How to Start a Non Profit Religious Organization

by Sam Kessler

A social entrepreneur who is trying to develop a faith-based organization should realize that starting a nonprofit group requires similar tools and mindset as one would use when developing a business venture. It requires a business plan to develop the vision of the organizational structure, a mission statement and goals to add focus to the initiative, a marketing plan geared toward promoting the organization, a membership program plan that helps build and retain new and existing members, a financial plan that is able to sustain the livelihood of project costs and the creation of the board of directors who will play an advisory role to the staff as well as dealing with any legal and structural issues that may affect the organization.

Instructions

Decide the religious identity and denomination of the organization. This will help add focus to your membership and marketing programs once this has been established. Examine the general rules and bylaws of the organization, articles of incorporation, representation and lobbying history of the denomination that is being considered prior to making the final decision. Comparing these items will enable the organization's founders to know if the denomination's mission, goals and agenda correlate with each other.

Write a mission statement and a set of goals. For example, the organization will have to decide whether it wants to concentrate on having its programs benefit the local community or if it aims to focus on the national or international scene. The decision that is made will be included in all the legal documents that will be filed for documentation and tax-exempt status.

Form a board of directors to play an advisory role as well as dealing with legal and structural issues that might affect the organization such as the bylaws, rules, articles of incorporation and setting up organizational protocol. Pick certain key individuals to be on the board of directors based on special skills, connections and desired qualities. Identify qualified individuals who support the organization's mission and who are willing to spend their time and talents to the growth and success of the nonprofit. For example, an ideal board of directors would consist of a lawyer, banker, accountant, religious leader, political leader and an activist.

Develop a business plan and budget in order to determine how much money it will cost to get the nonprofit fully functional in its first year of operations. Determine in a financial plan where the money will come from, including whether it's from donations, fundraisers or grants.

Create a record-keeping system and accounting system because nonprofits are legally obligated to save and file all organizational documents and financial data to the U.S. government and Internal Revenue Service. This will help provide proof that a system of controls exists as well as proof of financial and legal management.

File paperwork to the jurisdiction that you want your organization to be incorporated in. This includes paperwork for obtaining a federal employer identification number, a 501(c)(3) status for tax exemption from the Internal Revenue Service, and a state and local tax exemption from the state and local department of revenue.

Start a promotional campaign to get the word out on the street about the religious nonprofit. Write a press release and send it to the media and interested businesses, schools and organizations. Check to see whether other potential nonprofits and civil society organizations could join up with your organization on collaborative initiatives.

Items you will need

  • Business plan

Tip

  • Purchase liability insurance for the board of directors in order to protect the members' personal assets in case of a lawsuit.

About the Author

Sam has been writing professionally since 2003. He has worked in the international relations and banking/investment industries. Sam is a writing consultant for entrepreneurs, business executives, professionals and artists/writers. He consults and does freelance writing for NGOs and governments at the United Nations, and spearheads two publications called "Business Security Observer" and "Global Times Review." He holds a Bachelor of Arts in international studies.

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