In search of the elusive nonprofit: Part II
Something takes over your brain when you decide to start a nonprofit. Whatever gland is responsible for creating to-do lists goes into overdrive and all the parts that work in synchronous harmony to let you sleep soundly decide to take a semi-permanent vacation. Unless you’ve got a degree in it, have done it before, have a team of unbelievably motivated people or have an enviable chunk of money to pay people to take care of all the details, starting a nonprofit from the ground up is kinda intense – I sort of wonder how we have so many of them. Then I wonder if I’m doing something wrong. Then I try and figure out what that could be and how to do it better. Rinse. Repeat. Hence the lack of sleep.
In retrospect, I think I was delightfully and naively unaware of just how much effort that undertaking would require. And so whether by luck or fate or generally good juju, I ended up in a pretty sweet situation: I got a fiscal sponsor. And not just any fiscal sponsor, but a great one with a robust network and a wonderful mission and a super kind and supportive staff. So, within a matter of weeks I went from trying to figure out -how we could keep track of class registration online, what liability expenses would look like, how the money management system would work, if a membership model was a good idea, why I thought this was a good idea in the first place- to being able to focus on the fun parts: curriculum development and marketing. The Homestead Atlanta, cultivated by Georgia Organics. Straight up magic.
So…if you’re at that phase where you have an idea of how to help the community and you are just burning to make it happen but don’t have one of those money/staff/experience/masochistic workaholic streak situations at your disposal, I highly recommend incubating your little nonprofit baby with an established nonprofit. It’s a great way to get off the ground and learn the ropes at the same time. Plus, it gives you the safety net you need to explore what works and what doesn’t to make your idea flourish in your community. It’s not a free pass, of course – in a successful fiscal sponsorship arrangement, you give back to the organization sponsoring you in ways more significant than a financial percentage. The Homestead Atlanta, for example, offers a big boost in membership benefits to existing Georgia Organics members and brings in additional members through our discount pricing structure. So when you’re getting all your ducks in a row to chat with likeminded non-profits with missions similar to yours for a potential fiscal sponsorship arrangement, be sure to think about what you can do for them.
That’s not to say this thing isn’t still an unbelievable amount of hard work – it is – but now I sort of wonder what I was on that made me think I could START a nonprofit from nothing in the timeframe I had laid out for myself. Plus, I get the unique joy of working backward into the hard parts from the fun ones – creating course content and networking with amazing local groups makes learning about online membership management technology and liability insurance much more palatable.
So now it’s a matter of continuing to get the word out and reach different demographics within the city. Soon, if I would like for this to be able to be a full time job that pays a living wage (still balancing this with a mostly full-time copywriting gig), I’ll need to explore funding possibilities. Plus this thing needs a dedicated space for REAL. All the donated locations have been wonderful, and we’ll probably be continuing our satellite location plan for quite some time given our shoestring budget, but next stop on the dream train is a center for The Homestead Atlanta to call home. More updates from further down the line to come!
If you have any questions about The Homestead Atlanta or are curious about my random personal take on the crazy trip of non-profit creation, feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org