Start Your Own NonprofitStart Your Own Nonprofit

Start Your Own Nonprofit

Shennell Barnes, a student at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, decided after a 2006 trip to help Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans that she needed to raise community awareness about homelessness in Newark, her lifelong home. Shennell, along with her sister Sasha, a high school student at Newark's North Star Academy, successfully orchestrated National Homeless Person's Memorial Day on December 21, 2006 in Newark.

Turns out, that was just the beginning. Shennell and Sasha applied for a grant from Youth Venture, a nonprofit that helps teams of people start youth-led organizations, to help them launch Through Future Eyes, a nonprofit that will hold an annual event each December to bring attention to homelessness in Newark. The sisters, who made a formal presentation to the Youth Venture grant application committee, won a $1,000 grant in the summer of 2007. "When we heard that we won the grant we just broke down and cried," says Shennell. "We want to inevitably have a traveling exhibit. We want to give cameras out to youth that we form relationships with and we want them to take pictures of how they view their community. We want to put them together, a digital quilt if you will, that will prompt discussion globally about homelessness and poverty." To find out how you can apply for a grant to start your own venture, visit or email

  1. According to the Center for Non-Profits in North Brunswick, which has written a manual entitled "Thinking of Forming a Non-Profit? What to Consider Before You Begin," the following steps will help you build a nonprofit organization with a strong foundation:
  2. Keep your charitable mission in the front of your mind at all times. It's easier than you think to lose sight of your overall mission amidst the details of forming a new organization.
  3. Engage a group of interested people. Consider people in the community or with a stake in the issue, those with knowledge or expertise about the issue, those with experience in nonprofits, budgets, marketing and so on and also those with connections to resources.
  4. Draft (and Redraft!) a program or business plan. This will help you clarify your objectives, activities and resources, and help to market your idea to possible volunteers, board members, staff and funders. Make sure to do some real research into your issue and come up with: vision and mission statements; a statement of the problem you hope to help solve; ways to reach your mission and vision; a budget; a timeline; the resources needed; and where you're going to find them.

Want more information on how to start and run a successful nonprofit? Visit at the New Jersey Center for Non-Profits Website.