HOW SHE DID IT
• Build strong relationships in the community. “Relationships and collaborations are key,” says Carter. “You need letters of support for grants and you need to prove to funders that you are collaborating with other organizations,” she says of the funding process. She says funders and government agencies favor groups that partner with two or three other organizations. “They no longer want us operating in silos and independently.” Carter strongly advises that anyone seeking to start a nonprofit start networking now. “You need political officials and community leaders to know who you are. You need everyone to know you and rally around your cause.” For example, she has collaborated with organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, United Initiatives for Peace, the Financial Empowerment Center, Newark Housing Authority, and Trinity Reformed Church/Safe Haven Urban Redemption, just to name a few.
• Make personal sacrifices. “I didn’t take a salary or have health insurance or a regular paycheck for four years,” explains Carter. “That was hard. Friends and family invested in me and gave me money to fund Against All Odds, and I took a second mortgage out on my home. Everyone doesn’t need to make such a drastic personal financial sacrifice like I did. That is the extreme, but you must have some finances in the game. You have to bring money to the table. Budget very wisely, and take at least a year prior to leaving your career to save up. After leaving my full-time job I also did some consulting with other organizations to make sure I had some money coming in. I paid my original staff out of my own pocket and had $150,000 for the first four years to operate the agency.” Running a nonprofit takes as much discipline and planning as running any business, so be prepared to live without for a while. “If it’s not something you would do without a paycheck, it’s not something you should do,” she warns.
• Incorporate as a nonprofit. Anyone looking to start a nonprofit should contact the appropriate office within their state’s government for the 501(c)(3) filing application, articles of incorporation, bylaws, and any other required documents. Incorporating your nonprofit allows you to apply for grants and other public or private allocations available only to IRS 501(c)(3) organizations, as well as exemptions from federal and/or state corporate income taxes, among other benefits.