How to start a charity with limited resources?
July 25, 2008 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Interested in starting a charity, what now?

After going through a few things in my life, whether it be relationships, attending a university, friends, family, or life in general, I have always wanted to help people.

I'm a young guy who has limited resources and funds thanks to college loans, but there has to be some way for me to help out.

Myself, I am a 23 year old black male who has a degree and a great corporate job. Unfortunately, I have seen so many other just like me who have not had the same success for whatever reason. Well I know of reasons...with so much going on in black america (more in jail than college, crime, media portrayal, racism, etc.) it is hard for us to become successful. I just want to give back and help out as much as I can but I just don't know where to get started.

For those who have or for those who have researched it, what does starting a charity consist of. I keep hearing a lot of paperwork is involved and that's fine. What about funds? References? Anything?

Any help is appreciated! This was helpful but I would like a more personal insight.
posted by jwfree to Human Relations (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Don't underestimate step 3 in the article you linked to. A charity without a well-defined mission has zero chance of being successful. And defining your mission really requires knowing exactly what resources are already in your community. otherwise you will almost certainly be competing with them for a limited pool of resources, possibly with detrimental effects.

Personally I think the first step in starting your own organization is to have spent a lot of time volunteering with and donating to an existing 501(c)(3). Really get to know the ins and outs before you even consider starting your own charitable organization. It's really something you have to learn by doing; no online guide is going to teach you that. Get out there!
posted by bcwinters at 1:33 PM on July 25, 2008

Your question is too general. Youre asking the equivalent of "how do I start a business" when you should be asking "I want to start a take out gyros place on chicago's south side and I only have 10k to do it."

Until you decide what your mission will be, your location, and what you can personally invest then youre really not at a step 1.

I work in NPOs and they're really not that different than a business. If you start one then you'll be the executive director and won't really be helping people except on a high organizational level, which is very, very different from being the frontman at an agency.

Also, any NPO competes with other NPOs for resources. So if you start one based on food then you'll be competing with your local foodbank. Why not go work or volunteer for that already established foodbank? What can you bring to the table that you know, 100% is missing from your community?
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:35 PM on July 25, 2008

Best answer: I don't know about starting a nonprofit - but if your goal is to eventually start one, you might want to start by working at one to see how it's run - fundraising & development, administration, working with volunteers, committees, and a board of directors - and everything else that goes into it.

Here is the IRS's website for charities and nonprofits.
posted by at 1:36 PM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Why do you want to start a new charity instead of contribute to an existing one?
posted by Jacqueline at 2:34 PM on July 25, 2008

You might want to look at a donor-advised fund; the umbrella organization handles all the paperwork and can help you figure out where your money should go. Check out your local community foundation and see what they have available. The California Community Foundation is but one example; most regions will have a similar organization offering these type of services.
posted by mogget at 2:36 PM on July 25, 2008

If you have limited resources, the best way you can help is donating your labor**, your expertise, your ideas, to an existing non-profit you really believe in. You'll learn how NPOs are run (not just technical/legal, but the devil-in-the-details and realpolitik stuff); you'll get a better sense of what the existing, met and unmet needs are in your community, and who the major players are whether civic, religious, private, etc.; and you'll have a shot at networking, cultivating mentors, and establishing trust among community members (including those you wish to help).

In 6-12 months, you'll be in a much stronger position to go forward with your own NPO.

(**"labor" can be literal, or it can mean offering financial consulting services, a "young urban professionals" happy hour to raise funds, etc. The important thing is to get to know one organization you really admire inside and out by creating an ongoing relationship.)
posted by availablelight at 3:25 PM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Unless you're really interested in entrepreneurship and you have a clear vision for what you want to do, I would not recommend starting something yourself. Social entrepreneurship is a lot of work and unless you have the drive to see it through it will fail. If you don't have the drive, better to listen to everyone else here and put your energy towards an existing organization that aligns with your cause.

Good luck either way!
posted by saraswati at 5:26 PM on July 25, 2008

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