I love a chance to get to know someone over coffee. And it happens frequently that people new to the nonprofit world reach out to me hoping to “pick my brain.” I don’t mind.

In many cases, individuals are considering (or are in the early stages of) starting a nonprofit. While the missions differ greatly, there is one common thread between these go-getters: they all have a passion to do good.

That’s great. But in most cases, I try to talk the individual out of being a nonprofit.

Why, you ask? Why would you want there to be less good in the world? You monster!!

Well, here’s the deal. I believe you can do good without being a nonprofit. In many cases, people think the only way they can do good is to have that coveted 501(c)3. That’s just not the case. And if you think having a 501(c)3 is a blessing, think again. It’s a lot harder than it appears.

If you are considering starting a new nonprofit, consider these few questions first:

  1. Is there another organization serving the same mission? (Not sure? Google it.) Are they doing a good job at it? Could they do a better job if you provided them support instead of starting something new and actually competing with them?
  2. Are you hoping to get grant funds? If so, are you absolutely positive there are grant funds available for the mission you have in mind. And, what do you plan to do when the funders decide that your mission isn’t as interesting to them anymore? Do you have plan for diversified funding sources now and in the future?
  3. Could you possibly form a business that just happens to do good by giving back to the community? There are lots of examples. Check out http://www.bcorporation.net/ for some. But you don’t even need to be a B Corp to do good. Give a portion of your earnings to existing charities. Give your employees time off to volunteer. Provide free or reduced cost services. You don’t have to be a nonprofit to do any of this.

If you still think you have an amazing idea for a nonprofit, buy me coffee and let’s chat! I can’t promise that I still won’t try to talk you out of it.