Do you have an idea for a new nonprofit business but you’re not sure if it’s a “good” idea! RENOSI can help! My son, Jack, and I are blessed (and sometimes cursed!) with a flood of ideas. We know how hard it is to sort through those ideas to pick out the one to go after. That’s why we’ve put together these tips on how to Get Real with Your Idea!
1. Get feedback.
Don’t take this on alone. Share your ideas with your family, friends, and maybe even the person on the street! Jack bounces his ideas off his fiancé and friends. He’ll toss out an idea and they rank it from 0 to 10 on the good-idea-scale.
2. Take care when you share your idea.
While we suggest that you get feedback, you also need to consider with whom and how you share your idea. Ideas cannot be protected by copyright or trademark. That means your idea may be “stolen” and you can’t get it back. Copyright provides protection for “works” that are written down. For example, articles published on the internet, songs, poetry, movies, and computer software all may be protected by copyright. Trademarks protect a word, phrase, or design that identifies your company or its goods and services. Your idea to create a new product or service cannot be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Sometimes people ask that an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) be signed before they share their ideas. Our partner organization, RENOSI Law, has provided a sample. (Keep in mind, however, that sample documents are for information only. We suggest that you seek out legal help to draft any documents specific to your business).
3. Do the research.
Take the time to “google it.” See if anyone else has started a similar company or organization. Is your idea the same? Or is your idea filling a different niche or client? And while your googling, check out if the business name spinning around in your head is already being used.
4. Consider funding.
Think about how your organization will be funded. Ideas, even for nonprofit organizations, must make a profit, or bring in more money than the cost to operate, to keep them going. You don’t have to develop a detailed budget in the get-real-about-your-idea phase, but having some idea about where the money will come from is important. We also tell our clients that hoping to be supported by foundation grants may be wishful thinking. There are a lot of nonprofits supported by grants. However, grant-funding often relies on relationship building, and relationship building takes time. New organizations without a track record may find grants hard to come by. Foundations often like to fund specific projects, and may be reluctant to provide start-up funds. We find that organizations funded by fees for services have an easier time getting started.
5. Do a gut check.
Is this an idea that you just can’t let go? Do you just feel like your product or service, or organization is needed? Are you willing to put in the work, and time, needed to get your idea off the ground? Few businesses are overnight successes. When I started Parent Booster USA (PBUSA) I had a hunch that parents and other school volunteers needed an easier way to set-up and run school booster clubs. I also knew that my background as an attorney for nonprofit organization made me uniquely qualified to start PBUSA. Today PBUSA has over 4000 members and employs a dozen people. However, it took over 5 years before I paid myself a salary of any kind.
I started my first business when I was in 5th grade. I made a bean bag frog. When I took it to school all the kids on the bus wanted one. So, I went home and with the help of my mom, I started making bean bag frogs every night after school. I think I made $10-15 dollars selling frogs at 50 cents each! However, after helping stitch frogs for a few weeks every night after getting home my mother said we needed to close up shop. This was in 1972, more than 10 years before Ty Warner created the Ty beanie baby. I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t pursue my frog business!
How we can help
RENOSI, Registration for Nonprofits Simplified, helps entrepreneurs set-up nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations. RENOSI then files the annual federal and state paperwork needed to keep your organization in compliance with nonprofit rules.
Do you have an idea for a nonprofit? Apply [LINK] to participate in RENOSI’s new podcast, Get Real with RENOSI. Jack and I talk through and help you decide if your idea is REAListic enough to get it going.
Want to read more about starting a nonprofit? Check out my blogs, Starting a Nonprofit: What Every Founder Should Know and Please Start a Nonprofit.
RENOSI is the leader in helping national organizations set up and manage affiliate chapters. Setting up local, regional and state affiliate chapters is an excellent way to grow your national organization. Managing hundreds and even thousands of chapters, however, is time-consuming and difficult.
Since its inception, RENOSI has provided a simple and stress-free solution to help obtain and maintain tax-exempt status for over 4,500 nonprofits. With the interactive myRENOSI dashboard, our partners can organize their state and federal registrations, allowing our team of experts to help ensure your tax-exempt status is not revoked.