Thinking About Creating a Non-Profit? Some Tips for Success

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We sat down with Nina Jean Elsas, Curator of The Patch Works Art & History Center, to gather some tips on creating a non-profit. Enjoy!

1. What inspired you to apply to be a non-profit?

The reason we wanted to start a nonprofit is because we wanted people to think about the past and excite them in learning about the rich history in which we live, specifically in our community of Cabbagetown, Atlanta. We want to create a flagship and a movement across Atlanta where communities can open their very own art and history center to preserve their past and share their stories to new and existing audiences. Our mission fits best into charitable support, educational, and a community building tier rather then a for-profit tier, like retailing or selling.

2. From idea to being legally established, how long did it take?

We were legally established in 2016 by the State of GA, but applying for our 501(c)3 took a couple of years because we had issues with sustaining our board and other personal hurdles. Obtaining our 501(c)3 was rather quick once we applied, about a month.

3. What do you wish you had done differently in the process?

We did do some things backwards. We started our business before creating our board, writing and submitting our Bylaws, and applying for our state EIN and Federal tax ID. We would suggest establishing a solid board first and submitting the necessary paperwork. While all of that is in the process, find the space in which to open the nonprofit. For our situation, we felt that if we didn’t open as soon as possible, our mission would not have worked. We had to get in front of the gentrification wave since our goal is to preserve, sustain, and maintain the historical relevance of our community. We also had the rare opportunity of finding a space for our organization that we could not refuse.

4. What were a couple things you learned that you didn’t expect during the process?

We learned that boards fall apart. It is really important to find people that will support the mission, share the same type of values, be creative, and market the cause. The board needs to be as active as the nonprofit. We also learned that there are great people out there who are willing to help. For us these people were neighbors, relatives, and business partners – someone always knows someone else who can be a resource. You will be surprised that once you start actively introducing yourself, attending neighborhood meetings and functions, going to meet-ups, etc, that you are already marketing and branding yourself. People will hear your company’s name over and over again. Never stop talking, never go silent.

5. For someone else looking to create a non-profit entity, what resources would you recommend?

RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH. The bones of creating a nonprofit are the same, but your mission may differ. So research different Bylaws, lawyers to review your Bylaws, learn about fiscal agents and if you need one. Listen to nonprofit podcasts. Attend grant writing webinars. Visit the IRS website. There is so much on the internet, so articles like this one are good places to start:

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/form-nonprofit-eight-steps-29484.html
https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/tools-resources/how-start-nonprofit
https://nonprofitally.com/podcast/
https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/tax-exempt-organization-search

What’s Next?

Did you:

  • Have follow-up questions?
  • Have other related thoughts that might be beneficial to the community?

Post them in the comments!

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