Launching and managing a successful nonprofit organization requires specialized expertise in program evaluation, administration, and fundraising. The Barry University Master of Public Administration (MPA) with a specialization in Nonprofit Administration online program provides the foundation to start or lead a nonprofit. Through targeted courses like Nonprofit Administration and Nonprofit Program Evaluation, the program equips students with the knowledge needed to establish, operate, and sustain an impactful nonprofit.

Students learn best practices for fundraising, reporting, creating an organizational vision, ensuring efficiency and effectiveness, and assembling an effective board of trustees. For those dedicated to doing transformative work in the nonprofit sector, Barry University supplies the robust training and skills to bring a nonprofit from conception to fruition. Below are some key considerations and competencies for effectively starting and administering a nonprofit.

What Is a Nonprofit Organization?

A nonprofit is a type of entity that does not earn profits for its owners and does not pay taxes to the government. Unlike a for-profit business, a nonprofit uses surplus revenues to further its social cause rather than distributing profits to shareholders or owners. Nonprofits provide free or low-cost services that aim to improve the lives of people and communities. Common services include combatting hunger with food banks and soup kitchens, providing healthcare, offering legal aid, advocating for social reforms, and organizing disaster relief.

Nonprofits are funded through donations, grants, and other charitable giving. Nonprofits can operate in a many sectors like arts and culture, environmental advocacy, homelessness, education, and healthcare. By mobilizing volunteers and communities to address societal needs, nonprofits provide vital programs and resources for underserved populations.

Establishing and Developing a Nonprofit Organization

Nonprofit organizations are not easy to conceptualize, build, and lead. The following are steps nonprofit professionals must follow to see their nonprofit organizations succeed.

Research and planning: The first critical steps in establishing a nonprofit involve extensive research and planning. You must assess the feasibility and need for your organization’s mission by evaluating available financial resources, volunteer and staffing capacity, community enthusiasm, economic conditions, and your own ability to commit. Comparing your mission against existing organizations will reveal if there is a genuinely unmet need to justify founding a new nonprofit.

Foundation building: Once you determine starting a nonprofit is viable and needed, the foundation-building begins. Choose an impactful name aligned with your cause. Recruit board members with diverse financial, legal, and industry expertise. Draft clear statements of your values, mission, and organizational purpose that communicate your raison d’être and will compel people to join your cause in a variety of capacities.

Organize your tax documents: The next phase tackles formal business registration and tax filings. Submit articles of incorporation through your state’s business filing office to become legally recognized. Apply for federal tax-exempt 501©(3) status by filing IRS Form 1023/1023EZ. This establishes your nonprofit as a charitable entity. You must also get an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS for tax and banking purposes.

Develop the organization: With legalities addressed, the next step is developing the organization. A top priority is creating a robust financial development plan. This entails budgeting for startup and first-year costs, identifying income sources like grants and donations, and outlining specific fundraising strategies and targets. Many nonprofits fail because of improper planning at this stage.

Build your board: Assembling a strong board provides guidance on strategy, finances, operations, and governance. Recruit members with diverse community connections, skillsets, and perspectives. Hire key staff, including an executive director, program managers, and administrative support. Secure office space and equipment, or use a remote workforce and digital tools. Design program resources and materials and launch marketing and outreach campaigns to promote your nonprofit, network, and set the stage for further development of organizational capacity.

Prioritize strategy: As the nonprofit matures, ongoing strategic planning becomes critical for continued growth and sustainability. The leadership team and board must steer the evolution of programs and services to respond to changing community needs and opportunities. They must also evaluate when existing programs have achieved their purpose and can be sunsetted to free up resources for new initiatives.

Staffing plans may need adjustment to add key roles for expanding operations or fill new competency gaps. Budgets and fundraising plans should align with strategic goals and be adjusted yearly. Investing in developing staff skills and improving organizational systems, processes, and tools enhances efficiency.

Follow financial management practices: To enable ongoing innovation and impact, the nonprofit must institutionalize strong financial management, governance, and leadership succession planning. Maintaining adequate reserves, managing costs, and diversifying funding sources promotes fiscal durability. The board must oversee finances, executive performance, ethics, and legal compliance. Leadership training is essential for nonprofits as it prepares future executives to smoothly take the reins when current leaders move on or retire.

With dedicated strategic planning, prudent fiscal policies and mission-driven decision-making, a maturing nonprofit can continue doing transformative work for its community for decades. The seed of an idea can blossom into an enduring organization with widespread impact.

The Role of the Board of Directors or Trustees

Legally required in most states, the board oversees finances, governance, fundraising, and strategy. It outlines expectations for member commitment and benefits. The board is particularly invaluable for stewarding donations, maintaining public trust, and providing expertise to management. At a minimum, the board should include a president, treasurer, and secretary, but the average board is around 15 members.

Recruiting board members who are passionate, capable, and influential in the community is key. With a diverse, experienced board guiding the organization, the nonprofit can fulfill its mission with oversight and accountability.

Prepare for the Rewards and Challenges of Starting and Running a Nonprofit

Launching and sustaining a successful nonprofit requires specific competencies and diligent management at every stage. Barry University’s online MPA specializing in Nonprofit Administration thoroughly prepares students for the multifaceted demands of nonprofit administration. Through comprehensive training in financial management, leadership, organizational behavior, and program evaluation, students gain expertise in nonprofits’ unique opportunities and challenges. Whether spearheading a new nonprofit startup, managing daily operations, or guiding strategic growth, graduates are prepared with the knowledge and skills to effectively advance mission-driven organizations.

Learn more about Barry University’s online MPA with a specialization in Nonprofit Administration program.