Getting an organization up and running for a charitable purpose is an exciting venture. It’s a wonderful opportunity to take on social, environmental, or health issues that are important to you.
Just as with any project, it’s easy to get caught up in the big dreams and lose track of the nuts-and-bolts reality of operating the organization. It’s the same trap seen by businesses who put too much attention on the trappings of entrepreneurship and forget that it’s about a day-in, day-out process of managing and improving, leaving nothing to chance and thinking always of the future.
So while it’s great to have a buzzy social media presence, a striking logo, and an inspiring mission statement, the reality is that it takes much more than those things to have a great non-profit organization. Let’s review some of the most important.
Handling The Books Correctly
It’s easy to forget that even though you don’t exist to make a profit, you do have to deal with financial issues if you handle any money whatsoever. The swirling interaction of donated money, fundraiser revenues, and other money streams can make for very complicated bookkeeping.
Don’t fall victim to the belief that a group without salaries is a group without tax liabilities! You must be properly organized under the federal government, and you must follow the relevant codes, whether you are a 501(c)3 or under some other type of charitable structure.
Understandably, crunching the numbers isn’t necessarily what most spirited volunteers are interested in doing. Fortunately, there are some options for groups that need to streamline the process without spending big money on an accounting firm. MasterTax tax compliance software simplifies the process of managing all sorts of revenues, keeping you in compliance with the IRS and focused on efficiently addressing your cause.
Keeping People Involved
No, we haven’t skipped the part where you get people involved. Most groups have no trouble getting a large group of people to help organize and operate their charity’s daily activities.
But just as the new wears off of anything, you can sometimes see interest beginning to wane. Sometimes the issue is external, such as a change in the need that you are trying to address. Other times it’s internal, when you’re struggling to engage people and maintain their interest for the long haul.
The first thing to remember is that you need to understand the motivation of those who have become involved. If they are seeking personal benefit or just want to cause trouble, you’re better off to let them disengage. Focus instead on developing and retaining the people who want to do the right thing in the right way for the right reasons.
Staying Updated On The Status Of The Issue
There’s nothing more embarrassing than trying to raise awareness of something that people are already aware of. It’s also unpleasant to push for reforms that are already underway.
News and information are plentiful these days, but they can be so plentiful as to be overwhelming. You need to find targeted and credible information sources that will keep you current on the status of your need.
For example, if you are attempting to stop the construction of a storm sewer canal because of the habitat it threatens, make sure that the plans haven’t already been scrapped for other purposes–or worse yet, that the habitat has turned out not to host the species you thought it did. Staying informed will help you be more efficient in what you do and keep your group on track in dealing with things that actually need attention.
Operating a non-profit can be incredibly rewarding. It can help you address social ills, heal the environment, or get justice for those without a voice. Careful management of your group will ensure that it doesn’t collapse under the weight of mismanagement, allowing it to instead stay active for the cause.