Nonprofit 101

Nonprofits have earned an unmerited and horrific reputation amongst the ignorant. The name states the business is not-profitable. Therefore, it’s poor and doesn’t have any funds. Well, that’s wrong and they’re many nonprofit entities with 8-figure profits (i.e., America’s Top 100 Charities in 2021).

Unfortunately, most K-12 students don’t learn about nonprofits until higher learning or volunteering. Unbeknownst to most Americans, 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 make 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 Nonprofit 101 in all colleges.

Understanding Nonprofits

As a social entrepreneur, I wish I knew how nonprofits worked and how entangled they are in our lives. It’s not that they don’t make a profit, their nonprofit status allows specific benefits provided they follow the IRS rules. They’re everywhere doing amazing things in the community. Nowadays, most professional athletes have a foundation while they have a platform to serve underrepresented populations and communities.

Did you know:

  • roads are governed by a governed nonprofit 
  • public K-12 schools are nonprofit organizations
  • residential electricity is governed by a public utility agency
  • the local parks are run by the city or county government
  • the post office and receiving mail is a federal nonprofit

Beyond local government governing the roads, utilities, parks, and more, the nonprofit model was the soundest way for a startup. Every organization had to solve a problem using easy-to-access resources with oversight given by wise and experienced board members.

On a deeper and more meaningful level, I want the nonprofit industry to be recognized and admired. I believe we should promote social entrepreneurship.

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. Almost all colleges and universities are nonprofits because of their state institutions’ status, offering state and federal financial aid (see WA state entities).

I’m grateful to the folks at Clark College for allowing me 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. 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

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, similar to anyone wanting to start a for-profit business. It’s not a full Nonprofit 101 course in one book. I use it as a supplement for my college course. However, the eBook will point you in the right direction.

Learned Experience

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 of 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 it 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 as nonprofits. 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 a lack of clean water and food
  • the job market could 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!

Nathan A. Webster, MBA