Zilch for a nonprofit

Last week I was contacted through LinkedIn by a stranger asking for help in forming a nonprofit organization. I get these types of requests not infrequently—whether directly through this blog, LinkedIn or Aardvark—or on mailing lists like Mission Based Massachusetts. My response is usually “Why does your cause necessitate its own 501(c)3? Have you considered Fiscal Sponsorship?”

I subscribe to the belief that when you’re working within a formal organization, 50% of your time goes towards maintaining organizational function and only the remainder actually goes towards achieving your external mission. Bringing a mission to scale may require a formal organization eventually, but if you’re trying to fail faster, is incorporation necessary now?

The nonprofit sector is already rich with existing organizations and platforms from which you can act. While I don’t share in the delusion that it’s one big lovefest, there are structures in place to incubate unincorporated projects, give tax-exempt status, and even provide administrative, finance, legal and payroll support. Sure, Fiscal Sponsorship usually carries with it an administration fee (shop around), but even at 20% it could be less than the opportunity cost of you doing all that yourself while trying to achieve your mission.

So that’s how the nonprofit sector lets you do more with less: you don’t even need your own nonprofit to participate.

This post is created in conjunction with other members of the Nonprofit Millennial Bloggers Alliance. Our posts this week (all with “Zilch” in the title), explore perspectives on how nonprofits can do more with less. Check out other members’ posts and get in on twitter conversations regarding these posts by using the hashtag #NMBA.

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