Starting a Nonprofit 1: What to Work on and Why?

by | Dec 29, 2020 | Philanthropy

How do you start a nonprofit? Why should you start a nonprofit, and when shouldn’t you? How do you have the biggest impact you can? How do you raise donations? How do you become a registered charity?

The answer, as of now is, I don’t know. But I am going to find out soon because I am in the middle of the process of starting a nonprofit myself, and I plan to take you with me through every step of the journey.

If you are interested in starting a nonprofit or having the biggest impact you can, then I hope you would like this series. I hope you will learn something from my process, avoid my mistakes, so that we together can make the world a better place. Another reason that I am sharing my process is that I can also learn from you – through the comments. So feel free to provide feedback and come with suggestions. They will be much appreciated. 

Without further ado, here’s how it all began. 

How it all got started

In 2015 I was trying to figure out what to do with my life. What do I want to study? Do I want to study? How do I want my life to look like, and why? I am not sure I will ever know for sure, but one of the things I was certain of, was that I wanted to leave the world a better place than when I found it.

Somehow I stumbled into a meeting of Effective Altruists in Copenhagen and found myself in awe at the company I suddenly found myself in. Here were people who had put a lot of thought into some of the very same questions, and who I felt could help provide me with some direction.

The meetings continued with an ever-changing audience. Fuelled in part by international students who had heard of the community in their local countries and partly by greasy vegan burgers from our regular meeting spot. 

However, the movement was not growing a lot within the country. Still, there was a small group of people who showed up every meeting. And so it happened that we in 2017 founded the organization ‘Effective Altruism Denmark’. We now had our own bylaws, members, board, and titles to distribute among us.

I will save the explainer post of what Effective Altruism is for later, and until then urge you to look at this excellent explainer: Link


How Our Purpose Helped me Find a Niche

The purpose of the organization was to foster a community of Effective Altruists in Denmark, to help other effective organizations out, and to help educate about, and to promote effective giving.

In the last couple of years, we put a lot of work into fulfilling these purposes: We had created a large network of altruists and we were regularly hosting social gatherings, workdays, book clubs, and presentations for anyone interested.

Similarly, we had had large success with an event where we helped local charities improve their outreach by arranging workshops with experts in the field.

However, we were not doing much when it came to raising the donation norm in Denmark. While it wasn’t written into our official purpose, it was one of my own main motivator. I thought this would be a place where there is room to do some good. 

We had held a yearly fundraiser for an effective charity every winter with some success, and we had arranged yearly giving games to promote effective charities, but I was wondering if we could possibly do more.

And so with this in the back of my head, we now have the premise of this series of articles:

How can we get Danish people to give more money to Effective Charities?

Why is this an important problem?

I will save the discussion of what makes a charity effective for later, and for now just hope that you agree with the following:

  1. It’s important to help others
  2. Everyone should be valued equally
  3. Helping more is better than helping less
  4. Our resources are limited, so we should prioritize how we use them.

So giving more money to charities should, in general, be a good thing, and spending this money where it does the most good should be even better.

This is what makes me think that trying to raise the donation norm in Denmark is a worthwhile project. Additionally, Denmark is an affluent country and most people could afford to give something or a little more to charity without noticing any or only minor decreases in living standards.

The project could also serve as a flagship project for Effective Altruism Denmark, generating compounding effects such as new members, more awareness of the ideas and knowledge and experience in executing projects as well as important partnerships and connections. I will count all of this as pure bonus effects and focus mainly on the good that the donations can do in their own right.

What’s next?

I have decided to start working on this problem and to document my process in the meantime in the form of articles like this. The documentation process is heavily inspired by one of my favorite podcasts, Startup with Alex Blumberg, and other similar podcasts that have come out since. I can’t promise you much about what the solution will look like or how long it will take to get there because I am still working on it.

However, some of the things I can already promise you will be coming up in the following articles are:

How looking for inspiration in other countries helps shape the idea, building an MVP, getting together the initial team (and how we find unexpected help). There will for sure also be an article on how our egos almost got in the way of the easiest solution to the problem (and how it still might) and what we do to get around it.

If this sounds at all interesting, then be sure to stay tuned for the coming articles in the series.


Here you can read the next post in the series, on how to effectively contribute to a cause

You Might Also Like…

Starting a Nonprofit 4: What should your MVP look like?

Hi friends, and welcome back to the series. In this article we will be covering how we decided what to include in our Minimum Viable Product (MVP). You will see how we got there, what features didn't make the cut and what we learned in the process. If you are...

Starting a Nonprofit 3: How to Find a Co-Founder

Welcome back to the series. In this article, we will be covering how the project went from being a one-man show to a four-person operation. If you are wondering how we got to this point, then you can start from the beginning of the series, here or you can browse...

The Starting a Nonprofit Series

How do you start a nonprofit? Why should you start a nonprofit? How do you have the biggest impact you can? How do you raise donations? How do you get a bank account? How do you become a registered charity? I don't know, but I am continually trying to learn in this...

Starting a Nonprofit 2: How to Effectively Contribute to a Cause

Welcome back to the series. In this article, we will cover a possible way to make all of the world's most effective charities (current and future...) eligible for tax-benefits in Denmark.  If you are wondering why I am interested in doing this, then you can start from...

Did You Enjoy This?

Then consider joining my weekly(ish) newsletter. Every Sunday I share actionable productivity tips, practical life advice, curated content and high-quality insights from across the web, directly to your inbox.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest