EAP Episode 8: Unique Carper – How to Successfully Start a Non-Profit
Our guest on this episode of the Early Accountability Podcast with Kimi Walker is Unique Carper, an advocate and consultant for startups and non-profits. Unique always knew that she wanted to help people, so she started going to school for psychology, then transitioned to social work, then realized her passion for assisting non-profit leaders with the administrative portions of their organizations, so she completed her degree in Human Services: Non-profit Management.
Now Unique provides her expertise to non-profit leaders as they navigate the paperwork to achieve their 501(c)3 status, seek funding, and acquire and manage their board members. Unique recommends that individuals seeking to start their own non-profit organizations outsource this administrative work so they can focus on building their programs and establishing the mission of their organization rather than getting bogged down in the paperwork behind the organization’s functioning. The biggest mistake the Unique has observed non-profit leaders make is to create programming that does not align with the mission of the organization, so it is critical for the leaders of the organization to firmly establish their mission and programming from the beginning.
Unique’s other two main pieces of advice to non-profit leaders are (1) to research the market and collaborate with existing organizations to take full advantage of the programming that is already being offered in your area and have your organization create programming that effectively fills in the gaps and (2) to acquire funding from your Board members, from local businesses, and through low-cost fundraisers and events in your community.
Topics Covered in this Episode:
- Unique’s tips for the initial phases of creating your non-profit
- The biggest mistake non-profit leaders can make
- How to raise funding for your non-profit
- Services that Unique offers as a consultant to non-profit leaders
One mistake I see is that people have so much passion for the work they do, and so much passion for wanting to help their community that they end up doing programs that are not focused around their mission. #EAP #SuccessfulNonProfit
I also believe that people should start first with local businesses because businesses will want to provide charitable work in their local areas. #EAP #StartingaNonprofit
Connect with Unique:
Welcome to the ‘Early Accountability Podcast’ hosted by Kimi Walker. Kimi has a track record of serving as a behavior change and improve a catalyst for individuals, groups, and organizations. Get ready to make the best version of yourself a priority. Now welcome Kimi Walker.
Kimi: Kimi Walker here and welcome to the next episode of the ‘Early Accountability Podcast’. Tonight my guest is Unique Carper and Unique Carper has a very unique set of attributes. She does a lot with startups and non-profits. So we’re talking about early accountability in getting things started. I know a lot of people myself included really want to take a passion project or something that they’re really, really feel strongly about and wanna start and get some type of a nonprofit started or implement it. So Unique first off welcome. Thank you for being here. So why don’t you start by introducing yourself, telling everybody where you’re from, what you do.
Unique: Hi my name is Unique Harper, and I tell everybody that first and foremost I am a lover of [inaudible] [01:11] and a lover of people. And I am somebody who loves to give back to people especially when I see somebody trying to do great things in their community. I am a mother of three. I’ve been married for 16 years. So I really am juggling my work life with my home life, and trying to make it all work together.
I am recently branching out after I’ve gained some experience working in non-profit and seeing some of the places where there’s opportunity to grow and learn especially working with smaller non-profit. And so I’m reaching out to these founders to try to help them along their path of building their organization, bringing that together in a way where it is sustainable and where we’re doing the best work that’s in line with the mission for the agency.
Kimi: And now you say you get into non-profits. You kind of had some work experience doing that. What kind of started the journey of doing things in the non-profit sector?
Unique: Well growing up I always had an idea that I wanted to work in a job where I helped people. I started off thinking that I wanted to be a psychologist. And then I was like that’s not really the right fit that maybe I should be a social worker. And so I actually started off in school in the social work program. As I was working a nonprofit and seeing the clients that come in and everything else. So I kind of realized that that wasn’t still necessarily the area that I wanted to be in. Some of that had to do with just my own realization on how I deal with things in my own personal difficulties of not projecting my manners and habits onto other people.
And trying to be more empowering in [crosstalk] realization means a lot when you’re trying to figure out where you want to be in the world. And it was kind of defeating because I’m like I want to help people, but how do I do this. But that’s why I also gain a passion for more of the administrative aspect of the non-profit because without that, the non-profit cannot sustain. People aren’t able to provide the services if the administrative aspect isn’t in place. And so that’s when I changed my major to Human Services administration with a concentration in non-profit management.
Kimi: Okay and that’s what you’re still been doing to this day.
Unique: Yes it is, yes it is. I’ve worked in programming, I’ve worked in trying to coordinate between the parents, and the programs, and the staff members. I’ve done grant management and grant writing. Those are the areas that I’ve been focusing on mainly and also board management.
Kimi: Okay so those are also services like I know you have your… you do some consultative work on the side as well. Are those kind of the primary services that you help people who are already have like a nonprofit or who are thinking about starting a non-profit?
Unique: Yes, it is. One thing that I realized is that there’s a lot of people who have serious passion for the work that they wanna do. And they’re really big advocates for the clients that they want to serve. And some of them also may know how to run the programs, but they don’t know really about budgeting. They don’t know about the legal aspects of compliance. They’re not sure how to really gather the information to where their programs can be quantified so people can see the actual impact of their programs. They don’t know about fund raising, managing the board members. And so that’s where I like to step in and kind of help people navigate their way through that whole process.
Kimi: Okay, so if someone let’s say they come to you and they just have an idea down. So let’s say they wanna do like an afterschool program for minority males. What are kind of like the next step? What should they do from there? They’re like, “Okay I know this is what it is. I know this is what I wanna do. I’m very passionate about it.” Where do they go from here?
Unique: Primarily they really should look into if they want to try to start the program before becoming a legal non-profit, or if they want to go ahead and get all that paperwork done and out the way. So then they can just hit the program running. Because some people just want to test the waters to see how they can grow from there. But I think the main thing is researching really, and trying to become an expert in the field that you want to work in. If they really want to open up a non-profit, they should in or like a non-profit for after school.
There’s different alliances that they can join with the after school alliance that gives a lot of details on how to set up programs, best practices, different agencies that they can reach out to the help partner with the program. So I will say the best approach is really the knowledge approach, and the research approach, and then from there you can go into filing your legal documents, setting up your budget, finding your board of directors. All those things to really manage the administration side of your nonprofit.
Kimi: I think that’s interesting because there is a lot of administrative work to starting and sustaining a non-profit. What advice or what direction do you give people who are more of like a hands on people? Like I really know I wanna start this non-profit, but I’m really not into like all this paperwork, and filing, and IRS. What kind of guidance do you give them to help them go through the process of starting and getting IRS recognition and [crosstalk] [07:29].
Unique: Well I can help them throughout their paperwork for their [inaudible] process. I can help them file their insurance paperwork, assist with the news publications that have to go out, and setting up their board, all the stuff that they need to do to legally become a non-profit. Those are services that I can offer to them.
Kimi: So you would recommend outsourcing [crosstalk]
Unique: … I recommend outsourcing it because sometimes it can be overwhelming especially when you’re doing a processing an application comes back denied. Sometimes it’s good to reach out to experts who can help you with that process. And you know everybody’s level of need is different. Some people might just want somebody to help talk them through it, some people want somebody to actually do the work. Either way you know the services can be provided.
Kimi: And you do consultation with a lot of different types of non-profits who are in a lot of different levels, and vary a lot in size. What are some of the… like you see a lot of like mistakes that people might make, or common things that people may not understand, or do that you have to often help assist with, or get guidance on, or coach people through.
Unique: I think one of the most common mistakes I see is that people have so much passion for the work they do, and so much passion for wanting to help their community that they end up doing programs that are not focused around their mission. You create a mission statement for a purpose. This is what our plan is, this is what our vision and our goals are. So the programs that you’re implementing should be able to be tied back to your mission.
And that not only keeps you focused on your goals, but also when you are reaching out to the funders and you say you’re an afterschool program. They’re not interested in you doing what [inaudible]. They wanna know how you are going to reach this mission that you said this is what you are doing. And so sometimes it’s hard to get people to bring it back in to really refocus their direction on their mission.
And I’ve had very difficult conversations sometimes with people because sometimes their deep into a program and they’re not wanting to give that program up. But [laughing] attached to [crosstalk] then why are you doing it. You could reach out to people. You can refer those people to other agencies who might be providing that need. But you have to focus on your main need, so that you can become proficient in that. And so that you can provide the best services that you can in that.
Kimi: Do you ever suggest collaborating? So if it’s you’re really interested in an after school personal development program, but you just really have some students or kids who have needs in their home, and then you wanna start giving like family coaching. Would you suggest then since that’s going outside of what the mission is, do you ever suggest like collaborating with other organizations?
Unique: I am a very, very big very big fan of collaboration because there are so many people that have a million different needs in their lives. And you might be able to be that one to fulfill that need, but while you got them, while you’ve got them in your program, while you got them in your group, you can help them in other way by bringing other people in to help with the other needs that you cannot fulfill.
Kimi: Okay, that’s awesome. I know a big thing with non-profits just knowing that personally for with my own and just with other people I know who have started or who are sustaining non-profits. A big thing of course is funding. Can you talk just a little bit on funding, and some what should do if they have non-profit, they were haven’t really secure any kind of funding yet for their program, or they have an idea for a non-profit and they’re kind of like how am I gonna pay for this. What do you suggest starting and what do you suggest to help people stay on top of that goal or securing sponsorships, or grants, or what have you?
Unique: One thing that I believe strongly in is having a board who is responsible for financing, having a board who have to give get. So you set the goal if it’s 500 dollars a member then they either give it or they get it from the community. Especially when it’s in starting out non-profit where they don’t have a large name out in the community, and people don’t know much about them. The board members are a way to market them through their give-get. But I also believe that people should start first with local businesses because businesses will want to provide charitable work in their local areas.
Like businesses want to see their communities grow and a lot of them have personal missions and personal foundations tied in with their business, so they’re looking for agencies that they can fund. So it’s a lot of research to see which businesses have focus areas that are similar to yours. But that is really one of the main places to start when you’re first starting out. From there, you can branch out looking for different brands that might be available. And I also say to do events as fundraisers. Smaller events where the expenses are low. But where you can both net funding and also spread awareness about your aid agency, and the services that you are providing.
Kimi: Okay, so doing like small local events to kind of get people aware of what you’re doing, trying to secure sponsorship or funding from local businesses. So [inaudible] [13:35] sound like you say really kind of starting on the home front not to be… and do you suggest doing that before you have [inaudible] status or after?
Unique: You can start fund raising before you have your [inaudible] status. But a lot of agencies and individuals are looking for that status because even though they’re giving out the goodness of their heart, they’re also wanting to be able to use it for their tax purposes. [Laughing]. That’s the world that we live in. So people are always looking for that and that also shows…
Kimi: Yeah right
Unique: … people that you’re serious about the work that you’re trying to do, and that you’re mobile agency because people don’t want to give their money to someplace that 1) they’re not sure, and if they’re credible or not. And 2) they’re not sure if they’re able to be sustainable. Like I don’t wanna give you my money today and they’re going to close tomorrow. So when they see that you’ve actually done the work to try to get your [inaudible] status and that you’re working to really give the agency, they have more trusting because that’s the biggest thing is having the community’s trust in you when it comes to funding. They want to trust that you’re gonna do the work that you say you wanna do, and they want to trust that you can be doing this work well long term.
Kimi: Okay, that’s great. Now for people like me that sometimes have to outsource. (And one woman at many hats.) How would someone get in contact with you to like have a consultation with you about maybe an idea they were thinking about for starting a non-profit? Or to get some support in their non-profit if it’s not growing the way they would hope it to be, or they just kind of hit a roadblock? How would they get in contact with you?
Unique: Okay anybody who wants to get in contact me that you can find me on LinkedIn at uniquecarper, and they can also e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And that’s the two best ways to get in contact with me. If you have questions about your non-profit, any kind of administrative aspects of it.
Kimi: Okay, right now you work with… I mean you work with few non-profits, but you have a pretty… They all have kind of different needs, and they’re like different sizes, and different geographical locations. So you’re pretty [crosstalk] [15:57]
Unique: They have their [inaudible] three status. Probably about nine years ago and then the founders stopped working for the organization for a moment to focus on some live situations, and then coming back the other in trying to get their status reinstated. So I’m helping them with that process. I’m also helping an organization called the ‘Blended Family Foundation’. And they’re an organization that provides services and mentoring to blended families.
I’m helping them with their grant writing and event planning. I also worked for three very large non-profits. One is refuge house. I was the contract manager there. It was a domestic violence agency. I worked for Boys and Girls Club two times because I love that agency. [Crosstalk] Also at children’s home society where I’m helping in the [inaudible] and Grant Department.
Kimi: Yes, you have been. Okay awesome, so sounds like you have a great. You’ve had a multitude of experience and like you said really those are some big organizations too. Like refuge house and [inaudible] boys. Who doesn’t know boys and girls club? So Unique, what is your mantra? What’s like your daily mantra? Like you say you’re a busy woman. You’re kind of like giving all the time. What is your mantra that helps you with like self-care, or helps you take care of yourself, or keeps you kind of motivated and pushing forward?
Unique: Like there might be circumstances that you’re dealing with and stuff that comes up that’s difficult. You don’t know how you’re gonna overcome it. But sometimes you can’t let that one thing ruin your whole entire day. You’ve got to try to figure out a way to deal with it, reach out to people for advice. But really if they stay grounded in who you are and what your purpose is and try to find joy somewhere somehow in that day.
Even if it’s something small that you can rejoice in. And my other one is that you can catch more [inaudible] [17:49] because I always try to be a nice person and the giving person, and I never want to leave a bad impression on anybody. And I want everybody to feel I’m working with them and not against them. So I really try to do everything with professionalism and just treat people well. And that’s just something I like doing in all aspects of my life.
Kimi: All right! Well thank you so much for being here. I know that’s gonna be helpful information one to me, but to the audience as well. Because I know there are so many people who like you said have great passions and ideas and they kind of just don’t know where to start. So thank you again for your time. We enjoyed having you on the show. I’m sure you’ll be back because they’re so much when it comes to non-profits to starting, executing it. It goes bigger than 501C three paper work, and [crosstalk] and just funding. So I know you’ll be back to be able to share more information for people who are looking to dive in a little bit deeper. So thank you again for your time.
Unique: thank you
Kimi: Yes, so it’s Unique Carper on LinkedIn and uniquecarper@gmail…
Unique: Yes, it is.
Kimi: All right, thank you so much Unique.
It was a pleasure to have you join us on this episode of the ‘Early Accountability Podcast’ with Kimi Walker. Be sure to visit earlyaccountability.com to sign up for the Early Accountability newsletter. We look forward to activating your greatness and helping you reach your goals.