Almost weekly, I get asked in one form or another how to start a nonprofit organization. There are certainly things I can share to do but I also try to share what I’ve learned, especially in regards to what I THOUGHT nonprofit work was and what it ACTUALLY is. When I was starting Transforming Hope, I wanted to learn from others’ mistakes as well as their successes. In an effort to help any mompreneurs who might be thinking of starting a nonprofit or if you’re just interested in how it really works, I’ve shared some of the myths I believed about nonprofit work before I really got started:
- Myth: Nonprofit work consists of doing all the things I love and only those things. In reality, I get to do very little of the things I love about fighting human trafficking. Most of my time is spent managing the administrative side of nonprofit work, or meeting with potential community connections, or developing a new program. I would love to spend more work time with moms struggling to make ends meet while worrying about the vulnerability of their daughters. I’d love to spend more time educating and empowering others to mobilize and end human trafficking in our lifetime. I find ways to make these things happen but not nearly as often as I would like to or thought I would be able to when I started Transforming Hope in 2010.
- Myth: Fundraising will be easy because the cause is compelling and people will give automatically. The truth is that fundraising is about as easy as it is to sell goods and services for for-profit small business owners. It is something I am still learning and as I learn more, I find that I want to ask for money less and less. I want others to join me, to fight with me, to speak up for the widow and orphan, seek justice for the oppressed, and give because they believe in what we’re all fighting for. But this takes time. It doesn’t happen automatically or easily. It is a process, like just about everything else in nonprofit work.
- Myth: It will only take a short time to gain exposure like that of mainstream speakers and world changers. I remember about two and half years into running Transforming Hope, I got really discouraged. I felt like things should be moving faster than they were. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong and why Transforming Hope hadn’t gained more attention from the public and I felt that I was at fault. I must be doing something very wrong. Then I heard Christine Caine share her age and how she had been in ministry over 20 years. I learned that Nancy Alcorn started Mercy Ministries when she was my age and I realized that Lysa TerKeurst has been leading Proverbs 31 Ministries for a very long time. Suddenly, I realized I just needed to give myself more time. Keep working, keep moving forward but be patient with the process. That is how you sustain nonprofit work for the long haul. I also learned that not getting to their level doesn’t also mean that I failed. Transforming Hope’s impact may appear small to the world while our partnership means the world to a small community in North Carolina.
Here’s a bonus myth: nonprofit workers cannot do it alone. Since nonprofit work is always a community effort, I’ve asked some fellow nonprofit leaders to share myths that they have heard or believed themselves. Their blog posts are coming up later this month so stay tuned!
Have a nonprofit or thinking of starting a nonprofit in the Raleigh area? We have two events coming up. Connect by joining us May 3rd. (Save the date for the second event June 9th. Information to come.)
Watch us on Instagram @VendRaleigh in April as we feature local nonprofits by photography from our Vend Raleigh Professional Photographers group.