I’m frequently asked how to start a faith based, non-profit from scratch. There are so many different details and requirements by city, county, and state that sometimes that is a really hard question to answer. Maybe I’ll write a book someday. For now here are six lessons I have learned from starting a faith based non-profit.
1. It Takes A Village– If you are going to help the broader community than by all means involve the broader community. Grass root programs are still championed as the hometown hero. It really does come down to who you know. If you don’t know the people in your area or you aren’t familiar with other agencies serving your community you need to stop and start some hand shaking. If you aren’t serving your community through a service organization such as the YMCA or Rotary (two very dear to my heart) you need to find something like that to hear the heartbeat of where you want to help. Find ways to be a blessing to your community and don’t always be looking for a handout.
2. Pursue excellence – Don’t apologize for expecting the best. Either you have something worth fighting for or you don’t. If your cause means enough to you to go down this road don’t settle. You must care about something deeply to want to be a change maker. The biggest mistake I see charities make is assuming that mentality of “beggers can’t be choosers.” If you accept crap you will turn out crap. Pursue excellence not snobbery. If you are lacking a skill set or knowledge, learn it as you are moving towards excellence. Expect excellence from yourself, your donations, your facilities, etc. Have the mind set you are business, yes, a non-revenue generating business, but a legitimate business that others need to take seriously.
3. Don’t Cross the Streams– There are A LOT of things wrong with the world. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start but it’s also hard to know where to stop. Know who you are and where you’re headed. Don’t mix missions and purposes. Clearly define your purpose and goals. Write and say your mission everyday so it’s very clear what you can and cannot accomplish within your new organization. Don’t get off track and try to solve all the world’s problems. Focus on your conviction and your strengths.
4. Chase rabbits – Don’t let fear paralyze your decisions to move forward. The path towards starting a faith based organization is very unique for you. It will not always be clear what is priority, what needs to be done first to get up and running. You have limited time and resources and you will waste them. It’s just going to happen. You usually won’t choose the right path but keep moving forward. You may chase a rabbit down a hole only to discover that was the wrong hole for your organization but at least you know where not to go. Don’t give up.
5. Herd The Cats– People will be your biggest resource. Gather the troops. Feed them. Give them more than a t-shirt. Inspire them with vision and purpose. Take each suggestion and criticism and question with as much grace as possible. Add value to their experience in joining in the work with you. You want to hear them use the word “us” instead of “you.”You can take this vision so far, but the actual reality will come with the people you surround yourself with.
6. Pray Without Ceasing- You have the passion and the drive and the dream and that will take you farther than most. But when it gets down to the nitty gritty, and the frustations, and watching the clock keep ticking and the calendar pages keep flipping you will need God to hold you steady. Satan will try to convince you are not good enough, smart enough, or have anything worth offering. He will lie to you and tell you that the people don’t need anything better or worse yet that they don’t even exist. Cover yourself in prayer. Have others specifically praying for you. Pray everyday, every hour, and then give praise where praise is really due. You didn’t do this on your own.
You have much to lose also in taking this step towards starting something on your own. But there are greater rewards in store if you start with a strong mindset, deep conviction, community support, talented people, and a growing skill set to see your vision become reality.
You can hear more about my journey by listening to this interview by Les McKeown
How can I help you move your vision to reality?
What type of non-profit are you dreaming about creating to become a change maker in your community?