofencing, use share tabs that make it easy to share your business on social media, text message, and email all things websites dont do. There are also many third parties that connect with apps to gather customer information. Data you can use to re-market to and build your business. August of 2015 Google tried to explain to everyone that if you dont have mobile website you wont be indexed. In English that means if you pull up a website on your mobile device like a tablet or smartphone and you still have to pinch to see it and navigate. They will make it harder to find your website. This means that every business with a mobile website will come up in a search before yours burying you on page 3 or 4 when 65% of all business comes from the first page. Never presume to be resourceful, or have the resources you need. I can prove it, a clear miss when it comes to using your resources how could any website from that brand NOT be mobile. This also is not or this or this and these companies make tens and some hundreds of thousands per month and more. This is a $500 to $1500 fix at the very tip tip solution. Selling merch also provides an additional income to raise funds. I suggest on a store and use the apps for Shopify (Google and YouTube search "Top Shopify Apps for 2019") Make the merch simple and wearable out to dinner like the tshirts and use QR codes so people can scan them for forms or go to your website placing it behind the neck and on the sleeves left and right and on hats on the center bottom behind your head. Advertising use Facebook Ads opening a Facebook Mgr Account then a Facebook Ads Account. Budgeting about $10 a day for 10 days to get an audience then scale up as you go with better results. (Use YouTube for the FB Mgr and Ads Acct). You can send your ads to to people that have already liked veteran pages, veteran small business pages, and any military pages. By sex, age, income, location down to the zip code. So you wont be pitching your donations to people that are civilians but civilians that are military minded, military supporters, active and retired soldiers. If you buy real estate for housing get multi units and do master leases or buy them using grants. A home is not an asset but a guy teaching with an accounting degree at a college will tell you that. As soon as you ask if they are an "Accountant" they repeat they have a "masters in accounting". Thats why you hire 20 guys with experience and hire the guy from Yale just to say you have one. You either know or you dont a piece of paper never trumps real world experience, pun intended. Well see, Assets create cash flow and a home sucks you dry its a liability. There are three types of income (Earned Income: If you get a job and are working then you get taxed on that income / Portfolio: If you own a stock of Apple for $10 and sell it for $20 thats portfolio or capital gains income and / Passive Income: Passive income which is cash flow is never taxed thats why the rich dont have jobs they have assets) So leadership is owning (control) dont rent anything. "Own nothing control everything" John D. Rockefeller he was talking about real estate. They key to wealth and the longevity to any business. Get grants to own something and put that business in a trust. That way noone, and I do mean not anyone, can ever stop you from helping a veteran. Contract law is absolute and "real", "estate", is how you keep it and multiply it. Its never is or ever was about how much you make. Think like an owner not an employee. Profit over wages, passive income over salary. Notice my comments are directed towards being ready so you dont have to get ready, its security and longevity. Do what others wont, dont waste time and never be afraid and you will always excel. There are levels to any business BEFORE you take the plunge. Its the reason why 90% of businesses go out of business, they never start, they just begin. See if you can name your business with one word under 12 letters. (For URL search engines, email, branded hashtags [#YourBusinessName] and easy to remember for clients). Board Members yes but what kind of board. Get a non voting "Advisory Board" that are diverse in the areas that you need. Banking, Grants, Legal, Real Estate, Sponsorship, Media, and IT the most important one. I suggest HVH Tech Consulting he is a veteran and ran most of the IT on Wall Street in New York. His name is Hugh Howell and not related to me he is one of my best friends cousin and knows what he does. Go to the largest Legal and Real Estate Firms and see if there are any willing to do a Pro Bono consultation once a month. They get to put their name as a sponsor and that brings in more support. Real Estate like CBRE, Blackrock, Cushman & Wakefield. Large law firms like one of the top 5 in the world. Know your business, if I asked any of the 24 million small business owners in the USA if they ever read or understand how to read a Cash Flow Statement, Profit and Loss Statement, or Balance Sheet 70% they couldnt even look you in the eye and thats embarrassing but the truth. Get the financial education it goes a long way. Learn those three documents and you can run and understand any business furthermore you will compete and thrive. There you go the quiet before the storm, dont tell anyone until you have your momentum, no family until you can really help them, and only people that are way smarter than you where you lack on your team. How to set it up, how to secure it, and how to make it last in a nutshell. That all comes before how to make it, how to keep it, and how to multiply it. Manage it on a Windows Desktop or Laptop by Dell 2 in 1 Inspiron and when home use a 24inch wide monitor for the real estate using "Complete Care" warranty, USB mouse (No wireless its a waste of battery money) and Office Professional 2016 (Not 360) using only HP Printers "Inkjet business" printers. These items save time, money, and aggravation. The IRS also has a list of cars that you can use to write off they have to be 6000lbs or more like Range Rovers and Electric Vehicles too. The purchase cost or payments can be written off as long as it is used for 100% business. #Salute

Seek advice from an IRS tax professional and/or small business tax professional including a CPA, real estate agent, and professional legal advice from an attorney. This is for educational purposes only, this is not advice and financial or legal risks you take are your own. You are liable for your own action(s).


Jordie Kern Amherst, MA

The free mentoring service at is the best resource for entrepreneurs. They will take care of you and it will cost you nothing.


Bryan Patino Ventura, CA

To answer your question about starting a non-profit. That is easy to do.

Email me:

Now, at the same time: Do consider the advice and guidance given from those here who have experience.


Kevin Hicks Freehold, NY

I’d have to agree with Jennifer’s advice: look into working with some existing Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) before immediately venturing our to start a new one. In 2014 there were upwards of 43,000 VSOs claiming to assist Veterans, all competing for the same scarce donor dollars. In 2017 thousands had already folded, unable to sustain funding or provide the services they sought to provide. Search the National Resource Directory ( and seek out VSOs in the area you’re looking to work in: see if a VSO already provides a similar service. At least reach out to the staff at some other VSOs and see what challenges they face. One of the biggest questions asked by VSOs while I served in the Army’s Soldier For Life office was “how do I find Veterans who could use my service?” Many VSOs start because they think they have a solution to a problem, but in reality there isn’t a mechanism to connect the Veteran to that solution. The NRD attempts to be that connection piece.


Jose Roman Norfolk, VA

Its important to define what your idea for a non-profit does. Can you capture it in a 30-second elevator pitch?

Also once you have a mission statement or while you're researching a business plan see if the service you want to provide already exist? There is a lot of redundancy in the VSO space. Its so important to understand the non-profit side of the housebefore jumping in and starting your own volunteer org. Take also your experience with non-profits and how they operate into account. As it was said above you have to have a good board for fundraising. I have worked with several non-profit orgs in the veteran space in the past and currently work with ASAP (The Armed Services Arts Partnership). Let me know if you have a question I can answer. or if there's something specifically in the NP arena you want assistance with.

All the Best,
Jose R


Jim Schreier Milwaukee, WI

Research - Research - Research
AND: what's the mission/vision for your non-profit? In particular, how does it differ from the many, many non-profits that already focus on veterans?
I've been providing career assistance and publications aimed at veterans for several years now. I've found it extremely difficult to connect -- even with free materials -- because of so many organizations out there doing similar things.
So again, your mission/vision is critical -- particularly how is it going to be different!


John Faber Arlington, VA

Hi Bernice,

I recommend looking at resources available on the internet that can provide more information with starting a nonprofit organization. is a great place to start.

Hope this helps.


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