Starting a Nonprofit

UNA wants nonprofits to begin on the right foot! Once you have reviewed the information below and still have questions, please contact us for additional assistance.

Start Here

Two great resources to start you off on the right foot are:

  • The Utah Nonprofits Association's handbook, The Art of Forming a New Nonprofit.  A free and easy-to-read guide outlining the required steps to successfully start a nonprofit in Utah.
  • Foundation Center and Harbor Compliance partnered to create a webinar on properly establishing a nonprofit in the United States. The webinar recording is now available free of charge. If you are a nonprofit founder, board member, or entrepreneur, view this webinar to gain an understanding of - What a 501(c)(3) nonprofit is; Process for establishing a 501(c)(3); Paperwork, costs, and timeline; Ongoing compliance; Finding professional assistance.  CLICK HERE to view the webinar

You may also wish to consult with an attorney who specializes in incorporating nonprofits. Click here for our Marketplace listing of attorneys who, for a reasonable fee, provide this service. offers mentors to help small businesses and nonprofits. The Salt Lake chapter has nonprofit experts that can help anyone in Utah.

Additional Resources

Tips & Items to Consider: Should You Start a Nonprofit Organization?

Evaluating the Idea

  • What is our mission and vision? Will it be clear to others what we are looking to do?
  • What are our goals and objectives? Can these be easily defined?
  • Can this work on its own? Would it be better to collaborate with an existing organization with a complementary vision?
  • Who else is doing this? Visit the UNA Members Directory to see if others are doing the same work that you are looking to do.
  • Can I/we afford this? Do NOT assume that funding will be easily forthcoming; many foundations, for example, will only fund organizations that have been in existence for several years.
  • Be sure to perform a SWOT analysis. See below for a description of that overall process.
  • Be sure you can answer the following questions BEFORE you move forward
  • Is the proposed project something a nonprofit organization can legally do?
  • Is there a demonstrated need for this service/project that is not being fulfilled elsewhere?
  • Can you clearly state your mission (it should be two sentences or less)?
  • Have you carefully considered a partnership with an existing organization? Visit the UNA Members Directory to find over 600 of the more than 6000 nonprofits in Utah!
  • Can you describe what success looks like?
  • Can you clearly describe the steps needed to succeed?
  • Will others (foundations and government grantmakers, individual donors, board members, and volunteers) commit time and resources to your cause?
  • Do you and your supporters have the needed skills to start the new organization?

Reasons NOT to start a new nonprofit organization

  • It is for a time-limited special project that will benefit the community.
  • You wish to support a specific needy individual.
  • You think a lot of grant money is available.
  • You have a service or product to provide as a donation or below cost but want a tax deduction.
  • You feel your current work is not meaningful.
  • You have important knowledge or perspectives to share.
  • You want to do things your own way without the "bureaucracy" normally involved.

Overview of how to perform a SWOT Analysis

  • SWOT stands for Strengths (internal), Weaknesses (internal), Opportunities (external), and Threats (external). Use this tool to create a quick map of the internal and external view of your potential organization, and the SWOT will help make the decision of how to proceed. More importantly, it will provide some creative thinking about you organization and its relation to the general community.
  • This tool will also help determine how to use internal strengths to manage threats, and it will identify weaknesses to focus on improvements through awareness. It will increase success by identifying new opportunities for the organization.
  • Keep in mind that if the result of the SWOT is to not proceed with forming your nonprofit, that is a sign not of failure, but that the community cannot successfully support your project.