OwnTrail | Blog

Things I Learned As a Startup Nonprofit Founder

When I started my nonprofit #WomxnCrush Music almost five years ago, all I had was a mission, a vision, and motivation to spread the word about us to anyone who would listen. All of that ambition combined with networking, propelled the organization into a nationwide movement within its first year of programming.

The rapid growth of our community forced me to learn a lot but here are the top three things I wish someone would have reminded me of when I was first getting started:

  1. A nonprofit is still a business – and you still need a business plan.
    As an inexperienced and mission-driven founder, it was very easy for me to lead this organization with my heart and just focus on creating programming for the community. And while that got us going, it wasn’t enough to help us grow. Up until our second year, I had never put together a strategic plan for fundraising or programming. These are crucial parts to building the foundation of an organization that will hinder sustainable growth. Investing in the time to put these together before launching any major initiatives will be beneficial.

  2. Great volunteers exist but turnover is inevitable.
    I’ve been very lucky to have worked with some incredible volunteers over the last few years – and as a 100% volunteer run organization – our programming majorly depends on them. But as volunteers, while they may be passionate about the mission and are doing great work, their bandwidth is limited and if they have other things changing in their personal and professional lives, so may the time they have to commit to their volunteer responsibilities. When you’re planning out your programming, make a plan for how often you’ll onboard volunteers and have clear descriptions of each role – this will help you in the long run!

  3. Asking for support is part of being a founder.
    No one can do this alone. Be transparent with your community about the kind of support you need and the people you serve and the people who support the mission will help you! If you need ideas for programming, ask! If you need introductions to future sponsors or donors, ask! You started a nonprofit to be able to help people and you will be able to help more people if you’re able to get the resources you need. Having a reliable board, joining groups for nonprofit professionals and engaging on social platforms to connect with other trailblazers (like OwnTrail) are good ways to start!

There’s so much more to running a nonprofit than just these points, and if you’d like to know more about the ins and outs of how to get started (and how to keep it going), join us for a special Trailblazer Talk on December 7th at 12PM PST. I’ll be joined by Women in Voice’s Dr. Joan Palmiter Bajorek, Poonam Rahman (CEO of Virtue Mental and Shattering Bias in S.T.E.A.M), and Stefanie Monge.