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10 questions to ask before you start a non-profit

Wednesday, September 4, 2013 by Marianne Elliott

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There’s a kind of person who – when faced with a big problem – gets on with the business of building a solution.  I love this kind of person.  Sometimes I AM this kind of person.

The world needs this kind of person.

AND here’s the tricky thing about this kind of person: sometimes we start building a solution before we’ve had time to see the big picture. Sometimes we see a problem – like kids without shoes in Haiti – and decide to establish a non-profit dedicated to shipping used shoes to Haiti, before we know whether a lack of shoes is really the core problem, or whether anyone has asked what people in Haiti really want or need.

So if you are that kind of person; firstly – I love you. Shine on, my friend. Secondly, here are 10 questions you might want to ask yourself before you start that non-profit (or jump in to ‘fix’ the problem in any other way).

10 Questions to Ask Before You Act

  1. What do I really know about this problem?
  2. What don’t I know about this problem? What am I curious about?
  3. What doesn’t seem to make sense to me about this problem? (If something doesn’t make sense, that’s a good indicator that there’s more to it than I’m seeing)
  4. Where could I go to find out more? Who else has studied or written about this problem?
  5. What’s the context of this problem? How is it connected to bigger issues? (Worried about quinoa prices in South America? Study world trade policies and their effects on food pricing.)
  6. Has anyone asked the people affected by this problem what they think? What they want?
  7. Who else is already working to solve this problem?
  8. What exactly are they doing? And why?
  9. How might I be able to support their work or work with them?
  10. Who else do I know who might be able to do something to help solve this problem?

Get Curious

Curiosity is the first tool of the effective change-maker – so before you dive into any actions, dive into these questions and see where they land you.

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