Nonprofit 101

Nonprofits have earned an unmerited horrific reputation. Most don’t learn about nonprofits until higher learning or wanting to volunteer. Unbeknownst to us, most of our lives have been filled with benefits from nonprofit organizations since the time we were born. The benefits of nonprofits are enormous and makes society a better place. This should be common knowledge and all U.S. citizens should know- but they don’t, which is why we need a Nonprofit 101.

Unfortunately, the majority of colleges don’t offer or teach a Nonprofit 101 curriculum. Nonprofit 101 should be a core requirement in their introductory general education classes. The irony in this situation is that almost all colleges and universities are nonprofits. Yet, we can have introductory classes for business, music, politics, sociology, English, and math, but not a core business within our country. What makes this more ironic is most of these required subjects and courses, the majority of their professions are dominant within a nonprofit organization. For example, a math instructor would be a teacher at a nonprofit school or university. Or an elected official within a nonprofit government entity.

Isn’t this counterintuitive to teach the subject, but not the industry? Why aren’t we teaching the industry of nonprofits?

Since my predecessors failed to do so, I’m now responsible. Both you and I have to stand up and do what’s right. We have to teach our society about all the nonprofits that exist. They need to know about the great social entrepreneurs and philanthropists. They need to know which social enterprises to shop at. Help them understand which foundations and charities are best to donate to and that governments are businesses too.

I’m grateful for the folks at Clark College for giving me the opportunity to teach their first Nonprofit 101 class. Technically, the class is called Nonprofits and Governments are Businesses. Even though the name isn’t a standard “Nonprofit 101” title, the class is an introductory class to help students identify, examine and evaluate different business models within the nonprofit industry.

I’m excited this Nonprofit 101 class is available to students because the local top employers are nonprofits and the employees wouldn’t even classify themselves as nonprofit employees. I also counted that we use about 3-5 nonprofits (roads, electricity, water, cell phones, healthcare, and etc) daily. This class serves a dire need for a multitude of reasons, such as:

  • community member(s) looking to start a nonprofit
  • board members without a lot of experience
  • help founders understand the need to delegate
  • volunteers wanting to improve the nonprofit
  • groups expanding to a 501c3
  • the basics of risk management and liability
  • potential social entrepreneurs
  • a basic network of like-minded other individuals
  • steering an entrepreneur to create a social enterprise
  • nonprofit boards struggling to accomplish their goals
  • how to write successful grants
  • brainstorm in a safe and non-competitive or non-judgmental space
  • learn about the 501 tax-exempt declaration organizations
  • creating measurable outcomes that make sense
  • and of course, so much more

As a Social Entrepreneur, I wish I had this class starting out in 2004. I can’t tell you the countless times I failed and didn’t want to get back up because the resources were scarce. I felt as if I was on a deserted island. Every time an opportunity arose for me to take classes or pay for a professional development/license, the prices were out of my league or couldn’t get off of work. As a result, I found making the investment of pursuing a nonprofit career was ridiculously out of reach and overpriced.

While I decided I needed to take a different approach than buying books, but talking to other “experts” within the field didn’t necessarily help matters either. The books were outdated, expensive and boring. Nonprofit professionals were stoic and secretive, and other groups were suspect of my questions and desire to be in the industry. Again, I wanted to quit- but God had my back and it got easier as I failed forward.

Failing forward isn’t what I’m recommending. I believe a Nonprofit 101 class should be available at every college, or even a small business development center. I believe books should be more relevant and cheaper. I believe other founders should share pertinent information to help others on their journey. I believe Social Entrepreneurs should have the opportunity to earn a specific business degree and not just a concentration in a graduate level focus.

On a deeper more meaningful level, I want the nonprofit industry to be recognized and admired. I believe we should promote #SocialEntrepreneurship just like we do #Entrepreneurship. Social Entrepreneurs are the nonprofit equivalent for the for-profit Entrepreneur. This is why I wrote my eBook on Amazon.

Anyone who wants to start a nonprofit should be aware of all that is required without having to invest a significant amount of money and time, similarly to anyone wanting to start a for-profit business. It’s not a full Nonprofit 101 course in one book. I use it a supplement for my college course. However, the eBook will point you the right direction.

My book is called How to Become a Social Entrepreneur: Create Your Nonprofit in 10 Steps. The price is $4.99. It’s only 49 pages and it’s free if you have Kindle Unlimited. One of the two main reasons for writing this was due to my nonprofit making a lot great progress and success in a short amount of time, and strangers asking me critical questions on how to pursue this journey. While most of if was fun, there were other times I questioned if I should be putting myself out there. When I gave them an answer they didn’t like, I received some pretty nasty responses and looks. Therefore, I found this method to be less time consuming, impartial and non-discriminatory to all parties involved. Also, it’s my best way to disseminate my experiences of starting and running a nonprofit to people outside of my meeting reach.

If you don’t like to read, I created short blogs and YouTube videos to make it simple. The majority of videos are less than 60 seconds, so it won’t take long to get through them. Again, it isn’t a replacement for a Nonprofit 101 course, but it’s a start in the right direction looking to change the world through social good, goodwill, charity, donating, volunteering and serving. As the good Word says, “… the harvest is plenty, but the workers are few.”

I encourage you the reader to share this with people you know. Ask them the question, “Did you know the NFL was a nonprofit?” You can be the trivia king or queen for a quick 30 seconds knowing they dropped it back in 2015. Click here to see the article. You’ll see that all major sports teams started out as nonprofits. And don’t forget about our government, domestic or foreign. They’re one of the oldest nonprofits in existence. They always get paid- it’s called taxes.

As you see, having a Nonprofit 101 class could come in quite handy when solving some of the world’s biggest problems. How many what-ifs could be solved if more people knew? Maybe cancer could have been solved. Politics could be less bureaucratic. Religious groups could have more resources. Schools could be more effective and efficient. Citizens could donate more. Fewer people dying due to lack of clean water and food. The job market would be more robust. Drug use wouldn’t be a problem. Healthcare could be affordable for everyone. The solutions could be endless. All we need is a simple class, Nonprofit 101.

Teach someone about a nonprofit today- you never know, it could save your life!

I write this because my business is personal because this service is for the advancement of all humanity. My failures and successes are for your gain. No strings attached.

Nathan A. Webster, MBA