Guide To Succeeding In The Nonprofit Sector

There are an estimated 10 million non-governmental organizations around the world. Nonprofit organizations provide essential services that strengthen communities, improve the economy, and help the world in a variety of ways. Nonprofit work is a career path that allows you to make a difference and work with others for the common good. This guide has resources for everything from starting a nonprofit and the best networking platforms to finding volunteers and fundraising.

First Steps

Starting a nonprofit organization can be a great way to help others in need and fight for a cause that you are passionate about. Setting one up can be challenging, and it is crucial to understand all of the components that go into launching a successful nonprofit ahead of time. These resources will help you establish goals, familiarize you with legal requirements, organize a board of directors, and more.

  • Compliance Services From Foundation Group : Foundation Group is made up of dedicated professionals who provide expert information and compliance services to thousands of nonprofits. They are a leader in nonprofit formation, tax, and compliance services and have helped over 20,000 organizations get tax-exempt status. They also help nonprofits anticipate and avoid problems, navigate risk, regulations, and uncertainty.

  • GrantSpace: GrantSpace has a section dedicated to information on starting a nonprofit where you can learn about the characteristic of effective nonprofits and asses your readiness. GrantSpace has live and on-demand training on a variety of topics. They also have courses, a great blog, and sections on proposal writing, fundraising, governance, and management.

  • How to Start a Nonprofit: The National Council of Nonprofits has an incredible page on how to start a nonprofit. The page walks you through questions to ask before starting a nonprofit, filings you will need to complete at the federal and state level, and the standard policies and procedures that your new nonprofit will want to have in place.

  • Incorporating Your Nonprofit: outlines how to get liability protections and tax-exempt status benefits for your qualifying nonprofit organization. Incorporating your nonprofit will set legal protections in place that can keep you and your directors’ assets separate from the company’s liabilities.

  • 12 Step Checklist for Starting A Nonprofit: Snowball has a 12-step checklist on how to start a nonprofit that talks about getting set up, getting official, and getting started. They explain how to define your mission, use online fundraising tools, legally incorporate, write your bylaws, apply for 501(c)(3) status, prepare for growth, and more.

Questions to Ask in the Process

Before you decide to pursue creating a nonprofit organization, there are some things you need to evaluate first.

Rick Cohen, National Council of Nonprofits, “Generally, we strongly, strongly recommend that someone look around to see if another organization is engaged in that work before starting a new nonprofit. That advice is even more important right now with fewer dollars to go around. Starting and running a nonprofit are not easy tasks.

There needs to be a demonstrated need for what the new nonprofit would do and there needs to be a path to financial sustainability for the nonprofit to do the work they intend to do. The last thing any person wants to do is to start a nonprofit, see people in their community rely on that nonprofit, then need to close their doors.”

Once you’ve decided to start a nonprofit, there are a few steps you’ll need to go through in order to ensure your nonprofit succeeds and is able to benefit the community you’re serving.

You may already have questions you’re asking yourself, or maybe you just need more information. We have listed out all of the questions you need to answer during the process of starting your own nonprofit organization.

  1. Is there a demonstrated need in the community for your specific nonprofit?Similar to if this were a for-profit business, you need to make sure there are demand and market for your services. With limited funding available from individual donations and foundation grants, you’re going to want to prove you’re addressing a need. If that need is already being provided by other nonprofit organizations, you may want to consider joining them instead of creating a new one.
  2. What is your plan for financing the nonprofit? While you may get to skip on paying taxes, you’re going to have some operational costs, such as hiring employees and paying for rent. This is where a really strong business plan will come in handy.
  3. How Can You Show the Impact Your Nonprofit Will Have? In order to receive funding from individuals, you may need to show just what kind of impact you’re having on the community. To do so, you need to make the impact measurable. It’s important to plan ahead so from the very beginning develop a measurement system that will allow you to demonstrate the nonprofit’s impact.

  4. Is This the Right Solution for Your Community? Usually, when people set out to start a nonprofit, they’re looking to do some good in their community. But in some cases, it may just be better to consider volunteering or starting a career with an already established organization. However, in other cases, you may decide that starting a nonprofit is not only the right move but is also feasible. And as long as you’re ready to commit your time and resources then it’ll be successful.

The 5 Best Education Resources

Filing for your nonprofit, getting 501(c)(3) status, and getting people on board are just the first few steps. Creating a successful and sustainable startup takes constant dedication and hard work. Below are five incredible educational resources that will help you succeed in this field.

  • Nonprofit Hub: Nonprofit Hub is an online educational community dedicated to giving nonprofits everything they need to better their organizations and communities. They have an incredible blog, free guides, webinars, podcasts, and more.

  • NonProfit Pro: NonProfit Pro is the go-to source for nonprofit management and strategy. They cover topics ranging from human resources and volunteer management to legal matters and raising funds. NonProfit PRO also offers a wide range of tools, including live, full-day conferences, webinars, videos, and more.

  • Society for Nonprofits: Society for Nonprofits is a leading resource for nonprofit professionals. They have been helping nonprofit leaders increase their knowledge and grow their organizations for more than 30 years. Society for Nonprofits has more than 3,000 members looking to stay up to date on the latest nonprofit trends.

  • The Nonprofit Career Coach: : The Nonprofit Career coach provides individuals with specialized career coaching, recruitment, and leadership training. They combine professional development and recruitment for purpose-driven organizations and professionals.

  • The Nonprofit Times: The Nonprofit Times (NPT) reaches more than 36,000 executives in the nonprofit community in print and digital format. Influencers in the nonprofit sector turn to The NPT for news, information, and insight that consistently help them achieve their professional goals. They also have a bi-monthly magazine called EXEMPT devoted to nonprofit financial management.

Top 5 Networking Platforms

Networking can help you grow your nonprofit. Not only does it help you learn about helpful tools and the latest trends, but it also allows you to develop meaningful relationships with others in the field. Networking can also be a great way to meet funders, who can have an immense impact on your organization. If you want even more information, take a look at DipJar’s article, which has seven networking tips for nonprofits. Here are five platforms that will make networking much easier.

  • National Association of Nonprofit Professionals: At NANPP, you can network, elevate your career, share best practices, collaborate, and gain inspiration from a national network of your peers. With membership options for all, they offer leadership development, programs, specialized services, and emergency financial assistance.

  • National Council of Nonprofits: The National Council of Nonprofits has state associations across the country. You can use this directory to find your state’s association of nonprofits and join today. Among many things, members get discounts on products and services, fast and reliable answers to their management and governance questions, the ability to create strategic partnerships, and the ability to learn about all aspects of the nonprofit world.

  • Network After Work: Network After Work is a professional community consisting of Entrepreneurs, Professionals, Executives, and thought leaders who understand the importance of building meaningful connections. Offering both in-person and virtual meetings, Network After Work provides a platform that makes connecting easy. They currently host live events in 86 U.S. locations and are planning to add more both in and out of the U.S.

  • Nonprofit Storytelling Conference: This annual conference creates a space where you will feel nurtured and cared for. The conference focusses on using storytelling to help individuals raise money more efficiently. Attendees dive deep into the world of storytelling and connecting with donors. This year’s conference is focused on how to craft and tell better stories around fundraising, leadership, and communications.

  • Young Nonprofit Professionals Network: YNPN activates emerging leaders by connecting them with resources, people, and ideas. They help individuals acquire the skills and awareness they need to be effective changemakers. YNPN network serves more than 50,000 members and has chapters in 42 cities.

Top 5 Sites for Finding Volunteers

Volunteers are a great resource for nonprofits. A lot of nonprofits rely on volunteers to function. Finding great volunteers who are passionate about your cause can be difficult. To make things a little easier, here are five incredibly helpful sites that will help you find you hard-working, dedicated volunteers.

  • All for Good: All for Good is a digital hub for volunteerism and community engagement. At All for Good, you can register your organization and manage volunteer sign-ups. Their platform also helps individuals host volunteer projects with an organization or on their own.

  • Create the Good: Create the Good has more than 200,000 people in their network. At Create the Good, you can find experienced volunteers to help with your service projects big or small. Best of all, it is easy to join and free.

  • Double the Donations: Double the Donations helps organizations generate the funding that they need. They help you raise money from corporate matching gifts. Double the Donations has a free 14-day trial, easy setup, and the ability to cancel at any time.

  • Idealist: In the last 25 years, Idealist has connected more than 13,000 organizations with tens of millions of people. All you have to do is create an account, add your organization, and post a listing. Nonprofits can post volunteer opportunities for free.

  • VolunteerMatch: VolunteerMatch helps you recruit highly qualified volunteers for your nonprofit. They match you with people who are passionate about and committed to your cause, and who can help when and where you need them. Volunteers are often donors and contribute money in addition to their time.

The 7 Best Sites to Find Employees

Once your nonprofit begins to grow, you may need additional individuals to keep up the momentum and continue to succeed. Here are seven great job sites that will help you find great talent for your nonprofit.

  • B Work: B Work connects jobseekers with meaningful work at companies that are using business as a force for good. Every time you post a job through B Work, you are helping to build a community of purpose-driven job seekers and employers.

  • Careers in Nonprofits: Careers in Nonprofits is an award-winning staffing firm that helps nonprofits hire the candidates of their dreams. They understand the importance of hiring the right employees for your organization the first time around.

  • DRG Search: DRG identifies first-rate talent for organizations working in the nonprofit sector. They have placed more than 1000 talented professionals in senior-level positions for nearly 800 clients nationwide.

  • PND: PND’s job board provides listings of current full-time job openings at tax-exempt organizations. Tax-exempt organizations may submit up to ten postings a month, free of charge.

  • SCION: SCION is an award-winning, full-service executive search firm, direct-hire, and temporary staffing agency that provides clients with extraordinary talent to hire. Their firm was designed to provide their clients with top-notch nonprofit talent. Since 2006, they have successfully staffed over 700 nonprofit organizations, foundations, and educational institutions.

  • Work for Good: Work for Good is one of the first job boards focused exclusively on mission-driven careers. They have helped over 30,000 organizations find the talent they need. They have unparalleled customer service, ongoing support, and exclusive content from industry experts about hiring trends in the industry.

  • Zippia: Zippia lets you concentrate on your nonprofit while they take care of finding you the perfect candidate out of millions of job seekers. Zippia combines artificial intelligence and human expertise to fill positions at a fraction of the time and cost of traditional recruiting tools.

7 Incredible Fundraising Platforms

Running a nonprofit organization is not free. has a great article that outlines nine reasons why fundraising is important for your nonprofit. Below are the top seven fundraising platforms that will help you raise the money that you need to make the change you want to see.

  • CauseVox: CauseVox is an easy-to-use fundraising software. They help run donation pages, crowdfunding, and peer to peer fundraising in less time. They also have blog articles, books, guides, and webinars, where you can learn more about fundraising practices and peer-to-peer fundraising.

  • DAF Direct: DAF Direct is a free, easy-to-install web application that enables your donors to initiate grant recommendations from their donor-advised fund (DAF) directly from your website or online fundraising campaigns.

  • Donate Kindly: Donate Kindly is a free donation tool trusted by thousands of nonprofits. You can start accepting donations for free in less than 15 minutes. It is secure, easy to embed, and designed for donors.

  • Fundly: Fundly is a donations platform that lets you tell your story and connect with donors. Fundly uses peer-to-peer fundraising. Peer-to-peer fundraising relies on the fundraising efforts of the nonprofits’ existing donors. These supporters reach out via social media and email, encouraging their networks to give to the nonprofits’ cause through an online donation page.

  • GoFundMe: GoFundMe is the world’s largest social fundraising platform with hundreds of millions of donors. They have robust tools that allow you to reach more donors and build lasting relationships. GoFundMe has easily tailored pages, emails, and more to fit your charity’s brand.

  • Salsa: Salsa is a technology company that provides powerful fundraising, advocacy, and marketing management software to nonprofit organizations all over the world. Over 3,000 nonprofits globally currently use Salsa.

  • The Fundraising Authority: The Fundraising Authority helps non-profits fund work that matters. They offer counsel on how to raise money for their organizations, regardless of size.

Top 5 Free Marketing Tools

Marketing is important for nonprofit organizations. It allows you to connect with volunteers, donors, and customers. Some nonprofits, particularly newer ones, have limited funds. Luckily there are many free marketing tools out there to help. Below are five free marketing tools that you should know about.

  • Google Ad Grants: Google Ad Grants is an online advertising solution from Google that gives selected nonprofits $10,000 of in-kind advertising every month. They work with more than 20,000 nonprofits across more than 50 countries. Read through this page to see if your nonprofit qualify for Google Ad Grants.

  • Google Analytics: Google Analytics gives you the free tools you need to analyze data for their business. It allows you to get a deeper understanding of your customers. Data in Google Analytics is secure and kept confidential.

  • Hotjar for Nonprofits: Hotjar is a fast and visual way to understand your users. They have heatmaps to visualize user behavior, visitor recordings, conversion funnels to see where your visitors are leaving your site, form analysis, which lets you see how users fill out your forms, feedback polls, surveys, and more. Hotjar offers free business accounts to nonprofits.

  • MailChimp: Mailchimp is an all-in-one marketing platform with everything your nonprofit needs to grow and thrive. They have a free plan which allows you to send up to 10,000 emails per month, among many other things. Their plans are flexible and can grow with your business changes.

  • Salesforce provides customer-relationship management services. They have a Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP). NPSP is the industry-standard app for nonprofits with flexible, open data architecture, pre-built constituent and donor management components, and a huge global community.

5 Amazing Free Tools for Nonprofits

Nonprofits do not have a lot of money to throw around. Finding tools that will not cost your organization additional dollars can be incredibly helpful. Here are five free ones that you should take a look at.

  • Canva: Canva is a graphic design platform that allows users to create social media graphics, presentations, posters, and other visual content. Creating an account is free. You will get access to over 8,000 free templates, over 100 design types, and hundreds of thousands of free photos and graphics.

  • Facebook Social Good: Facebook Social Good fosters a community that cares. You can create a Facebook Page, which gives your nonprofit a voice and Facebook presence. You can then sign up for powerful fundraising tools, post on your page, and grow your following.

  • G Suite for Nonprofits: G Suite for Nonprofits helps your nonprofit collaborate more effectively with smart, secure business apps like Gmail, Docs, Calendar, Drive, and Hangouts Meet. You also get access to G Suite Basic at no charge.

  • Trello: Trello is a free and easy way to manage your projects and organize anything. It is trusted by millions of people around the world and helps your team stay organized and succeed.

  • Wired Impact Volunteer Management: Wired Impact Volunteer Management is a simple, free way to keep track of your nonprofit’s volunteers and opportunities. You can post one-time and flexible volunteer opportunities on your website, get volunteers to sign up directly on your website, and track their participation.

Devon Feuer
Ciera Graham, PhD
Amanda Postma