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Tips & Advice

5 Things to Know If You’re Starting a Non-Profit

If you’re a teen looking for partnerships to start up a non-profit organization, you might think that your chances look pretty bleak. Fortunately, that’s where you’re wrong. Chris Martinez started Social Return Consulting to fill a gap in assistance for both corporations and non-profits. Martinez started his business out of a desire to help non-profits serve their communities in even greater ways, and he gave five things for teens to keep in mind when starting their own organizations.

1. As with everything in life, do what you love. Period. Make sure you are filling a gap in services to the community you want to serve and then do work.

2. When people tell you why you will fail or can't do it, listen hard, because they probably have good points. The key is to hear what they say, use it to avoid the pitfalls they are describing, and then prove them all dead wrong...and politely thank them for the great, honest feedback.

3. Listen more than you talk.  Find people who have killed it in their respective fields. (And that does not have to always be non-profit.)  Seek out these people and watch them closely.  Be around winners. It really does rub off if you just pay attention and ask questions.  And when they ask you a question that you don't know the answer to, give this answer - "I don't know." The only way they will give you real advice is if they know you are honest.

4. Fit makes a good match between a corporation and a non-profit.  It is like any other relationship - it must be mutually beneficial.  Too many nonprofits are always thinking, dreaming, even about their great corporate savior.  The hard truth is that a very small percentage of non-profit funding comes from corporations.  The relationships can be amazing, but to make them work non-profits need to ask their potential corporate partners, "What can we do for you?" Corporations need to know that non-profits understand their desires and needs.  Lastly, they need to know that the organization has strong, well-measured programs and it is not going to change their programs simply to gain funding.  Again, like with any relationship, it starts with honesty.

5. When contacting stakeholders, be an amazing listener.  Repeat the most important thing they say so they know you heard them. Everyone wants to be heard.

Chris can be found at, and is also the Director of Development with St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf.