Lessons Learned from Starting a Nonprofit in 2015

This article originally ran in our Nonprofit Hub Magazine, a free bi-monthly magazine dedicated to providing focused content on a particular topic.

In our March/April 2015 edition, we explored how to make the most of National Volunteer Month. To reserve your free copy of our next issue, sign up today

This article is also part of a series. Check out an expansion of each topic by clicking the title of each main point.


Starting a nonprofit can be a tricky task to accomplish. We’ve been running Nonprofit Hub as its own NPO over the years, but last year we decided to expand our mission by opening a collaborative nonprofit coworking space in our HQ town of Lincoln, NE.

Essentially, we started a new nonprofit. We opened our doors in January of this year, so here’s what I learned from starting a nonprofit in 2015.

1. Have a Clear Vision

People in your community will ask what you’re planning to do, so you need to be able to quickly articulate your organization’s vision and what you hope to accomplish in your mission.

2. Strategically Plan Your Announcement

The community has really embraced our organization. But we had to make sure our marketing materials were ready to go before any announcement was made. This was key to getting people on board.

3. Quickly Figure Out How People Can Volunteer

Plan on people being excited about your nonprofit. If you have a good idea, your community will be forthcoming about helping you out. We had to quickly determine how we could use the energy of our announcement to engage as many as we could. You probably have a lot that needs to get done—start identifying tasks now.

4. Know Your Financials

Not only did we need to figure out how we were going to take donations, we needed to know the cost of starting our nonprofit, and then how much it will cost to operate it for the first two years. Seriously, banks and granting organizations will want to know.

5. Have a Business Plan, Not Just a Strategic Plan

There’s so much to be said here, but know that you need both to ensure the success of your organization. Your business plan covers the “who” and “what” of your new nonprofit, while the strategic plan plots out the “how” and “when.” Some key components you need in your business plan include who is running your NPO, the other nonprofit ‘competition’ in your space and what the target of your mission is.


Randy Hawthorne

As the former Executive Director and Editor for Nonprofit Hub and a Professional Certified Marketer, Randy shares his passions of marketing and education with nonprofits to help them implement marketing and organizational leadership principles so they can grow their organizations. Randy lends his marketing and organizational leadership expertise to a number of nonprofits in his community. Outside the office, Randy works with high school and college students and mentors young professionals to develop their leadership and entrepreneurial skills.

April 17, 2015

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