Archive for January, 2008

I started my day out with one very important question: How does one start a nonprofit?

I’ve worked for a variety of nonprofits over the years & my left leaning politics have often favored employment searches on Idealist.org rather than Monster.com. But despite my years of working between the walls of non-profits, I had never acquired any knowledge in reference to what steps are necessary for a group of well meaning folks to establish nonprofit status.

Here’s the deal–there are many different kinds of nonprofits. If you want to incorporate your nonprofit you need to:

1) Establish your organization by filing articles of incorporation with appropriate agencies of your state (usually the secretary of state).

2) Create a Board of Directors.

3) Secure federal income tax exemption by filing the appropriate forms with the IRS. The IRS has a FAQ about applying for tax-exemption.

This step would benefit greatly from some legal assistance! You can search for a pro bono or reduced-cost legal services that specialize in assisting new & emerging non-profits. Some pro bono organizations that Matroyshka’s Garden might want to check out are:

Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts-offers volunteer legal services to arts organizations and individual artists nationwide.

Corporate Pro Bono-allows us to create a listing for our nonprofit which can then be searched & viewed by lawyers who are looking for volunteer opportunities.

Lawyers Alliance for New York-offers free legal assistance to qualified nonprofit organizations in New York City.

4) In order for to procure & file the appropriate forms you might want to contact your state’s charity registration office (in New York that would be: Secretary of State information for Charitable Organizations). This would be important if you wanted to file for tax-deductible status (aka for donations to be tax deductible). Legal assistance is suggested with this as well.

5) It usually takes 4-6 months to go through the process of becoming a non-profit.

I also stumbled upon a free basic training course offered through the Foundation Center, which I will be attending on Monday, January 28th. This course is offered in New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, Cleveland & Washington DC (registration is required): Before You Seek a Grant: A Checklist for New Nonprofits

Something that has become abundantly clear is that a mission statement is definitely needed. If you intend to go forward with seeking nonprofit status (or even if you don’t!), having a clear & concise document which encompasses your hopes & goals for your organization. This will also give you a reference point for future problems or conflicts. At this leg of the journey, your mission statement should be short & to the point–basically you want to outline why your nonprofit should exist.

As if this entry didn’t look all link-happy enough, here are some links that were helpful to me:

The Foundation Center FAQ

5 Tips & A Warning

Where to Start When Creating a Nonprofit

Starting a Nonprofit Organization

On the drawing board– What exactly is a Board of Directors: Who, What, Where & Why?

Happy nonprofiting!

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For Starters

It all started with a summer spent in chicken coops. Sure, I complained about sloshing out the pig slop as banana peels & oatmeal remains stained my jelly shoes. & yes, my shoulders burned red as I bent over endless stalks of corn & tomato constellations in our organic garden, but at 10 years old, Appel Farm was my first taste of what real community could look like. It was where I learned the simple joy of human touch–a head in a lap, an arm linked with another, fingers reassuringly braiding endless plaits of hair & weaving neon pink thread through curls. It was where I learned that there wasn’t an endless supply of power–as the lights went down on 4 bunks full of pre-teen girls plugging in their hair dryers all-at-once to doll up for the dinner dance. That air-conditioners didn’t grow on houses, let alone trees.

As an only child I’ve always longed for a big-picture family to come home to, a sibling to break china with, some noise to drown out the familiar silence of alone. At 25 (the big QC), I’ve learned to enjoy my solitude–filling it up with yarn and paint, film, paper & thread, books & my latest craft obsession–come to grips with the fact that alone is not always lonely. But that knowledge doesn’t suppress my urge for sleep overs, for cuddle puddles, for busy hands juggling pans of squash & sweet potatoes & emerald kale steaming up my home. Our home.

This is the first installment of what will become written (& eventually visual) documentation for what can only be called a social experiment of the sincerest kind. Take 6 ladies & gents hailing from different states, countries & continents–watch them build a house together. We’ve got Russians & Midwesterners, business majors & poets, construction workers & farmers, how-to-video divas & fire-spinning crocheters, photographers & WAC workers, carnivores & vegans, High Sierra hikers & just beginners. Basically–we’ve got it covered from all ends of the spectrum.

What we want is big–a self-sustainable, environmentally friendly home that can house all of our dreams–from music studios to writer’s colonies to green houses to gardened acres of plenty. & we’re going to build it with our (& perhaps your!) own 12 hands. We’re not going easy on ourselves–we’re not venturing to hotbeds of solar heaven like Arizona, New Mexico or Hawaii (or even Europe where they’d at least give us some health insurance to start with). We’re building our dream in the cold climes of New York State–the Adirondacks to be more precise. If nothing else, those mountains will provide us with endless beauties to hold our spirits up high (& the swampy land will provide more than enough mud to fight out the difficulties in). We’re starting out with a whole lot of optimism (tempered by just enough realism to forge ahead) & a whole slew of families who think we should, at the very least, be committed. & we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Let the documentation begin!

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