How to Start a Non-Profit Organization – Step 5: Operations

Although many successful non-profit ventures are entirely volunteer-driven efforts, most organizations need to start building infrastructure as they grow. An important point to remember is that there is no one uniform blueprint that is applicable to every non-profit. Before you spend a major chunk of your funding on infrastructure, think carefully about what your organization needs. Several companies provide infrastructural services specifically to non-profits so choose the one that offers the best value to you. I’m going to walk you through the parts of how to start a non-profit organization with respect to the main points of non-profit staffing, non-profit IT, and non-profit accounting.


How to Start a Non-Profit Organization with Staffing

Hiring the first paid non-profit staff member transforms a non-profit organization from a volunteer effort into an employer. This means the need for regulations and managing a certain amount of risk and liability. As such, non-profit staffing is an important decision for any non-profit. Finding competent non-profit staff members who can play a wide variety of roles in the start-up phase is even more crucial for new, small non-profits.

Here are a couple of resources that will show you how to start a non-profit organization with staff:

  • HR Overview: Learn the ABCs of staffing needs, dealing with performance issues and designing the right personnel policies.
  • Intuit Online Payroll: Use this service to set up an easy, online payroll system for your non-profit.

There are other choices you’ll need to make as you consider your non-profit staffing needs. Should you hire part-time staff or full-time. Should you require relocation or allow staff to work remotely? Should you consider non-profit outsourcing? You’ll find some great ideas for how to use non-profit outsourcing here.


Non-Profit IT

A small non-profit can have wide impact and accelerate its growth by smart use of technology. A sound non-profit IT infrastructure is essential for a variety of organizational functions – payroll, managing membership and outreach, online marketing and fundraising. The best nonprofits plan ahead and invest in cost-effective non-profit IT from the beginning.

Given that most non-profits operate on lean budgets, technology can help stretch every dollar to get maximum reach and impact; hence non-profit technology management is even more crucial for non-profits than for-profit entities.

Here’s a selection of excellent resources that will help you get up and running quickly with non-profit IT to facilitate critical tasks like communicating internally with your non-profit staff, communicating externally with donors, and connecting with your supporters.

Google Apps for Business: Great news – you don’t have to spend a ton on non-profit IT infrastructure to be effective!

You’re probably already using Google Docs for personal use. I’ve been using it for the last three years, and recently converted to using for my non-profit. Google offers enterprise level Google apps for small businesses. You’ll benefit from a number of great features:

  • Easy to deploy and doesn’t require the ongoing maintenance of desktop software.
  • Simple licensing model that is cost-effective and predictable.
  • Real-time document editing for easy collaboration.
  • Flexible storage size that can grow with your organization.

Clicky: You should measure visits to your non-profit website and track other critical numbers indicating engagement and time spent on your sit.e Clicky is just like Google Analytics, except it’s easier to use, and you can view how many people are on your site (and what they are doing) in real time!

Besides the tools above, several non-profit technology firms provide advice for your non-profit’s needs. One of the best, NPower, is a national network that has helped thousands of non-profits increase their impact. They’re a big organization, with a lot of helpful information on their website.


Non-Profit Accounting

There are a variety of affordable non-profit accounting resources available for growing non-profits – many of them offered free by consultants. Here’s a short list:

  • PayCycle – Offers a variety of affordable online payroll systems for non-profits and small businesses, most of them for less than $50 a month.
  • QuickBooks – Free and very basic accounting software for non-profits and small businesses and a customized (paid) version for more advanced non-profit accounting.

A new arrival is on pace to become one of my favorites. Wave Accounting is an accounting application (real, double-entry accounting, though you don’t need to understand accounting to use it). This differs from other offerings like InDinero, which is an expense tracker only. Wave helps you file your taxes, providing everything you or your accountant will need to file quickly and accurately.

With Wave, you have the option to connect your bank account or credit cards, but it’s not required (if you prefer not to, or if your bank isn’t supported).
Another valuable feature – Wave includes business and personal finance components in the same application, which is uber-relevant to starting a non-profit where personal and business finances can get blurry, especially when just starting out.
Some other big advantages from Wave:

  • Wave has invoicing tools.
  • Wave is 100% free, no matter how many transactions you have, or how heavily you use the system.


Congratulations! You just finished the last part in the How to Start a Non-Profit Organization series.

I hope you’ve found this series helpful so you can now go out and start a non-profit and start changing the world.

Of course, there’s more to starting a non-profit than I can cover in this short six-part series. Don’t stress, though! You can find tons more information on how to start a non-profit organization at Start a Non-Profit. You’ll find useful insight into how the best nonprofits get it done with limited resources. You’ll also find in-depth analysis on such topics as the non-profit newsletter. So check it out!

Best of luck to you in your non-profit pursuits.