Because of our university mission to provide education for leadership and service, many Trevecca alumni start and manage nonprofit organizations. We recently talked with Emerald Mitchell (Ed.D. ’16), the founder and director of Moves and Grooves, Inc., a Nashville-based organization committed to enhancing the lives of at-risk youth through arts and education. She offered a few tips for anyone looking to make a difference through a nonprofit startup of their own.
Do your research first.
Starting a nonprofit is no simple matter. As the founder and director, you’ll need to be the one who can effectively communicate the vision and goals of your mission. Find out if there are other organizations in the community that are trying to fill the same need as your nonprofit. Most of all, make sure you have a solid business plan and educate yourself about available grants.
Find great mentors.
“Find great mentors who have a similar agency to what you’re looking to create,” Mitchell advises. A good mentor would have nonprofit experience to guide you in your mission. Look for resources in your community from nonprofit learning or management centers to local colleges with nonprofit experts. Your mentor isn’t your boss, but rather someone who can offer advice and solutions he or she has found to work in similar situations.
Surround yourself with positive people.
“I know when I started Moves and Grooves, I think people were skeptical,” Mitchell remembers. “How are you going to live? How are you going to make money?” She warns that some community members may not know much about how nonprofits work and stresses that it will be your job to educate them. Mitchell suggests finding people who share your vision and want to join you in making it a reality.
Roll up your sleeves and do some meaningful work.
“Get ready because it’s a lot of work,” Mitchell says. Starting a nonprofit isn’t easy. You’ll have to think creatively, overcome obstacles and make quick decisions. The founder is also responsible for sharing the vision of the nonprofit and inviting others to join you, so you’ll need to clearly articulate the mission, purpose and goals of your startup. With a small staff, you’ll do most—if not all—of the work of running the organization. Make sure to keep the purpose and goals of your nonprofit in mind. Knowing why you’re doing all the work will keep you going when it seems difficult.