There’s a special breed of social entrepreneur: the Self-Funding Founder. This is a person who has seen something that they believe needs to be addressed. And in their eyes, the shortest route from A to B is to dig in and address it themselves. Self-Funding Founders tend to be energetic, bright, lively, and solution–oriented. They have the creativity and drive to set something up to see that a program is created, an organization built, a need addressed; that something is done. They may fund a new program with an established organization. They may set up their own Foundation to fund a new work. They might take the lead in a community and organize people to join their efforts.
Sometimes, Self-Funding Founders create nonprofit organizations.
The strange thing about this, though, is that it almost happens by accident. More often than not, the decision to set up a nonprofit happens so quickly that it’s gone in a heartbeat. Many times founders are not aware that there are other structures that may be a better fit for their work and so create a nonprofit by default. Yet this decision can define the ultimate success or failure for the Self-Funding Founder’s project. So how is a nonprofit established through the efforts of a Self-Funding Founder? Many nonprofits have their beginnings in a small project – A founder is inspired by an experience which leads to an idea that produces immediate, gratifying results. Like a mission trip or a small project in the founder’s own community.
But what happens when a goal is achieved, a question answered?
So when does the progression of a project turn into a nonprofit organization? Surprisingly, it happens when the founders are considering fundraising. Early on when the project is taking shape – the initial idea has hatched, the first projects have been launched, and the excitement of seeing the impact of those first efforts is flush upon the Founder. Now that there is some success, it’s time to figure out how to get more people involved. It seems like a natural extension to set up a nonprofit so the cause gains legitimacy and people will be more inclined to give. Many times Founders don’t even realize that there are other options to setting up a nonprofit that may help them achieve their goals. Setting up a nonprofit is more than filing for a tax exemption number, it’s building an organization – a business – around the cause. It means appointing a board of directors, creating by-laws, hiring auditors, consultants, and quite possibly at some point, staff.
And don’t forget… it means ongoing fundraising. Because being a nonprofit does not guarantee funding.
This is where it’s really helpful for Self-Funding Founders to have access to a very rare kind of financial advisor – an advisor who understands the Founder’s overall goals for their business, their personal finances, and their charitable endeavors and helps them figure out how to reach all of those goals. Those advisors are not easy to find. Mosaic Associate and Impact Philanthropy Advisor Mike Searcy is one of those rare individuals who believes in helping people make causes sustainable. Not only does he himself serve on the boards of a handful of causes that are dear to him, but with his special certification as an Accredited Investment Fiduciary Analyst he provides a special level of financial stewardship for nonprofits.
And here’s the kicker: People will give regardless of whether the project is a recognized, 990-filing nonprofit. But they have to be asked.
Sometimes joining forces with an established cause or setting up a foundation, a trust, adjusting a business’ financial structure, or building a new business (maybe a B Corp) are better fits for the Founders’ goals than managing a nonprofit and building the fundraising programs needed to make it sustainable.
Remember, there are many ways to have an impact – setting up a nonprofit is just one.