EP13 5 Things a New 501c3 Needs to Do to Protect Themselves
When people have the idea to start a non-profit, they usually know some of the steps, especially if they've had experience in a board role before. We learned a lot when we started Binky Patrol and wanted to help newer non-profits avoid mistakes that could cost them their reputation, sponsors, and ability to grow.
VERIFY you have set up your 501c3 correctly at the federal and state level. Not doing this can cause all sorts of issues if you are not truly a non-profit but have been accepting donations. Have your documentation from both the feds and state handy in a folder on your computer or a shared drive. This includes your articles of incorporation and bylaws.
Register and submit your organization to sites such as GuideStar for credibility. This includes adding them to various directories and other organizations such as the United Way, Benevity, and other foundation sites that work with companies on matching funds. You will need an active website and should have an email with that domain name. You will have to pay for it. Google is the best mail service.
Register your site with TechSoup to get discounts on software and other items to run your organization. It has saved us a ton.
GET A REAL CPA! You need someone familiar with non-profits and compliance. Do your due diligence and check out their reputation, and contact other 501c3s they handle. This will make all the difference. They can help you with the handbook and other items to get started. Protect yourself, your reputation, and that of your great volunteers.
Create a handbook for volunteers that you review regularly. I'm not sure what Binky Patrol would do without our handbook we started our first month.
Bonus items if you are going to have regional locations.
If you will have regional chapters, how do you set them up? HIGHLY recommend not allowing ANYONE to set up a bank account. It all runs through your corporate office. You are accountable for ALL activities of each chapter. One bad apple can ruin your efforts and organization.
How often will you check in with them?
Do they have a central location for press kits, and materials to promote their local chapter?
If you donate to another organization or individuals, check them out to ensure they are what they say they are. Just as your site should have your 501c3 number, financials available upon request, and board members, so should these organizations you partner with or donate to.
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