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How to have a board that can attract $500,000 capital for a non-profit start up

I've been accepted at Harvard's joint bachelor's and master's program in management for the summer of 2018. Since 2003, I've had a financial planning practice with Indian Tribes. My goal at Harvard is to learn best practices, so I can transition my practice into a sustainable and scalable non-profit organization, the Native Finance Development Corporation, for Indian Country. When funded, I will develop an online and in-person platform to provide financial education, debt resolution, savings and affordable loans to the tribal communities. Initially, I intend to leverage my relationship with existing client tribes.

I've already submitted for establishment of my 401(c)3 with the IRS. In early March, 2018, I applied for certification as a Native American Community Development Finance Institution. I have a business plan. Over the next four years, I will attend Harvard full-time while developing the IT and human resources and training aspects of the non-profit.

What would be the most effective and efficient way to develop this board?

#business #business-development #nonprofits

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2 answers

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Kim’s Answer

Hi Cynthia,

Shalini has given you some excellent advice. My only other thought is to look into potential organizations that can help support your business plan. In CA (specifically Cal Poly) there are organizations such as the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and HotHouse. All within the college environment and all with the mission of supporting student businesses while you are in school. They provide several areas of support, including board development. Perhaps Harvard has something like it or a connection to something similar. Here is a link to SBDC that will lead you to the other two. Best wishes on your endeavor.

Kim recommends the following next steps:

Check out the info on business development within the college environment.
Research organizations potentially aligned with Harvard.
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Shalini’s Answer

Hi Cynthia -

First of all congratulations on having a well-thought out plan for your non-profit. You have shown a lot of initiative that this will help you go far. Board development is one of the most important things for a new organization to focus on. Members of your board help you establish credibility and ideally open their networks to you, both to raise visibility and of course, funds.

While community financial institutions are not my area of expertise, I will give you some tips that should be helpful in general. As your main need is for this board to be a funding/fundraising board for a community financial institution, that arena is where you need to look for individuals to invite onto your board. First, look at your own networks:

  1. Are any of your friends, community members, relatives, friends' relatives in finance? Can you approach them with your idea, see what they think and then invite them to join your board?
  2. Look at similar institutions - community financial institutions (CFIs). Are there individuals on their boards that you can invite onto yours?
  3. Once you have a core group of individuals on your board (not all need to have finance backgrounds - some can have HR experience or be from the community you are trying to help), then you need to put a fundraising plan in place. It would be helpful to have at least one board member who has fundraising experience. The fundraising plan should have concrete steps as to how the organization is going to reach its initial goal ($500,000), what is the timeline, what are the steps, etc.
  4. Once you have your plan, then each member of the board should be encouraged to contribute and to help with fundraising in any way they can. Your plan should have options for commitment - dollar amount, amount each board member will help raise, what networks they can introduce you to, to help fundraise, etc.

Board development should be customized for each organization as it is important to get a good mix of people on the board, and who hopefully have good chemistry working together. Your board chair should be the person you work closely with to help you keep other board members focused on their commitments.

Being at Harvard should help you access alumni networks, ask your professors for ideas on who should be on your board (perhaps one of them would agree to serve). Having a couple of big names helps attract others.

Hope this is helpful - wish you the very best!

Thank you comment icon Shalini: Excellent suggestions! I'll look for people who are doing business in Indian Country, such as vendors to Indian casinos. They may want to give back... Thank you very much for your acknowledgement and encouragement. Cynthia