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“Describes the steps required to start and run a nonprofit organization...” Chronicle Philanthropy
Many people believe -- mistakenly -- that all nonprofits are underfunded labors of love, kept afloat by the scrappy and tireless efforts of self-sacrificing, long-haired activists. While this description probably fits more than a few nonprofits, there are also plenty of nonprofits that bring in millions of dollars each year, pay hefty salaries to their workers, have swanky corporate offices, and even impose a dress code. In between these extremes, there are scores of nonprofits with varying assets, diverse office cultures, and a wide array of political leanings.
While the volunteer-driven model of nonprofits is alive and well, more and more nonprofits are adopting the entrepreneurial strategies and business models developed in the for-profit world. Many nonprofit managers and staff members have discovered that working for a nonprofit is a satisfying way to meet important community and societal needsand make a living at the same time, which can be more difficult in the for-profit arena. Whether you're driven purely by a passion for your mission or you want to combine your activist aspirations with a solid career, starting and running a nonprofit can be a great way to achieve your goals.
This book explains all of the practical steps necessary to start and run a nonprofit, from deciding whether to form a nonprofit in the first place, to engaging in strategic planning, managing your finances and taxes, developing a website, and much more. The first chapter explains some of the choices you'll have to face at the outset, such as what to call your nonprofit, whether to incorporate, and whether to apply for a tax exemption. Each subsequent chapter focuses on an issue you will face when launching your nonprofit, such as choosing a board of directors, fundraising, and marketing. Armed with the information in this book, you'll be ready for the challenges -- and rewards -- that await you in the nonprofit sector.
For the most part, this book assumes that the reader is a founder or board member of an existing or future nonprofit group. However, you may be an executive director, manager, staff member, or volunteer who is researching nonprofit management in order to create or improve your group. Where the information in this book is directed not at the board or founder but at the executive director or other manager, it is noted explicitly.
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A nonprofit corporation is an organization that has a mission to serve the public interest and has filed incorporation papers with the state. Because the corporation works for the public good, it receives exemptions from state and federal taxes it would otherwise have to pay -- which means that these groups are, to a certain extent, publicly subsidized.
The mission-driven nature of nonprofits sets them apart from traditional private businesses, but they're not part of the government, either. (In fact, they are sometimes called nongovernmental organizations or NGOs.) Nonprofits occupy a unique position between the public and private worlds and share some characteristics of each. In exchange for being exempt from many of the taxes that normally apply to private businesses, nonprofits must dedicate themselves to the public interest and govern them-selves according to certain rules designed to ensure accountability.
To ensure that nonprofit corporations are, in fact, working for the public good -- and earning their tax breaks -- state laws require them to establish certain organizational structures. A nonprofit corporation must have a board of directors (sometimes called a board of trustees), which is responsible for keeping the organization on track, working toward its stated nonprofit mission. Other state rules impose legal duties on the board -- for example, the duty to act with care and the duty to be loyal to the organization -- and ensure that the board does not stand to gain personally from the nonprofit's activities. (These duties are discussed in more detail in Chapter 4.)
In the simplest terms, a corporation -- -whether nonprofit or for-profit -- is a type of business structure. Other types of business structures include sole proprietorships, partnerships, and limited liability companies (LLCs). Some states also recognize associations: groups of individuals who work together for some common goal but haven't taken steps to create a specific legal entity. (Chapter 1 explains the pros and cons of structuring your nonprofit as an unincorporated association.)
The main differences between the various business structures lie in how they handle two important issues: personal liability and taxation.
All corporations -- nonprofit and for-profit alike -- are creatures of state law. Although state laws that govern corporations are, for the most part, similar throughout the nation, there are important differences. For example, states vary on the minimum number of directors required for nonprofit boards, as well as other eligibility rules for directors. And corporate tax laws can vary significantly from state to state.
In addition, corporations created in one state are not automatically qualified to do business in others. If you create your nonprofit corporation in Wisconsin, for example, it is technically a "Wisconsin corporation." Other states will view it as a "foreign corporation" and will generally require you to file paperwork and pay a fee before allowing you to do business within their borders.
If you do not plan to engage in nonprofit activities in other states, then incorporating in your home state alone is probably sufficient, at least in your early days. If, on the other hand, you expect the scope of your activities or services to extend into other states, you should investigate the requirements for operating as a nonprofit corporation in those other states.