How to start your nonprofit on a low budget
It is a sad reality that the sky don’t rain money bills. But it is also true that we can live with that. So if you are on a low budget, you are not alone and in fact, many founders where exactly where you are today, broke. So should you start a nonprofit on a low budget? How do you start? Well, let’s dive in.
Should you start a nonprofit on a low budget?
Absolutely. It is said that the best time to start a venture was yesterday; the second best time is today. While it may not seem sensible that I encourage you to start, I believe that it may be better to try and fail than not to try at all. Plus, if anyone told you that the prerequisite for succeeding is having funds to spend on a fancy office and all that, they would be absolutely wrong. Because, organizations loose all their funding all the time and become broke and out of business. I dare say that the best time to start is when you have nothing because a person on the ground fears no fall. The only way to go is up. So if you still need further assurances, here it is; ‘please start that nonprofit on a low budget!’
First things first – Legal Status
Now to be clear, you don’t need a legal status to help people or perform charity in many parts of the world. In some countries, it is essential. Whatever the case may be, begin whatever you plan to work on. When you can afford to, get a legal status. It protects you and puts you at an advantage if you desire partnerships and external funding. Partners and donors may want to see that you have a legal status before they can support you. It gives you and your work legitimacy, visibility and you have less chances of running into problems with the government. Fortunately, this does not cost a lot of money in most countries and sometimes, a local registration with the local government or county may cost a lot less than going for other agencies related to the central or federal government or crown. When you have this taken care of, then you can develop the structure of your organization.
Strange for me to bring up funding since we already established that you are starting a nonprofit on a low budget, right? Wrong! You will need a funding plan one way or another; sooner or later. Hence, from the beginning, figure out where your funding will come from. Do you plan to chase donor funding? Do you intend to function as a social enterprise? Whatever you decide, set yourself up for success. To succeed in your grant writing endeavors, here are some resources to help you: this, this and this. Here’s a playlist on Nonprofit fundraising. When it comes to fundraising, every penny counts.
Forming a suitable structure
Every organization has a structure. Most times, people fail to realize this realize this reality. They plan or maybe just make things up as they go. Sometimes, it is easy to nurse the misconception that structures are only necessary when you have a fully functional and financially sustainable organization. That is also wrong. In your team of three, create offices, roles and responsibilities. It boosts efficiency. Formulate your core values, mission and vision. Have a plan even if it all fits in a page but stick to it. The beautiful thing about plans is that they can grow over time. They are not cast in stone and over time, they can get better.
Give it your best shot!
Starting on a low budget helps you manage better when the funds are abundant. This is not a given but I want to assume that you want the best for your nonprofit and the community you represent. Executing a well thought-out plan is the easiest part of the job. All things being equal, you will be on your way creating something awesome.