Treat your company like you would a gardener his garden.
Careful planning can ultimately lead to a new non-profit’s success. Karyn Balfour, founder of Education Aid, discovered that taking the time prior to starting a non-profit to plan, prepare and fill out the appropriate paperwork means the long-term success of her dream.
Balfour saw that every year, college students across the nation are forced to drop out of classes and cite “needing to work” as the primary reason. With the pressure of class work and a job to provide for non-tuition related costs, many students are not able to do both. They have to choose one or the other -- inevitably providing for themselves and their families wins out. Thus, Education Aid began.
Education Aid provides resources for textbooks, rent, utilities, food, and bus passes to get to and from class. It began providing financial aid this academic school year, making them the new kids on the block.
With the work of Karyn Balfour and Education Aid, there is now a more attractive option than dropping out. Yet, in Balfour’s words, “Just because you see the need and importance of your product/service, [it] doesn’t necessarily mean anyone else will.” There is a lot of planning and legwork that needs to happen prior to your idea being attractive to investors and to be successful.
Ample preparation is the key to starting a successful non-profit and it is the lifeblood once you are in the thick of things. It is easy to get caught up in responding to a need, and making a dream come to life but without measuring twice you need to plan on cutting again and again. And the cuts you will be forced to make can lead to a failure in reaching your goal or being as effective as you would like to be.
In the process of founding her organization, Balfour has also learned that expectations need to be realistic as you move forward. She has learned to “expect everything to cost twice as much and take twice as long as people tell you it will.” It is sometimes in the waiting for paperwork, pouring over applications, and painstaking hours of garnering enough fiscal support to start that the most work is done.
Sometimes, wading through the process is the best way to get things done. If you are willing to put in the work, then you will have a better chance of getting somewhere as a non-profit. Balfour’s example is proof that diligent regard to each detail along the way gives you a solid foundation.
Don’t get caught up in the need to start something new and forget to go about the complete process along the way. Your organization can make a difference and it is worth the time.
Annika Celum is a media strategist and freelance writer based out of Chicago. She has volunteered to manage social media for various non-profits throughout the city for the past year and has always been passionate about working with charity organizations, both near and far. Though idyllic, she has aspirations to eradicate injustices with wit and determination. When not typing up a storm, you can find her commuting on her bike throughout the city or running to train for a race to benefit a non-profit.