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How to Start and Market a Nonprofit

14 min read

Ecwid Ecommerce helps individuals like you, who feel the calling to serve and help others, start and sustain their nonprofit business. Thousands of nonprofit founders trust Ecwid to run and power their charity’s website, and to provide their supporters a reliable and unswerving way to purchase their products and fund their mission.

Are you thinking about starting a nonprofit business? With the help of Ecwid’s easily accessible tools and features, you can also start your own charity and start taking orders today as you work to further advance your mission.

Running a nonprofit is not easy, we’d like to applaud you for contributing and being part of the change so many need. Whether you’re looking to start your nonprofit as a side gig or as a full-time project, continue reading to find out more about how you can start a nonprofit organization and start marketing your products to your audience today. In this guide, we’ll go over how you can start a non-nonprofit with no money or zero monthly fees, how to get a grant for your nonprofit, and how to start taking orders and raising funds for your charity’s mission.

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The Difference Between a Nonprofit and a For-Profit Organization

To start a nonprofit, you should be aware of what differentiates it from a for-profit business and what are the principles and guidelines required for your business to be considered one.

First, let’s make it clear that both organization types can be considered businesses and oftentimes have a lot in common. Contrary to popular belief, a nonprofit is typically run like any other regular business, with the exemption that the end goals and motives are different and serve very different purposes. Under a for-profit model, shareholders and stakeholders are the primary beneficiaries of any gains made. This is while under a non-profit business model, any profit made is meant to support a particular cause or to be reinvested into the organization. Even if there is an extra flow of cash, it must be used to further advance the non-profit entity and its mission.

If you were considering starting a business with the hopes to support and contribute to a cause you’re interested in, while also getting the chance to take home a portion of the gains, then starting a nonprofit might not be the right path for you. Even if you donate a part of your profit, as long as you’re keeping some of the gains, your business will not qualify as a public charity or nonprofit.

You can always consider starting a social enterprise if this was the vision you had in mind. A social enterprise works similar to a nonprofit, however, those running the organization get to take a portion of the gains.

Are there any advantages to a Nonprofit over a For-Profit business?

There are certainly a couple of advantages to starting a nonprofit business, and many of these can make it easier to further advance and grow the organization. Here are two of the most popular ones you should be aware of:

Tax exemption. Under federal law, nonprofits organizations that are registered receive a federal tax-exempt status, which applies on a federal and state level.

Eligible to receive grants. One of the major and most relished advantages of starting a nonprofit organization is the opportunity to be eligible to receive grants and charitable funding. As a nonprofit organization, you’ll have the opportunity to apply for funding from the general public, government, and private foundations to support and advance your business. The grants can vary in size and purpose and can include advertising grants from Google that can cover up to $10k in advertising costs. This can be very helpful when it comes to marketing your non-profit and reaching out to prospective supporters.

Due to a nonprofit’s mission and end goal, you’ll likely find a lot more help and resources to help you get started vs. starting a for-profit business. We encourage you to invest some time researching and reaching out to your local experts and find out more about the help available to get you started.

What Do I Need to Start a Nonprofit Organization?

Unfortunately, running a nonprofit typically requires a lot more than an eagerness to help. Charity organizations require a lot of time and effort from their founders, including strong business and leadership skills.

While a charity organization requires a lot of work to keep it afloat and help it grow, it is not as complicated as many think to start one, and the barriers to enter the market are usually pretty low. However, the ultimate goal is to grow your nonprofit organization to a size where you can significantly impact the community you wish to help. To achieve this, there are a couple of resources to consider. Let’s take a look at some of the major ones that are typically required to get started.

  1. Business/charity name
  2. Registration forms
  3. Reliable team
  4. Business and fundraising plan
  5. Website/online store

Business or charity name

You can usually expect the process to start a nonprofit to last for at least six to twelve months. This is as you perform appropriate research and acquire enough data about your particular cause and audience, and take care of all  the paperwork necessary to make your foundation official. Once you’ve identified the need you wish to end, how you can help, and who your audience is, you should be able to come up with an appropriate organization name.

The legal name of your organization will be the identity others rely on to find you. It should not conflict with any other registered organization’s name and should be easily associated with your mission and organization’s story.

Registration forms

There are few forms and regulatory standards you’ll need to keep track of when starting your nonprofit. Just to name a few, you can expect to file articles of incorporation, which are basically legal documentation and basic information of your organization, you’ll need to file an Employer Identification Number, pay for filing fees, and last, but not least, register your foundation.

You’d be required to register your organization with your state and local authorities, with each state having its own unique requirements and regulations. You can click here to find more info here about how to start a non-profit organization.  

Reliable team

When it comes to starting a non-profit, it is a legal requirement to have a board of directors.  Legally, you must have at least three board member roles; including a president, secretary, and treasurer. One of these roles can be occupied by you, but you’ll need to find at least two other team members to make your charity happen. Make sure you work with and establish a group of reliable and trustworthy members, with a genuine interest to grow and advance the organization.

Website & online store

Having a professional website will be the key to help you establish your charity as a reputable one. This can easily result in more trust from your audience when it comes to donations, and should also help you bring awareness to your cause by ranking higher on search results. Your website will also help you tell your story and what you wish to achieve with the help you receive. At the end of the day, it could be the first impression many of your supporters get of your foundation, which can either help you gain or lose potential donors.

Another, oftentimes forgotten, aspect of having a website is the ability it provides to sell merchandise that your audience can buy to support your mission and cause.

Many nonprofits can experience the growth and impact they desire by selling and advertising their products online. Some successful examples of nonprofit organizations that are currently helping many through the selling of their products online are Fair Trade and The Compassionate Closet. These two organizations have helped thousands through the support and help they get from each of their buyers, which probably couldn’t be possible without a website and online store.  Ultimately, when building a website, you’ll want to make sure it offers valuable information that is easy to navigate and provides visitors with a desirable experience.

Business and fundraising plan

When it comes to marketing and growing your non-profit, it’s necessary for you to establish a solid and sustainable business plan. This should help you set clear goals and objectives and most importantly help you put together a crystal clear guide of the steps and strategies you’ll need to take to get there. In fact, without a solid business plan in place, you can expect to have a harder time obtaining loans or grants, and perhaps end up pushing away many potential investors or donors.

Your business/fundraising plan should include:

  • Organization goals and objectives
  • Thorough research of your specific cause and audience
  • Key messages
  • Volunteer reach and engagement
  • Best channels to promote your message
  • Strategies to raise funds and create awareness
  • Detailed sustainability guide on how you plan to sustain each and every one of your organization’s goals and strategies.

A fundraising plan can be considered the backbone and driving force of your organization. You can’t expect people to support you if they have no clue about who you are and are not offered any initiatives on why they should care about the particular you wish to support. You can expect to rely on your business plan when applying for any grants and creating a grant proposal. Make sure to establish long-term and short-term goals, and be creative with this part of the process as you work out the best strategies for your goals and needs.

Can Nonprofits Benefit from Ecommerce?

As you can see, no matter your organization’s mission or size, you’ll likely need funds and the support of your audience to reach your desired outcome. Whether you wish to remain local or build a nationwide supporters’ base, odds are you’ll need a website and a unique way to encourage others to offer their financial support. Let us briefly discuss a little more about how nonprofits make money.

Diversifying your Nonprofit’s revenue streams with ecommerce

With a website and online store in place, you’ll not only be able to provide potential donors and investors a place to learn more about your mission and story but also get access to an unlimited number of ecommerce features. Operating an ecommerce store is a great way to increase your organization’s revenue streams, and ultimately achieve long-term support from your customers.

Don’t fear the idea of running an ecommerce store. It’s now easier than ever to build a website and ecommerce store and start selling online. With just a few clicks, you can have access to a wide range of readily available and free-to-use tools and features.

It can be exhaustive deciding what is the best ecommerce platform for you and your organization, or perhaps keeping up with the high monthly fees required by many of these when you’re just getting started. We encourage you to open your own online shop for free with Eciwd’s beginner’s plan and get access to a full library of features designed to help businesses and nonprofits thrive and succeed. In the odd case, if you’re not happy with your store, you can choose to close it at any time without anything to lose or explain.

Build Your Nonprofit’s Website Today

We hope you felt encouraged by this guide to start your nonprofit organization and start making a change. As you get ready to begin your journey and build a lasting legacy that could help hundreds out there, we’d like to encourage you to share with us below how you plan to make it happen. Don’t forget it’s now easier than ever to start your own nonprofit platform and start selling the products you love! Take the plunge today and tell us how it goes!


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About the author

Max has been working in the ecommerce industry for the last six years helping brands to establish and level-up content marketing and SEO. Despite that, he has experience with entrepreneurship. He is a fiction writer in his free time.

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I like that Ecwid was easy to start and to use. Even for a person like me, without any technical background. Very well written help articles. And the support team is the best for my opinion.
For everything it has to offer, ECWID is incredibly easy to set up. Highly recommend! I did a lot of research and tried about 3 other competitors. Just try ECWID and you'll be online in no time.

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