A couple of weeks ago, I attended a networking mixer sponsored by the Greater Bowie Chamber of Commerce. It was my first mixer and I'm so happy that I attended. I met several fabulous people... and the food was amazing.
Anyhow, I'm still having conversations with some of the the business owners I met that night and one in particular, Daniel (owner of Finally Fit Bootcamp here in Bowie) expressed his interest in tackling the very serious childhood obesity issue. We met at Panera in Bowie Town Center last weekend to talk a little bit about his vision. After he explained his program he asked me, "Is starting a nonprofit the only way I can do this?". I wasn't sure. "I don't think so." I said, "You could possibly partner with another organization that does something similar to what you want to do, but I'll have to look into that a little more."
Well, I've looked into it. Serving the greater good can be accomplished in many ways. And most don't require setting up an IRS approved nonprofit, which can be a complicated task that many people underestimate.
Daniel, here are other ways of applying your passion for a cause:
1. Seek Fiscal Sponsorship. Seek fiscal sponsorship instead of becoming a tax-exempt organization yourself. Fly under the cover of an existing nonprofit so that you can accept donations and apply for grants before being registered as a tax-exempt organization. The Fiscal Sponsor Directory allows you to search by state, service category, or keyword for nonprofit fiscal sponsors. Profiles include eligibility requirements, fees, services, and types of projects supported. The site also provides statistics and resources on fiscal sponsorship. For your particular cause (childhood obesity) you may also want to contact Coalition for a Healthy Maryland. They are a collaboration of Maryland businesses, health clubs, insurers, non-profit associations and individuals determined to improve the health of our State.
2. Volunteer. Volunteer for a nonprofit that is doing something similar to what you have in mind. Consider joining the board, or even taking a job there. Even if you later decide to start your own group, the experience with an existing nonprofit will help you hone your ideas and learn what is realistic rather than just idealistic.
3. Start a Local Chapter of a National Nonprofit. Cut through red tape by starting a local chapter of a national organization. Avoid duplication, yet bring needed services to the community. This is similar to a franchise.
4. Organize an Unincorporated Nonprofit. Put together an unincorporated nonprofit to fulfill your mission without seeking tax-exempt status. The structure of an unincorporated nonprofit can be quite informal. In fact, two consenting individuals supporting the same nonprofit cause can be an unincorporated nonprofit. These are typically called "giving circles". I'll post more information about giving circles shortly.
5. Become a Social Entrepreneur. Become a social entrepreneur by forming a for-profit social venture to accomplish your social goals; or incorporate your program into your existing business with the goal of contributing some or all profits to a charitable cause.
While there are advantages to becoming an IRS approved nonprofit, a traditional nonprofit is not the only business structure that can be set up to do good.
For anyone out there with a passion for a particular cause; whatever you decide to do and however you decide to do it...thank you, for "at this very moment, there are people only you can reach…and differences only you can make." Mike Dooley