Get started: Plant funding and governance seeds immediately
It’s critical to lay the groundwork for fundraising and community governance immediately. Why?
Fundraising: Some localities have a community foundation established to support organizations that serve the common good, and are a source of grants and assistance to new nonprofits. You can work with a local community foundation to start a fund for local journalism that you can tap once you establish your nonprofit, and they can let their donors know of your plans. The national Council on Foundations has a tool to find the nearest of 750 community foundations across the nation.
Employee outreach: Reporters are trained to sniff out big changes before they are announced. Be upfront with your employees about the change you are considering, and get their input and buy-in early.
Community Outreach: Involve your community! Time invested in market research and soliciting community and reader input pays off in readership, financial support and community impact. Encouraging conversation about your upcoming change starts spreading the idea that you’re a community resource that needs community support.
Governance: As you get started with community outreach, you’ll want to build an advisory board of backers and evangelists, people who will help you sell the change, introduce you to potential patrons, advise during the transition, and help you connect with the nonprofit business community in your area. It may include a mix of short-term advisers and those you would like to have as ongoing board members. A minimum of three board members is required for the filing of your nonprofit (the 1023 application and other documents) but eventually you will need more to have diverse and committed community members willing to do the work of creating the nonprofit and taking over the for-profit.
State-specific legal concerns: Most states have a nonprofit association that offers a wealth of knowledge and can tap you into a new network that you’ll need. They can help ensure you comply with state laws, and help you find nonprofit expert advice in accounting and law. They often have discounts for services you will need. Find your state association through the National Council of Nonprofits.
Charity registration: Most states require you to be registered as a charity if you solicit or receive donations from that state, regardless of where you are based. You will want to register before you add a donate button to your website, newsletter or otherwise start seeking charitable donations. More information is found below.
Membership: Even with a subscriber base, nonprofit newsrooms often rely on revenue from membership programs or “reader revenue” campaigns for donations and support. See Membership Puzzle Project’s Membership Guide for ideas on how to get started with a membership program.