Step 1: Formation and Finding Board Members
The first step we followed in the formation process of Cultivate International was to find Board Members – people that believed in the vision and mission of the organization, wanted to play a crucial role, and could set it on the road to long-term success. We started with 4 Board Members, including myself. The initial board is the backbone of the organization and should be supportive and engaged.
Step 2: Beginning the Paperwork
Once the Board was formed, we finalized our paperwork and began filing. Once we received our draft Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws from Legal for Good, the Board communicated quickly which made approving the documents seamless! Surprisingly, the incorporation process with the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office was practically instantaneous. This made it easy for us to move on to the IRS application for tax-exemption (I feared this step most as it is the most intimidating, but Legal for Good made it seem easy!).
Many nonprofits get caught up in the formation process and face delays because once the application is sent to the government, it is a waiting game. However, for Cultivate International, the process was surprisingly fast. I’d heard horror stories of long delays with the IRS. I was afraid Cultivate International would be stuck in limbo for a long time. But, with Legal for Good’s help, it went well. In about 6 weeks, Cultivate International’s 501(c)(3) status was approved.
I was so excited to get the IRS Determination Letter because it was proof our nonprofit could begin its programming and collect donations. This was what I was hoping for, for so long! Now I had to be committed and ready to take on a leadership role to make this idea into a reality.
Step 3: 501(c)(3) status – Now What?
The first few months as a Board of Directors, we spent time talking about what the programming would look like, what needed to be done to market our organization, and plans for the near future. We had many administrative things to do – establish financial accounts and social media accounts, create a website and program materials, create a logo, find a means to accept donations online, make plans for how we were going to communicate and fundraise, and begin to find our initial supporters. We knew that this was just the beginning!
Step 4: Making Sure the Organization is Organized!
I quickly learned how to do most things on my own, even though I wished I could hire others, because the nonprofit did not start with a lot of funding. This includes graphic design, social media strategies, website development, bookkeeping and accounting, and event planning. I was able to find support from the nonprofit networks in the Twin Cities – nonprofits such as the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and Impact Hub. Also – technology is great! TechSoup, MailChimp, Canva, Hootsuite, and Classy have all been a huge help!
The administrative work involved in starting a nonprofit has taken up much of my time, but I continue to see the value in doing things well and establishing a strong foundation for success.