Stuff To Ponder: Alternatives To Forming A Non Profit Org

If your new year’s resolution is to do good this year, go for it! But if you are thinking of starting up a non-profit, you should be aware of the challenges you face. Both the normal processes to follow when starting a new organization as well as emerging scrutiny by the federal government. The Non-Profit Law blog has been packing a lot of informational goodness in their posts over the end of last year and the transition in to this one. Among their tweets of the week for last week was news of extra scrutiny of non-profits by the IRS.

The Gene Takagi and Emily Chan who write Non-Profit Law Blog also linked to a piece they wrote for the American Bar Association outlining the considerations a lawyer and their clients should use to evaluate whether they should actually form a non-profit organization. Many of the suggestions made are just good sense for forming any business including evaluating the need, whether it duplicates the efforts of another group, if there is sufficient clientele and a support base present in the community. They make suggestions of alternatives to consider.

But another person they link to in their tweets of the week really does a great job of providing these alternatives. Allison Jones makes suggestions for 6 alternatives with links to more information about pursuing these options.
I had never heard of an intrapenuership myself.

* Free agent: More and more people are affecting social change outside of an organization. Harnessing social media, you can mobilize your network to take action or support a cause without the hassle of incorporating….

* Informal group/club: If the issue you are addressing is small or very specific (cleaning up a local park or stacking shelves in a local food pantry) you may just be able to round up a group of friends and get to work….

* Giving circle: … In giving circles you pool money and resources together to support an organization you all select. The focus is usually on a local organization, often extends beyond giving financial support, and the circles can be formal or informal….

* Local chapter of a national organization: … You can build on existing resources, support, and guidance to make a difference. Organizations that focus on professions, such as Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, Grant Managers Network, or Emerging Leaders in the Arts, tend to have chapters across the country. However other organizations in different causes, like the Reeve Foundation are open to supporters launching local chapters as well….

* Intrapreneurship: Do you work or volunteer for an awesome organization? Maybe you noticed a need because of the work you do? This can be tricky as many organizations are pressed for resources and time. However, you can harness your organization’s infrastructure to make small steps in addressing the need you have identified. Organizations are more willing to support innovation if there is someone (i.e. YOU!) willing to take the lead. Start by collecting information on the need and presenting it to your organization….

* Fiscal sponsorship: In fiscal sponsorship a nonprofit will allow you to operate under their 501c3 status….You should find an organization whose mission and work align with what you want to do and reach out to them directly….

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


1 thought on “Stuff To Ponder: Alternatives To Forming A Non Profit Org”

Leave a Comment