From Idea & Start-Up to Strong & Sustainable

This guest post is from Rebecca Rogriquez, an expert in helping nonprofit startups. She’s even written the book for nonprofit startups “The Nonprofit Workbook.” You can find out more about Rebecca on her website at: www.forthephilanthropist.com. She also runs the Nonprofit Academy training called “From Start Up to Strong – Setting Expectations for Newly Formed Entities Serving the Greater Common Good.”


by Rebecca Rodgriquez

According to Giving USA, in 2022, Americans gave $499.33 billion to charity, signifying a 3.4% decrease from 2021, when charitable giving was $516.65 billion. This coupled with 1.54 million charitable organizations registered in our country alone is a testament to the collective commitment and effort towards positive social impact.

Yet, within this staggering number of organizations, the majority struggle to raise substantial funds—over a million organizations annually have operating budgets of less than $50,000. What does this data mean? Maybe starting an organization for the greater common good is a hobby for most people and they don’t intend to or care to grow it or effect positive change.

One might conclude that this information underscores the necessity for a structured approach in cultivating a sustainable nonprofit model, if in fact we want positive change. It also might be telling us that better expectations need to be set at the idea stage before one is even allowed to register the entity with a Secretary of State.

How would you interpret this data?

Consultants’ responsibility to the social sector

When the nonprofit is still an idea

As mission driven professionals working in the social sector, especially as consultants, I believe that we have a responsibility to lay aside anything holding us back to speak truth and share the knowledge we have to do our utmost for people who are in the idea or start-up stage of an organization. For those who want to be founders of a 501c organization in the exploration phase pre registering their organization, that may mean challenging them to do a feasibility study or better yet contracting your services to execute one. That could also look like encouraging them to volunteer on a regular basis for organizations similar to one they hope to start to get a first hand view of what is involved.

How many of us have come across a new founder who has absolutely no experience working or volunteering in the social sector? How many times have you been contacted by a new founder/ ED who needs help fundraising and you default to the thought – “oh no, not another one and turn them away?”

For nonprofits that have started up

How do you handle or engage those who ask for help who are in the start-up stage who have already plunged into the deep end, possibly undercapitalized, clueless about logic models or fundraising?

What if in 2024 all or the majority of the 124,000 fundraisers here in the United States were to commit to do whatever they can or at least one thing to start chipping away that number over 1 million to best prepare the want to be founders in that idea stage or those leaders of start-up organizations that just can’t seem to hit that $50k ceiling and give them some tips, setting them up for success?

Strong and stable nonprofits

All organizations demand attention and excellence to the many moving parts to become sustainable, mature, profitable. Nonprofit organizations are not exempt from any of this. In an upcoming session through the Nonprofit Academy, I am going to briefly present a metaphor of four legs on a table signifying

  • leadership,
  • financial sustainability,
  • program effectiveness, and
  • system and processes.

Whatever lifecycle stage an organization finds itself in – this metaphor can serve as a compass, a north star. As professionals who are committed to our sector and to make our world a better place, let’s do something for leaders to best prepare them for their journey ahead. Understanding and fortifying these four pillars form a cornerstone of building strong and hopefully sustainable organizations.

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