Starting a Nonprofit Organization Checklist

Starting a Nonprofit Organization Checklist

Before starting any enterprise or project, whether a traditional for-profit business or a nonprofit, it’s always essential to have a helpful checklist to help one organize thoughts, tasks, inputs, and focus. Starting, operating, and growing a nonprofit organization can be a gratifying, highly rewarding endeavor for all involved, including the recipients of the nonprofit’s work. Creating, establishing, and operating a nonprofit organization requires careful planning and organization at every step.

To ensure your success, reduce obstacles, and avoid costly mistakes, we’ve created this free starting a nonprofit organization checklist PDF for any nonprofit to adapt, implement, and guide the process easier, more comprehensively, and faster.

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A step-by-step guide to starting a nonprofit checklist

To ensure legal compliance and operational efficiency, here are just a few of the essential things to include in your nonprofit checklist template:

Conduct a needs assessment

Who are you serving? Who are the “consumers” or recipients of your nonprofit organization’s output or “deliverables?” What are their shared needs or concerns? Who are all your constituents?

For example, your non-profit could serve disadvantaged youth, poor women, crime victims, or just about any community or group that could benefit from your nonprofit organization’s activities, leadership, mentorships, donations, etc. This is another crucial element to include in a comprehensive nonprofit operations checklist.

Name your organization

Naming a child, a pet, a boat, a product, a company, or a nonprofit is always fun, essential, and sometimes challenging. Choosing something memorable, impactful, and catchy that helps define your mission, culture, or unique value proposition is another building block or essential element of your nonprofit checklist tasks. A name defines every entity and is your “brand,” so put some thought and time into completing this task. 

And, in these days of global corporations and scarce unique names and availability, it’s vital to research, trademark, register, etc., a name to ensure that your nonprofit’s chosen name is available, registered, and protected.

Draft bylaws

Bylaws are the rules or regulations governing the internal operations of nonprofits or for-profit businesses. Simply put, they are the operating manual of your nonprofit. Many states require bylaws, and some do not. Even if they’re not legally required, they are always highly advisable.

Bylaws should define procedures, elections, member’s roles, how to conduct meetings, grants distribution, conflict resolution, and more.

Apply for an EIN

An EIN is an acronym for Employer Identification Number and is assigned to the nonprofit by the IRS.

A nonprofit must file via email, fax, or mail to obtain an EIN. The nonprofit submits a Form SSF-4PDFG to the IRS, and the IRS generates the EIN.

Create a budget

Non-profit and for-profit organizations must create, set, and implement operating budgets to fund all the various tasks and liabilities that every organization requires.

Proper and accurate budgeting can always be challenging, even for experienced businesspeople. One must project current and future operating costs, potential or surprise costs, and possibly increases in inputs, labor, or other overhead costs–rents, taxes, legal, upkeep, etc. Working with other accounting, business operations, legal professionals, etc., can help create the best budgets.

Secure necessary insurance coverage

In the current business and nonprofit climate, one must ensure that the organization possesses all types of coverage, and those can include the following types of insurance: property, cyber, umbrella insurance, fiduciary, professional indemnity, errors and omissions coverage, and more.

Consult trusted professionals, including licensed commercial insurance brokers, attorneys, accountants, and others, when evaluating what types of insurance the nonprofit may need and at what levels. Insurance must be included on your nonprofit operations checklist and template.

Hold kickoff board meeting

Convene the first board meeting, establish a solid rapport with all stakeholders, finetune your processes, and discuss and approve essential matters.

If members need to become more familiar with best practices, consider developing helpful resources, assigning articles, and onboarding all members consistently prior to the inaugural meeting.

Comply with employment laws 

Compliance with state and federal labor laws ensures a safe, inclusive, productive, and compliant nonprofit and operations.

Compliance may require the input or need of a full-time HR professional, consultation with attorneys, etc. Consider creating written policies and guidelines to help the nonprofit operate legally and avoid violations, and ensure that this consideration is one of the punches you make to your nonprofit checklist.

Build a website and claim social media platforms

While traditional media such as broadcast and cable TV, radio, print, and outdoor advertising are still powerful methods of reaching donors, building awareness, and building demand, digital and mobile platforms dominate when it comes to attracting donors, creating awareness, and developing a “brand.”

Build a mobile-friendly website that helps define, convey, and amplify your nonprofit’s efforts, tells your story, and attracts new users, donors, and advocates. Additionally, harness the immense power of social media platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, X, and more, to attract support for your nonprofit’s mission, expand your donor base, and ensure that your organization stands out in a crowded, diluted, and noisy marketplace of ideas and causes.

Also read:Optimizing Donor Outreach: 5 Best Practices for Nonprofits

Why do you need a nonprofit checklist?

Hopefully, after reading the previous paragraphs and digesting this information, any reader involved in launching and operating a successful nonprofit will see the need for organization, documentation, and communications and how our helpful checklist template for starting a nonprofit can aid in this process.

Operating a nonprofit may require additional tools, resources, labor, and, most importantly, software. These tools include adapting and integrating CRM software options to help a nonprofit organize, scale, operate, and thrive.

Also read: Membership Management Software Guide

What’s next?

Finally, explore some of the best options for selecting fantastic CRM software, including offerings from Salesforce, HubSpot, Asana, and more that help organize and empower any nonprofit, its staff, and its partners to run a seamless, integrated, compliant, and efficient organization that can meet and surpass its goals and deliver maximum results. This article and checklist can definitely help you get organized and prioritize your tasks, but a more long-term and comprehensive solution will most likely include the adaptation of an integrated CRM tool. Check out our full CRM Software Buyer’s Guide to guide you through the maze of options. We did the heavy lifting for you.

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Yes, registering your nonprofit with the state is essential for legal recognition and operation.

Obtaining 501(c)(3) status is crucial for tax-exempt benefits, but not all nonprofits may qualify or need to apply.

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