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Question added to topic Grow Your BusinessAugust 6, 2010

What do I need to know if I want to open a non-profit business?

I'm assisting a friend with a not-for-profit room and board business. How would the business model differ from a traditional for-profit model?
Wow, I certainly can appreciate the want and desire to do something so valuable for your community, and the idea of a non-profit venture.

The best way to see the viability of this type of venture is to really research the needs of your community. Is this something that is really needed or simply a wish and desire to help that your friend wants to fulfill?

Notice there is a difference, but that difference is key to determining the demand for such a resource where you live. If that sounds like something that you should only think about in a for-profit business, you're correct.

That's because even as a non-profit, you have to think like a business person and an entrepreneur--sometimes even more so because you are relying on donations, grants and other sources of funding to make a non-profit work.

One of the reasons we started our Coaching for a Cause initiative was because I've found most non-profits find the idea of engaging in sound business practices so repugnant they soon find themselves out of business--which can be a crushing blow for a community and for those the non-profit served.

You still need to source a steady flow of donation dollars. You also need to be accountable with those resources and maximize the use of them in the organization. You need to be able to run the operation as lean on the cost side as possible.

That all means you need a good business plan, some good business knowledge about how to set up systems to get steady donations in the door and good systems to keep your best donors happy with your work.

The main thing, however, is making sure there is a market and demand for this type of service. Developing an organization based on real need, versus a well-intentioned desire to help based simply on that desire, will go further in assisting those people you and your friend really want to help.

Brad Sugars is the founder and chairman of ActionCOACH. As an entrepreneur, author and business coach, he has owned and operated more than two dozen companies including his main company, ActionCOACH, which has more than 1,000 offices in 34 countries.

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