Before I start talking about my gained experience I will spend some time to address the question I get asked frequently. As a matter of fact, I asked myself at the beginning a number of times:
„Why do you want to create an NPO from scratch and not join an existing one.“ A valuable question. Life could be easier - or maybe not on the longterm run?! Highly likely it would require less of our time we all - 7 founding members , 2 honorary members, a number of supporting members (yeah!) and supporters (number is growing) - invest in setting up, supporting and running bbuildsupnepal e.V.
For me for sure. But before anything else let's get the concepts right, as they often get mixed up:
NPO - non-profit organization also known as a non-business entity or non-profit institution, is dedicated to furthering a particular social cause or advocating for a shared point of view. In economic terms, it is an organization that uses its gained surplus of the revenues to further achieve its ultimate objective, rather than distributing its income to the organization's shareholders, leaders, or members. Having said that, that doesn´t mean that it’s not possible to hire people and pay them a salary which somehow often is what people assume. Nonprofits are tay exempt or charitable, meaning they do not pay income tax on the money that they receive for their organization. In Germany if an NPO generates sales > €35.000,—through like for example merchandising, ticket sales etc. tax needs to be paid. We as eingetragener gemeinnütziger Verein are a registered non-profit association.
NGO - non government organization - are usually non-profit and sometimes international organizations independent of governments and international governmental organizations (though often funded by governments) that are active in humanitarian, educational, health care, public policy, social, human rights, environmental, and other areas to affect changes according to their objectives. The term 'NGO' is not always used consistently. In some countries the term NGO is applied to an organization that in another country would be called an NPO (non-profit organization), and vice versa.
Charity - or charitable organization is a non-profit organization whose primary objectives are philanthropy and social well-being.
Coming backt to why create from scratch. The key questions we asked ourselves was: „What do we want to achieve?“ and „How do we want that to happen?“
During my 2 years extensive „Nepal“ work as a one-man show, valuable experience was gained including local knowledge and connections were made.
I realized 3 major things:
There was no organization that covered the topic or runs a program in Kathmandu we were interested in.
Scalability and funding challenges are easier to overcome being a team/organization.
Attracting supporters and companies to join is much easier if it will be an established and legal organization, plus being able to issue donation receipts will be helpful as well.
All these considerations laid the foundation for the idea to create our own organization. Plus it's much more fun to have partners in crime and to be a team. All I needed to do was to find 6 people who wanted to join in … which can become a challenge to be honest, as most of us have busy lives and doing the walk is different then doing the talk. I got lucky!
WHY CREATE AN NGO
As for us, we didn’t find anyone to partner with, that covered the topic we are focussing (getting street children of the street and focusing on systems change through empowerment of families) on, the way we envision. Someone that shares the same values and principles, starting from the way the operation or shall I say organization is run, with whom we partner, to the way money is spend, the transparency provided to the partners that are involved etc. We are continuously looking for partners - no matter where they are in the world - to join forces to help create a better life for children in Nepal. Partnerships and networks are key ingredients for the success in many ways.
Some of the reasons can be:
No one offers a similar project the way you are looking for.
You gained substantial insights, knowledge and connections (local) about the topic or the country that empowers you to get active.
Projects, programs are not handled the way you envision it.
Legal framework - you can ensure that processes and transparency are set up according to your believes and values.
Scalability - as an NGO/NPO you have a different reach, access to available support/material and we will have more impact.
You can control the way money is spent.
You can team up with like minded people/friends and help make a difference and creativity is not limited.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE?
An idea, passion, dedication, a team, the eagerness to help create (meaningful) change, business acumen, not being turned off by rejection, being able to face reality, a good and reliable team that you can trust, time and a good network. As a matter of fact it's like setting up a company:
You need a "product", a vision, you create a brand (name/logo and Corporate Design), mission, vision, strategy and processes are a must as well, you create a presence online, have printed communication material, use social media to create awareness and build a community, you need press, speak on events and you definitely need good partners that support you. And you maintain to the flexible and change approach if needed.
WHERE DO YOU NEED TO START
In Germany there is no need to register an association at the official registry. You need to decide if you want your (registered) organization to be a non for profit one. Creating an association takes time, money, work and patience. Keep in mind that you need to document everything (invites, decisions etc.).
You need to pay the following in Germany:
50,--€ district court up to 30,--€ extra if you want an announcement in the official register.
Really important: Get yourself a good lawyer right from the beginning, establish solid processes and don ́t forget GDPR.
CHECKLIST - 10 STEPS TO REGISTER A NON-FORPROFIT /GEMEINNÜTZIGER VEREIN
Create a template for the statute. At the District Court you can clarify the admissibility of provisions with a Rechtspfleger.
Should your organization acknowledged as charitable? The wording of the "tax model statute" must be taken literally. Your tax office gives you the tax ok before the foundation.
Send the invitation to foundation meeting. Be sure to include the draft statute as well.
Prepare a foundation protocol. According to this schedule, the founding meeting will be held. There must be at least seven people present. Have all persons sign on a attendance list with names and addresses.
Discuss the draft by-law, insert changes by hand. With the adoption the statute is founded the association. Decide and record that any complaints of editorial nature may be resolved by the Board.
All have to be on the statutory title founding members sign.
The members of the provided by the statute Executive Board are elected
With the establishment protocol - This is the certificate on the founding of the association and the appointment of the board - go to the notary, according to § 26 BGB representatives entitled to board, and apply for the registration of the association in the register of associations (authentication of signatures). Send the file to the notary with the adopted final statute so that he can submit the documents electronically to the district court.
Simultaneously with the registration you send a copy of the statute to the tax office. With the Recognition of provisional charity you will be exempted from paying registration fees. You may accept donations and issue donation receipts.
With the entry in the register of associations is the association"registered association"and must have the suffix e.V.
passion is key
business acumen vital (from acquisition of sponsors/fundraising/processes to ensure transparency; according to our lawyer this is a weak point for many NGOs)
be patient: it takes time to build from scratch, to gain trust and people/companies take time to donate; plus the competition is high and in a business context your "product" needs to be a fit for businesses
without partners (team, extended team and organization) that support you, it will almost be impossible to be successful
community: online and offline is key to create awareness, get funds and support
be open to use "modern" communications tools, a real challenge older and established organisations often face!
be open to discuss new ways and options with people that want to support
be able to say no if fit isn't right
running an non profit doesn't mean that you can not act entrepreneurial
with regards to fundraising find a donation platform that matches your values, operation and stick with one, at least for the beginning
motivational and learning curve don't develop exponentially
One thing for sure: it's a great experience to design something new, to create real meaning, establish a new sustainable operation or system change, to collaborate on a voluntary basis with likeminded people and to use our skills to make the world a little bit better.