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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 10 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?


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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