Starting A Nonprofit Organization? This Checklist Will Keep You on Track

Organizational Management October 27, 2011

Tatiana Morand

By Tatiana Morand

We met Khalil, the president of a small nonprofit association, last year.

As the only full-time staff and with frequent board turnover, he found it difficult to remember everything needed to keep his nonprofit running smoothly — event planning, member management, fundraising, volunteers, etc — especially since his organization was just getting off the ground and he also had to worry about filing for incorporation and other essential startup tasks. 

To help him out, we connected Khalil with Anna, the president of another association of a similar size, who had developed a phenomenally simple checklist which she claimed had really turned things around at her organization.

At first Khalil couldn't believe something so simple could make much difference, but when he glanced over her checklist, he realized how many areas of his nonprofit he had been neglecting that could use an update for the better — things like updating new member orientation guides, creating social media share packages, and making sure blog posts on the website were recent.

When Khalil began using his own variant of the checklist, he said the difference it made was night and day.

In fact, he attributes a sudden growth spurt in members and landing his biggest sponsor ever to items the checklist reminded him to do. As a result, he doesn't start a new month until he's gone over his checklist with his staff.

If you need a simple way to remember everything needed to run your nonprofit smoothly, or if you're starting your own nonprofit, consider developing your own checklist.

To help you out, here is a variant of the checklist Khalil uses to help his set monthly priorities and keep operations on track for the following areas.

And note that even if you're an established nonprofit, you can use this checklist — just skip the first section to get a list of action items that you can use every year or quarter to ensure you're staying on track. 

  1. First Steps to Start a Nonprofit
  2. Financial Planning
  3. Board and Operations Planning
  4. Fundraising Planning
  5. Volunteer Planning
  6. Marketing Planning
  7. Data Management Planning
  8. Member Management Planning
  9. Event Planning

Download a free printable pdf of this checklist

The Nonprofit Checklist You Need When Starting a Nonprofit 

1. First Steps to Start a Nonprofit:

☐ Name your nonprofit

☐ Your mission statement has been written

☐Your articles of incorporation have been written

☐ Your bylaws have been written

☐ Create a business plan 

☐ Apply for tax exemption by filing Form 1023 with the IRS

☐ If needed in your state, additional tax exemption forms for 501(c)3 have been filed

☐ You have obtained an EIN (Employer Identification Number)

☐ Your staff positions have been decided on

☐ Hiring has begun for staff

☐ Your nonprofit office space has been decided on 

2. Financial Planning:

☐ Register for charitable solicitation (if applicable in your state)

☐ Create a budget for your nonprofit 

☐ Get the budget approved by your board

☐ Quarterly financial statements are available to the board and at meetings

☐ Each board member has submitted a plan to meet their goals and budgets

☐ All financial records are in one place and ready for year-end reporting/auditing

☐ All receipts and invoices are submitted

☐ Budget targets are tracked and reviewed monthly

Read More: Nonprofit Financial Planning: How to Create a Blueprint for Sustainability

3. Board and Operations Planning:

☐ All staff/board member orientation materials are up-to-date and distributed

☐ Board recruitment is complete and all positions have been filled

☐ Board meeting dates are set for the next quarter

☐ Meeting minutes are documented and are easily accessible for all staff/board members (see our complete guide on how to write effective meeting minutes)

☐ Staff/board evaluation dates have been set for the quarter

☐ All of the volunteer board member roles are filled

☐ A plan is in place for board member transitions

  • Information gathering and transfer
  • Introduction to appropriate staff and volunteers
  • Orientation and plan/budget review & baton passing

4. Fundraising Planning:

☐ Reports created for concluded campaigns

☐ Targets set for future campaigns

☐ Internal fundraising calendar of goals and events up to date

☐ Fundraising action plan created

☐ Fundraising contingency plan created

☐ Fundraising goals and status are updated on the website 

☐ Prompt acknowledgements and thank you letters are set up to go out to all donors and volunteers

Read More: How to Prepare a Nonprofit Fundraising Plan

5. Volunteer Planning:

☐ Volunteer positions needed have been identified

 A volunteer management plan has been created 

☐ Volunteer interviews have begun

☐ All volunteer positions have been filled

☐ Volunteers have been orientated

☐ Regular volunteer check-ins have been implemented

☐ A reserve of "emergency" volunteers has been created

☐ Volunteer appreciation materials have been created and gone out

For a more comprehensive list, see our New Volunteer Recruitment Checklist.

6. Marketing Planning:

☐ Marketing plan has been created 

☐ Annual report plan has been created

Social Media Updates:

☐ Desired social media accounts (ex: Facebook, Twitter) have been created

☐ Social media strategy has been created 

☐ Social media feeds are populated with content

Email Updates:

☐ An email platform has been chosen

☐ Your email calendar for the month has been decided upon

☐ Regular email analytics checks (looking at open rate, unsubscribe rate, etc) have been scheduled

Website Updates:

 ☐ You have created a website for your nonprofit

 ☐ News section is up to date

☐ Member-of-the-month updated

☐ Images from latest event added

☐ Contact information is accurate

☐ Latest blog post is recent

For a more comprehensive list, see our Website Spring Cleaning "To Do" List.

7. Data Management Planning:

☐ A system for managing members, donors, and volunteers has been implemented

☐ Member database is up to date

☐ Donor database is up to date 

☐ Volunteer database is up to date 

8. Member Management Planning:

☐ Membership levels are decided upon

☐ Member recruitment tactics are planned

☐ Membership plans and pricing is up-to-date on the website and all promotional materials

☐ Renewal reminder letters and emails are scheduled to go out

☐ New member orientation guide is up-to-date and sent out automatically with a new member welcome email

☐ The member-only area on the website is updated with the latest resources

☐ Annual member survey date and questions are set


Read More: How to Start a 501c3 Nonprofit the Right Way in Nine Steps

Best Free Nonprofit Software  

9. Event Planning:

☐ Annual General Meeting date set 

☐ Event calendar for the year is published on the website

☐ Fundraiser dates are set

☐ Event Chairs are in place for all events

☐ All events have networking pre-sessions for members

☐ Speakers confirmed for the rest of the year

☐ A variety of events and topics are booked (lunch and learns, speaker series, fun activities, fundraisers, etc.)

☐ Event promotional package created (press release, email invites, etc.)

☐ Staff/board members are assigned to seek out PR promotions (radio, local newspaper, TV spots, etc.)

☐ Social media promo posts scheduled to go out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

☐ Registration and attendee lists have been imported into the member database (consider using membership management software to do this automatically online)

Read More: The Event Planning Checklist Used By Top Event Planners

We hope that this checklist will help you keep your growing nonprofit on track. Best of luck with your planning!

The Membership Growth Report:

Benchmarks & Insights for Growing Revenue and Constituents

Get the report now!

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