Starting a non-profit organization is a great way to give back to your community. Whether it’s something big or small, you can contribute to a great cause you think needs a helping hand. Starting a non-profit organization does take a little research, however. Consider these few items on your check-list, before you’re out there pounding the pavement.

First Steps

Before you finalize your plans, it's a good idea to do plenty of research. Is there a real need in the community you plan to serve? What kind of population will you focus on? For example, if you plan on giving scholarships, will you focus on new immigrants, older returning students, or a different group? If several other non-profits and foundations already serve that population, who is being underserved? Make sure your idea fills a need.

Legal Questions

Determine whether the goals of your organization fit the requirements of a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Consulting a lawyer to help you with the paperwork is never a bad idea. A lawyer may also advise you on the regulations and limitations of the foundation and help you draft procedures. You don’t want to run the risk of incorrect taxes each April.

Your Business Plan

Even though your organization will not make a profit, it's a real business. Questions of marketing, employee salaries, and budgeting are all relevant. When you're writing your business plan, be sure to keep your organization's ultimate goals in mind. This plan should include a budget, a plan for marketing, and a realistic analysis of your non-profit's strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and opportunities.

Your Office Space

Will you need a physical office space or will you be working from home? In the beginning, a home base usually makes more financial sense. You can still organize volunteers and seek out grants right from your living room. You may also want to look into tools like Davinci virtual office solutions, to gain some instant credibility. Davinci virtual office solutions allow you to rent an office address in nearly all major cities in the US. When it comes down to asking for donations and volunteer service, you may gain more trust with an office location, rather than your apartment address in the suburbs.

Starting a non-profit organization is a great way to give back to your town and community. By keeping these steps and questions in mind, you’ll be on your way from fostering an idea to getting out there and helping the people.