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Starting a Nonprofit During the Pandemic?

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Is now the right time for you to start a nonprofit during the coronavirus pandemic?  Or for that matter, should you start a nonprofit at all? You’ve been watching the news and see the impact the coronavirus has been having on your community, the state, the country and the world. Some people have become ill.  Many have lost jobs, their income, the means to support the family.  Businesses have closed.  Maybe some of these situations apply to you or to the people you know and care about.  You so desperately want to help, so you’re wondering, should I start a nonprofit to assist in some way?

I am not going to make that decision for you.  What I will do is present some facts so that you will be able to make the right choice.  I will lead you to some resources that will help you in the decision- making process.  If the answer is yes, I will lead you to some resources that will help you in the startup process.  If you decide starting a nonprofit is not in your best interest, I will also lead you to some resources so that you can possibly help in other ways.

The Independent Sector provides some facts and figures about the nonprofit sector in the United States, including there are “1.6 million 501(c) organizations” in our country.  They include “churches to food banks to cultural centers”.  Does that make you wonder, how are they all supported?

The Library is a Funding Information Network Partner of Candid (, formerly known as Foundation Center and GuideStar.  They’ve provided a lot of great resources to help with this important decision and beyond.   The first place I would recommend you start is with the Nonprofit Assessment Tool provided to us by their efforts.

The organization recommends you take the assessment if you’re thinking about starting one or if you’ve just done so.  If you’ve never gone through the incorporation process, the tool will be helpful.  If you think starting a nonprofit will lead to gaining employment, the tool will also give you some insight.  This assessment will take a while to complete.  There is no fee to take it, but in order to utilize it, you must join grantspace, here.

Grantspace is also a free resource.  When you’ve completed it, if this is the direction you decide to go, it “will provide customized resource to guide your team on identifying funding, navigating the legal process, develop a business plan and launching programs”. Here is the link to Nonprofit Startup Resources.

Follow along down the page to “Resources by Region”.  By state, you will “Find helpful resources for starting a nonprofit such as checklists, nonprofit associations, legal support and government agencies.”

More on-demand training is found at the topic: Starting a Nonprofit.  Try “First Fundraising Strategies for Startup Organizations”.

You’ve taken the assessment and realized starting a nonprofit isn’t right for you.  You still want to help.  What are some alternatives?

Candid suggests you try Guidestar, their database of nonprofits.  This is another free resource and allows you to search by keyword, city or state to see who the nonprofits are in your area.

Another great resource is our 211 directory, the Help Network of Northeast Ohio, which provides a searchable database.  You can use this resource to find organizations that may be able to use your help.

Once you’ve found an organization that shares your values, Candid suggests you contact the leadership at the organization and discuss your thoughts and ideas with them.  There might be an employment or volunteer opportunity for you if the organizational leadership likes your ideas and sees a role for you in the organization.

Another option is fiscal sponsorship.   A nonprofit with 501 (c) 3 status   sharing similar interests may sponsor a project or organization in order for the organization to be able to receive funding to do the project.  Read more about fiscal sponsorship in the article: “What is fiscal sponsorship? How do I find a fiscal sponsor?

In this knowledgebase article from Candid, becoming a consultant is another suggestion.  This would require someone to be knowledgeable about the cause.  The person working as a consultant would be performing contract work for an organization, already supporting your cause.    

I suggest you read this full article, “What are alternatives to starting a nonprofit,” if this is a direction you choose to go. There are also some further websites to look at, linked on this website.

For further insight, I suggest you look at the following The Greater Sum web article, “Five alternatives to creating a new nonprofit,” for more information on this topic.

Sally is the Grant Center Librarian in the Information Services Department at the Main Library.  She enjoys supporting nonprofit organizations and individual scholarship seekers.  Sally can be reached at