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Help Desk FAQ: Resources for New Nonprofits

by Molly O'Connell

If you’ve started a nonprofit and are now overwhelmed, you’re not alone. It can be difficult to know where to start, and may feel hard to keep the passion that inspired the creation of the organization alive. Here are some suggested early steps along with resources that are especially relevant to new, small organizations.

Illustration of a Silhouette of a road sign pointing in four different directions.

Know What’s Required

MANP’s Guiding Principles + Practices for Nonprofit Excellence outlines required and recommended practices across eleven areas of nonprofit management. You might open it and then slam it shut because it’s too much, too soon. Resist that urge! Instead put on blinders and focus just on the required areas for now.

As you build capacity, the rest of the guide can give you a road map of what to work toward. Note that there is version of the guide in the format of a self-assessment, as well as a companion “Basic Infrastructure Checklist.”

The IRS also has a website focused specifically on educating exempt organizations about what’s required and prohibited. Videos cover a wide range of topics, from Form 990 to the rules around political involvement.

Educate Your Board

All Hands on Board: The Board of Directors in an All-Volunteer Organization is a great primer on the responsibilities of these types of boards, and includes a checklist so you can self-assess and easily identify areas that need attention.

Manage Your Money

Financial oversight is a critical responsibility of boards of all sizes, but many financial management guides and trainings can feel way over the heads of new board members. These articles break down the basics of establishing good stewardship of the organization’s money.

Make a Plan

Where are you going and how will you get there? Your mission and vision are beacons, but you’ll need a road map as well.

  • MANP has compiled a range of resources on business planning that will walk you through a process.
  • Independent Sector’s “Charting Impact” resources also provide a helpful framework, breaking down the questions an organization needs to answer along with related resources.

Leverage Pro Bono Support

Your board members don’t need to do it all. Consider whether a skilled volunteer outside of your board might be able to take on a defined role. Check out our previous post on finding and making the most of skilled volunteers.

Build Your Network

We all need yodas to guide us along the way. Use MANP’s member directory or list of networks and coalitions to find other organizations in your area, or with similar missions. Start by just inviting someone out for coffee!

Keep Learning

Financial resources are precious for all organizations and especially new, small nonprofits, but that needn’t be a barrier to seeking training.

Share What You Learn!

This is by no means a comprehensive list. Are you a relatively new nonprofit? What articles, tools, trainings, etc. have been most useful to your organization? Add them to the comments to help others on their path.

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