Founder Hacks
August 13, 2021

Thinking of starting a nonprofit? Read this first.

Nonprofits are in the business of going out of business. Nonprofits exist to solve a problem. To eradicate it. They pursue sustainable solutions to complex, long-standing problems that hurt our communities. In this article, I will show you how to break your vision down into tangible, effective steps towards that brighter future you envision.

Maura Fitzpatrick
Brand Strategist

Define the problem you want to solve

Often times, nonprofits seek to solve long-standing, institutionalized, complex problems. Their existence depends on many contributing factors. Choose one and take a deep dive into the who, what, where, why?

For example:

Problem: In America, 85% of college dropouts are due to mental illness.

Contributing factors:

  • Quality mental healthcare is a luxury good in our society. Many college students experiencing mental health issues cannot access or afford appropriate care.
  • There is a stigma against pursuing mental health treatment, such as therapy and psychiatry. So, many college students choose to not seek treatment.
  • Many mental illnesses onset in college-aged persons, so these feelings and challenges are novel to those experiencing them (AKA they aren't sure what they are experiencing).
  • There is very little education about preventative care when it comes to mental health and self-esteem.

How do you know that these contributing factors are legitimate?

  • I experienced this problem myself
  • I have interviewed hundreds of college dropouts and learn about their stories
  • I stay up-to-date on research and statistics surrounding mental health issues in college students.
  • Etc.

Choose one contributing factor to focus on, what more can you tell me about it? How else can you earn a greater understanding about this factor?

"There is very little education about preventative care when it comes to mental health and self-esteem."

  • Most students enter college without any training or education about time management, study skills, self-advocating, and self-care.
  • This leads to students feeling overwhelmed by their workloads, falling behind, and often getting paralyzed with anxiety (skipping class, not turning in assignments, not studying, etc.)
  • This cycle of procrastination intensifies a person's anxiety level and can often push someone into a depressive episode.

Define your vision

A vision is what the world looks like when you solve the problem.


Charity:water envisions a world where every human on earth has access to clean drinking water.

Planned Parenthood envisions a world where every American female has access to reproductive healthcare.

What is your vision?

(Name of organization) envisions a world where every (stakeholder) has (desired state).

What does that look like? Draw a few scenes of your vision coming true.

Why is this vision "good?" Why is it important to pursue this?

Define your Mission

Now that you know what you want the world to look like, how are you going to get there? Your mission is your specific pathway to your vision.

You know how (contributing factor) does (problem) to (stakeholder)? (Organization) does (mission) to change that.