When my business partner (also my husband) and I started our environmental consulting firm we developed a business model that was essentially a non-profit (NOT A GOOD IDEA!!!) so here we are running a solid private environmental research organization but limited by the inability to write most grants, take donations (I know that we can take donations as for profit company but I don't feel comfortable doing that), or attract board members.
Now we are hoping that our non-profit status will allow us to take our corporate revenue and put it into a grant fund that other researchers can utilize. You would be surprised how difficult the IRS makes it to give money away.
During the last year as we have started the transition I have heard positives and negatives in regards to the change. Most of our existing clients think that it is a wonderful idea. Our friends and colleagues think we are crazy for giving ourselves more stress. The bottom line is that it isn't hard to get your 501(c)(3) status if your business model reflects mission driven work. Now if I only had more time to fill out the form!
The hard part - getting a respected and relevant academic researcher to join our board.
This is hard, I knew it would be. No matter how much interest or support someone might have the instant you want something from them you better have something they need which you can provide in return. Time is invaluable to most researchers and asking them to spend even a day on mission building is almost always for naught.
Finally, the most common negative theme, 'you're willingly relinquishing control of your business?'. Yes, I need outside guidance. This is key for any businesses survival and critical for a non-profit. A lot of people are willing to give their advice, in an unofficial capacity, but the moment you offer responsibility most advisors suddenly develop a social calendar Paris Hilton would blush at.
We expect to have it all sorted out by 2012. Our financial advisor recommended 2013 as a better start date but what can I say, I am ambitious. Anyone else out there feeling the same? Join in the conversation!