Connections for Success



Starting Your Own Not-For-Profit
Alison Fetzer

So you decided that 2014 is going to be the year you finally make your dream of starting your very own not-for-profit organization a reality.  Now what?  Here are a few important steps to get your not-for-profit started.

Craft Your Mission Statement

Before you start your not-for-profit organization you need to define its purpose.  Your mission will act as the compass that guides the organization.  Who are you trying to help?  Why do they need your help?  How will your organization help them?  While your mission should continue to grow and evolve with your organization, it is important that you and your staff have a solid understanding of what this not-for-profit is going to do today.

Recruit Your Leadership Team

For any not-for-profit organization to be successful you must surround yourself with a diverse group of individuals who will challenge you and be able to provide guidance in a variety of areas.  This leadership team will often come in the form of the organization’s Board of Directors and executive staff.  The key business roles that should be filled are:

  • Executive Director – This is likely going to be you.  The executive director will spread the mission and act as the spokesperson for your organization;
  • Chief Financial Officer – The CFO will make sure the organization is in a financial position to achieve its goals.  Often, new organizations are so caught up in fulfilling the mission that they do not pay enough attention to their financial and reporting obligations;
  • Development Officer – All organizations need money to survive.  Your development officer is going to be that person, hitting the pavement to find grants, donors, fundraising opportunities, etc.  Just remember, not all funding opportunities are created equal.  Set up a gift acceptance policy and review it with your development officer before they take on their mission; and
  • Board of Directors – Some of the people above may serve on your board.  Remember to gather a group of independent individuals who have the time and energy to devote to the organization.

Create a Plan

You have your organization’s mission and your people.  Now, you need to map out what the organization needs to do to get off the ground.  Create a budget, find a headquarters, look into funding opportunities, research pertinent laws and regulations surrounding your intended industry, create a handbook with policies and procedures, and craft your strategy for executing your mission.  Make sure the plan is detailed and realistic.

Start the Paperwork

Now that your plan is in place, you are ready to start the paperwork.  There are a number of forms that you will need to file to make this dream a reality.  See the Charitable Organization Checklist located on the Illinois CPA Society’s website ( for a detailed listing.  Some highlights include filing your articles of incorporation and bylaws with the secretary of state, filing for a Federal Employer Identification Number, registering with the attorney general’s office,  and getting set up to pay all required payroll taxes.

Call Your Accountant

We are here to answer your questions and act as a resource as you embark on this journey.

If you have more questions about the steps to take to start your own not-for-profit organization, please contact Ali Fetzer at [email protected] or call her at 312.670.7444.

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