Considerations When Starting a Nonprofit

There are many benefits to starting a nonprofit organization: the chance to start a cause that you’re passionate about, becoming your own boss, perks that come with professional independence and more! Although the impact of a nonprofit is more societal and less monetary than a for-profit business, it is still a business that functions much like any other. You’ll still have to set up financial systems, create a payroll and open a bank account; hire staff and prepare a personnel manual; buy the right kinds of insurance, and so on. The systematic functions of a nonprofit also mirror a for-profit business, as it will still need organizational structure, mission statements, long-range planning, evaluation, etc.


Though this process may seem daunting, the end benefits could be incredibly intrinsically rewarding. Most think that startingPlanning a nonprofit the paperwork for becoming tax exempt or partnering with a financial partner is the first step. However, your organization needs a purpose, vision or direction before you can even think about the means.

Your first task should be to create a mission statement that encapsulates the work your organization will do, who you will do it for and why this work is important. From here, you can create a vision and short-term and long-term goals to keep you focused and on track towards successful impact.

Another task that’s vital to the preparation process is creating a Board of Directors. This team will serve as your organization’s backbone. All members of the board should be eager and ready to support the organization with the individual talents and skills they bring to the table. This will give your nonprofit a solid foundation and a platform to launch. Check out HSI’s Board of Directors and mission statement for a concise and effective example of each. 


Once you’re well prepared you must establish your organization within the laws of the state. Each state’s regulations vary so you’ll have to do your research on your specific state. Not only do state regulations fluctuate, but so do the benefits that  states offer to nonprofit organizations. For example, states differ on when exemptions or provisions must be applied for, when fees must be paid, etc. Make sure you do your homework on all aspects of this process. You cannot function on a corporate level until you’ve been recognized by a state.

However, if you check out The National Association of State Charity Officials website, they have updates in a state by state list on the differing regulations. There’s also a book available on Amazon by NOLO Press titled How to Form a Nonprofit Corporation in Any State.   (While you are there, sign up to raise funds for HSI with Amazon Smile.  It is fast and doesn’t cost you anything-ever!)

Another resource that may help your cause not only for state incorporation but also for future endeavors might be seeking legal advice. Obviously an attorney costs more than a book plus shipping and handling from Amazon, but you can find people that have been through this process before, who know the boundaries and way through the system.

Tax Exemption or Fiscal Sponsorship

You will need to complete the IRS Form SS-4 to receive an EIN so that you can open a bank account.

Also, for the IRS to acknowledge your organization it must be structured as a corporation, trust or an association. Once this is established, you will need to complete an IRS Form 1023 or 1023-EZ. Then you wait. It could take the IRS anywhere from three weeks to twelve months to get back with a decision.

Social entrepreneur starting a nonprofitIt is possible to shorten the amount of time you spend waiting to access tax-exempt funds by applying for and receiving fiscal sponsorship. A fiscal sponsor, such as HSI, supports the charitable activities of an organization by allowing access to its own 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. Donors may make tax-exempt contributions to the sponsor to support your work.  The fiscal sponsor accepts certain liabilities for the charitable work you do.

Getting Started

Humanitarian Social Innovations offers assistance along several startup pathways for non profit organizations.  

Join our startup workshop series.paths to innovation, nonprofit

Not only will you gain the information you need, but you will also create some important take-aways from each session. You will meet people who can answer your questions and be a sounding board for your ideas. Plan to bring team members!  You will be able to synergize throughout the workshop and team discounts apply!

  1. Changing the World: Paths to Social Impact-August 13-Come away with a business structure and path forward that will best meet your goals.
  2. Building a Strong Foundation: Mission, Vision and Values-September 10-Walk out of this workshop with a draft mission, vision and core values for your organization.
  3. Board Selection and Governance-October 8-Enter with a long list of potential board members and leave with a short list (or smart list!) and your board governance documents.
  4. Meeting Your Legal Obligations: All-Access Pass to a Helpful Attorney-November 12-Explanation of your legal obligations, Q & A time, and the opportunity to work on your own documents with an attorney as your tutor.
  5. Get Out There: Building a Manageable and Cost-Effective Website-January 14-You will build a website-no prior skill needed!

Eventbrite - Changing the World: Paths to Social Impact
Hop Into the Incubator or Apply for Fiscal Sponsorship

If you would like a more customized experience, sign up for Humanitarian Social Innovations’ Incubation program.  Set your goals at the start and enjoy our one-on-one partnership with you as you systematically meet them and begin to see the impact of your work.

Perhaps  you are ready for fiscal sponsorship and are looking for a fiscal sponsor to support your charitable activities. If so, contact HSI for an initial interview and an application.  

Email today!


Which Types of Projects Does HSI Sponsor?

Humanitarianism is moral kindness and benevolence extended to all humans. The power of human empathy leads to action, social prosperity and the betterment of human life. Unlike any other creature on Earth, humans learn and understand without having to experience. This characteristic allows us to comprehend the hardships people feel, not only around the world, but also in our backyards. At HSI, all projects do their part and collaborate when possible to improve the quality of life for some sector of humanity. These are our partners:


Bringing Up a BookwormBring up a Bookworm

Bringing Up a Bookworm provides children with foundational reading skills by encouraging parents to read aloud to them from the day they are born. Through her experiences as a fourth grade teacher and reading specialist, entrepreneur Marsha Townsend, saw the struggles students had with reading comprehension, confidence and general literary skills. Debating these educational challenges, Marsha was introduced to Mem Fox’s book, Reading Magic:  Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever, and Bringing Up a Bookworm was born.

The vision of the program is to provide a copy of Mem Fox’s book to educate parents on the importance and potential impact reading aloud can have on their children, especially infancy to toddlerhood. Reading aloud has been proven to increase a child’s reading proficiency, self-esteem and to encourage children to take risks within their learning.

To find out more about Bringing Up a Bookworm, you can visit the HSI Website link at:

Bringing Up a Bookworm


Writing Wrongswritingwrongslogo

At Writing Wrongs, journalists look to make a humanitarian impact with their words and stories. Originally inspired by ‘Will Write For Food 2013’ campaign, Dawn Heinbach developed Writing Wrongs through her Honors Project at Kutztown University in 2015. Now the program has bloomed, and Writing Wrongs will be hosting their second event this upcoming September.

Essentially, the group meets one weekend to collaborate and put their writings together to create an informative publication. This year’s topic is addiction. The entire weekend is dedicated to writing, editing and creating an open discussion on the deemed topic. After they’re finished, they publish their work and educate the public.

For more information about Writing Wrongs, you can visit their website at:


Solar for AcademicsSFA

Solar for Academics not only tackles humanitarian outreach, but it also saves the environment at the same time! Solar for Academics improves the quality of education and opportunity in impoverished communities by implementing solar energy in schools.

Founders Paul Hodges and Michael Planer teamed up to provide solar power to schools in places where electricity is sparse, in order to enable the school to offer an uninterrupted education. The company trains the recipients on how to install the panels, and even gives them the tools to sustain their use. Solar for Academics connects, educates and sustains humanitarianism through creative and progressive innovation.

For more information about Solar for Academics visit:

Solar For Academics

Citizen Media CenterCMC Logo Square

The mission at the Citizen Media Center: to train and support emerging social justice and democracy-seeking advocates in the field of citizen media. The Media Center allows the audience to become the journalist, testifying to news concerning daily life.  However, with the rise of new journalistic tools such as social media, Citizen Media Center, gives its participants the guidance they need to master these tools. Additionally, The Center also gives access to education, training, forums, and workshops on how to use these tools effectively. 

2016 promises to be a busy, but opportune year for the Kutztown-based writers. The Center intends to occupy a newly-secured headquarters, crafted an active, collaborative website, began hands-on writing workshops, and is providing fellowship grants to cover the impending presidential election.

The realm of providing information and reporting is continually revamping, as our society progresses. Citizen Media Center sets out to impact the media world by nurturing the next generation of democratic journalism.

For more information about Citizen Media Center, you can like them on Facebook or visit our site at:

Citizen Media Center


Players of the StagePlaysofStage

Free shows, blooming, young actors, and a vision based around community materialize Players of the Stage. The non-profit, Christian-based organization promotes the progression of individuals through theatre, the advancement of art, and the work of social justice in the Lehigh Valley. Established in Allentown, the theatre has been putting on shows since 2000, starting with a music recital for a Christmas banquet. Since, Players of the Stage has put on shows such as A Christmas Carol, Pygmalion, and Pride and Prejudice.   

As of 2005, Players of the Stage hosts benefit shows, donating all proceeds collected at the shows to charities such as Care Net, American Ministries to the Deaf, and to the Allentown Rescue Mission. All in all, the theatre company has raised nearly $150,000 in their past eight seasons. Every penny goes to the organizations mentioned above.

Players of the stage continues to expand their purpose as they’re looking to add theatre classes, productions, and eventually occupy a building housing an art gallery and a lounge café to connect all parties together.

For more information about Players of the Stage check out their website at:


Rugged Medical TransportRMT-logo

Humanitarianism does have a global dynamic to it. At Rugged Medical Transport, the organization provides light, easy-to-operate gyrocopters and deploys them as emergency medical transportation vehicles in countries with poor road infrastructure. Inspired by his experience in Tanzania, founder Patrick Wensel, developed a more plausible solution to places that can’t afford the high costs of emergencies.

Rugged Medical Transport bases themselves in Tanzania, and countries like it, where they educate the people on designing and manning the manufacturing facilities. Once invested in, Rugged Medical Transport provides communities with a plausible way to improve the health care access for their citizens. RMT’s gyrocopters are capable of overcoming the harsh, African terrain, while still maintaining safety for the patients on board.

To learn more information about Rugged Medical Transport visit our website at: