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Ten Tips for Starting a Not for Profit

28 November 2011 at 2:52 pm
Staff Reporter
Thinking of starting up your own Not for Profit? Co-founder of Embrace Education and Pro Bono Australia team member Emil Kogan shares his ten tips to help you avoid common mistakes and get your organisation off the ground.

Staff Reporter | 28 November 2011 at 2:52 pm


Ten Tips for Starting a Not for Profit
28 November 2011 at 2:52 pm

Thinking of starting up your own Not for Profit? Co-founder of Embrace Education and Pro Bono Australia team member Emil Kogan shares his ten tips to help you avoid common mistakes and get your organisation off the ground.


Make sure there is a need

Don’t just set up a Not for Profit because it’s the “right thing to do”. Do your research and make sure you are filling gaps in the sector otherwise you’ll be setting up an organisation that delivers competing services to a community or group. Basic Google searches, as well as looking on specialist websites such as Pro Bono Australia can give you an idea of what groups are operating in your chosen field.

Engage and partner with the community

The best organisations empower and work collaboratively with the communities they assist. Make sure that key community stakeholders are involved in the management of your organisation before setting up programs in a community.

Create a strategic plan

Strategic plans help new Not for Profit organisations frame why they exist and what goals they are trying to reach. Creating a solid strategic plan will also help you track how effective the organisation is during its first years of operation.

If you’ve never done a strategic plan before, contact friends and family who work in business to guide you through it. Otherwise Pro Bono Australia has a service called Volunteer Match which matches skilled people with organisations in need.

Make sure its sustainable

Where will you be in ten years? It’s often an uncomfortable question for Not for Profit organisations, but it is something that you need to know before you found an organisation. It can be harmful for a Not for Profit organisation to deliver short term services or programs, especially if you’re working with vulnerable communities.

Don’t compete with larger Not for Profit organisations

The Not for Profit sector is competitive enough as it is. You don’t want to be creating an organisation that competes with an established organisation.

Avoid founders syndrome

Make sure that when creating an organisation that you avoid Founder’s Syndrome. Some typical behaviour from Founders Syndrome includes: boards made up of friends and colleagues of the founder; the identity of the organisation becoming the personality of the founder; and excluding newcomers who want to be involved in the organisation.

Protect yourself legally

If your organisation will deliver services to a community, you need to ensure your organisation is incorporated and has relevant insurance. You’ll also need deductible gift recipient (DGR) status before you can receive grants or other funding. A useful guide can also be found under

Establish a board or committee

A talented and diverse group of people who are all committed to the cause is needed to help the founder achieve their goal. Many founders are so passionate about their cause that they take on everything for themselves. You can’t do everything and it’s often harmful to the cause to do so.

Create administrative and finance systems

Before you can start your Not for Profit organisation, you’ll need to establish administrative and finance systems. This can include budgetary plans, adopting an accounting system, adopting code of conducts for how you operate and a whole range of other policies and practices.

Be prepared for failure

Establishing a Not for Profit organisation is an extremely challenging process and many organisations do not sustain themselves after their first few years of operation. Make sure you have an exit strategy for your organisation and the stakeholders that you work with.


Emil Kogan co founded Embrace Education and Students Teaching English to the World when he was nineteen in 2006. Embrace Education recently celebrated its fifth year of service to disadvantaged secondary schools across Victoria. During the past five years Embrace has engaged 518 students across its programs with volunteers delivering $34,787 worth of free tutoring in 2011 in their Individual Tutoring program alone

Emil recently returned from a year of development work in the Philippines and is a contract employee of Pro Bono Australia. Emil is looking forward to his next adventure in Canberra in 2012.  

Got any other tips for someone looking to start a Not for Profit?  Let us know below……

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  • siobhan stanley says:

    I need to start a not for profit organization as part of a campaign we are starting in July where do I start!!!

  • says:

    Great information, thank you!

  • Michelle says:

    We are looking to start a working dog club in Australia qld to be precise what are the pitfalls? 🙂

  • Cam Tuilevuka says:

    I have already started a group and thinking of registering us. We Feed the Homeless every Friday night in the streets of Sydney. Every member of the group pays out from their own pockets, we cook Hot Meals and pack them for the needy. What do I need to do here inorder to register us?

    • Peter Shanahan says:

      Hi Cam, just read your comment. How’s it all going, we do a similar thing in Melbourne, relying on donations and out of our own pockets as well. As far as I know we haven’t got a not for profit status yet. Did you manage to register your own endeavour.

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