When Fran emailed me asking me to be part of Still Standing I immediately just about fell out of my chair because I felt so honored. After I managed to shut my jaw, I next thought about what I wanted to write about. Immediately, I knew I just had to write about doing good in your baby’s name. So much good comes from our little ones’ short lives.
I started a nonprofit in my daughter’s name, Cora’s Story, and have been involved with many nonprofits since. Starting a nonprofit isn’t easy, and in fact for me, I found that most of what I wanted to accomplish I do outside of the nonprofit. I often get approached by other loss moms that want to do something similar, so thought I’d start with where you’d start with planning a nonprofit, should you start a nonprofit in your baby’s honor?
Should You Start a Nonprofit?
When I started a nonprofit, I got some push back. There are too many organizations focused on congenital heart disease, some people told me privately. Even some of my own friends insinuated since I hadn’t gone to school for nonprofit management, I shouldn’t do it. So I want you to know, if you start a nonprofit, I support you. I want you to know that you might encounter similar push back. Here’s the thing, every nonprofit doesn’t have to be a huge global organization that fundraises billions of dollars. Cora’s Story actually doesn’t actively fundraise for what we do.
That being said, as you’ve probably been told, it does take a huge time investment. You also need a solid board of directors behind you. People that know what they’re doing, that you trust completely and that will give you the needed time commitment.
Starting a nonprofit also takes money. Yep, that’s right. If you do everything yourself and don’t hire an attorney, it might be cheaper but requires research and of course you risk not doing everything absolutely right. The IRS charges you for the tax exempt status, so that’s another fee. You could always fundraise to get the money to start up, but then you’re drawing money away from your mission.
In future articles, I’ll get into the nuts and bolts of starting a nonprofit and try to guide you through the process. However, I’m not a lawyer, but want to present some other alternatives to starting a new nonprofit organization.
To save yourself from dealing with the paperwork and accounting that goes along with a nonprofit organization, you could team up with an existing nonprofit that has a similar mission to what you want to do. This organization would serve as your umbrella organization. You would answer to them, but they should take care of paperwork, accepting donations and paying vendors and other bills (probably out of funds you raise). If this sounds appealing to you, do some research about nonprofits in your cause area and reach out to have phone conversations with them.
Another option is to start a memorial fund. You fundraise and then give grants to other organizations. You can use a company like Fidelity or your local community foundation to hold the fund. There are restrictions and guidelines about to whom you can give grants, but you could start a fund in your child’s name to do something like raise money for research or to give a scholarship to a local high school student.
Or you could decide that you can complete your mission without an official organization. To further screenings of newborns for heart defects, I started a grassroots organization, Pulse Ox Advocacy. It isn’t a legal institution. I don’t collect any money. However, I have helped get legislation passed in several states.
Whatever you decide, know that your baby is loved and remembered.