1. Pick the right car. 
Nonprofits are like cars, they all drive on the highway but there are many different kinds. There are a LOT of different types of nonprofits (c3, c4, c5, c6, private foundations, orgs with voting members, with non-voting members, with chapters, with affiliates) so be SURE you know what kind of nonprofit you should choose before you start.
2. Not everything that does good in the world needs to be a nonprofit. 
Just because you want to do good deeds doesn’t mean it is automatically supposed to be a charity. Look at Tom's Shoes – they give away a pair of shoes to a child in need with each pair sold. They do good deeds and are still a for-profit company. Make sure you know why you'd chose one over the other.
3. Figure out where you will get funding from. 
Sometimes people think that once they start a nonprofit and get tax exemption money will fall from the sky…but that's not usually how it works. What's your plan for fundraising and what's it going to take to run the organization?
4. Think about what your programming will be – specifically. It's easy to have a 'big idea' but not think about the specifics. Have you put the cart way before the horse? Who cares what the bylaws say about the President's duties or the nominating committee if you don't even have an outline of how you'll actually do stuff…which is information you need to know for your IRS application – hint! : )
5. Find professionals to help you. If you're reading this you probably aren't an expert in nonprofit accounting, policy best practices or IRS tax exempt entity compliance. You don't know what you don't know – as they say. You'll be competing with other nonprofits for every dollar you raise. Make sure you put your best foot forward by finding professionals in law, accounting, HR, insurance, etc. so you present yourselves well.
Do you know how to avoid the top 5 mistakes for nonprofit startups?
1. Do you know what type of nonprofit to choose?

2. Should you start a nonprofit or a for-profit that does good deeds?

3. What is the fundraising myth most founders mistakenly buy into?

4. How overlooking key details could make your IRS application fail the test.

5. The #1 biggest technical error founders make when starting.
Want to Learn More?
You have an awesome idea that will make a difference, solve a problem or create good things in the world.

 But is a forming a nonprofit the way to go?
 Lots of for-profit companies do good deeds too, and it can be tough to know which direction to choose.  
You are in the right place if you've asked yourself questions like...
Should I start a nonprofit or a for-profit? ...and why? 
As the founder can I be paid a salary? 
Can my family member be on the board?
I don't understand what these IRS forms are asking for, can you help?
Do nonprofits pay any taxes?
I already started an LLC but maybe I should change to nonprofit?
I have more questions than fit on this list!
Should I start a nonprofit or a for-profit? ...and why?
As the founder can I be paid a salary? 

Can my family member be on the board?

I don't understand what these IRS forms are asking for, can you help?

Do nonprofits pay any taxes?

I already started an LLC but maybe I should change to nonprofit?

I have more questions than fit on this list!
When you start a  tax-exempt nonprofit:
  •  "Owned" by the community (stakeholders)
  •  Can usually take donations and get grants
  •  Board of Directors govern & make decisions
When you start a small for-profit:
  • Owned by individuals (shareholders)
  •  Don't usually get donations or grants
  •  Individual owner(s) make all the decisions
Hear the K9s From Carrie startup story
Bonnie (founder of K9s From Carrie) came in with a lot of the same questions you have. We worked together to answer all her questions and start a small nonprofit. K9s From Carrie is now a 501(c)(3) charity that is thriving, holding several successful fundraisers each year, and making a big difference in the lives of the people (and puppies) they work with.
In Their Words...
"We would not be where we are at if not for Jess. She is professional, knowledgeable and personable. She kept us going in the right direction. Jess is able to educate her customers, which helps us make better decisions. Our nonprofit would not be where it is today if we didn't have the help of Jess and her firm. She is always available when we hit a road block. She has taught us numerous different things through the process of getting things off the ground. We still use her when something comes as we have a great amount of trust in her!" - Bonnie Gallagher, Founder, K9s From Carrie
A few questions for you :
  •  Are you done sifting through the internet trying to read robotic sounding IRS publications and generic Wikipedia entries to (maybe) figure out how to do this legally?
  •  Would you like to spend an hour with an expert and actually get answers to your questions?
  •  Are you ready to learn how to turn your passion, your idea, your legacy into reality?
  •  Are you the kind of person who wants to have it done right?
  •  Did you start working on a startup and then feel totally overwhelmed or ripped off by document services companies that won't answer your questions?
  •  Are you just plain ready to focus on the mission and let someone else do the paperwork?
Trying to sort through everything you need to know is tiring and overwhelming. How do you know which sources are right and whether you even have all the information? 

You're not a tax attorney, accountant or nonprofit governance expert. 

You're excited about the mission and vision you're trying to create. 

What can you do? What can't you do? 

You already know setting things up right in the beginning will save you a lot of time, effort, and legal untangling down the road. This is why taking the time to go through all of your options, with someone that understands how to navigate this journey, can get you started off on the right foot.

Getting through this phase quickly and efficiently can allow you to focus on your mission, and let you do what you set out to do in the first place: solve a problem, create change, and make a difference.
Get the reliable information you're looking for
Instead of combing through every nonprofit blog from the past 15 years, find the knowledge you're looking for the first time. 

I've worked with tons of nonprofit founders, and I've seen the same mistakes made over and over. I want to help you avoid those same traps, and get going on your mission.
Jessica Birken, Birken Law Firm
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