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Social Responsibility: Thinking of Starting a Non-Profit Organization?

By Mayesha Awal

So, what new hobbies have you picked up? What do you do in your free time now? Anything new? These are now common conversation starters since the COVID-19 pandemic began. People have started a variety of hobbies that range from knitting to remodeling their own house. However, have you thought about starting your own non-profit organization?

Before providing some advice, I would like to share my own experience of founding my own organization. I started my own organization a few years ago. It was not a non-profit organization, but I had a goal of seeking non-profit status. Although it was short-lived, I also have some ideas to try to keep an organization sustainable.

Bismillah. I founded an organization called App-Up, which was an exciting program to help expose young girls to the computer science field, programming, coding a mobile application, and develop a network of like-minded girls who are excited and motivated to code. Girls learned and developed the intuition and skills for the fundamental aspects of mobile application coding. Girls learned and familiarized themselves with Java, Scratch, Android Studio, XCode, JSON, and SQLite, while inputting their creativity in these programs. The girls built a demo application that is related to sustainability by the end of the program. This was essentially the program description and my real-world application was to connect the programming that the girls were doing to a topic that they are interested in.

AppUp would have not been possible without an AspireIT grant that I had received from the National Center for Women in Information Technology (NCWIT). I received a state award in high school from the NCWIT organization, and they offer alumni grants to start organizations that offer girls a way to learn programming. I would highly recommend anyone to research the organization. For the grant, I identified a partner organization in the local area, Teens Transforming Technology, and I worked with that founder in order to develop the idea of my organization.

Once we were granted the funds, I worked to create an agenda, schedule, presentations, and handbooks. I attempted to find other people who would be interested in this work, but it was very hard to find people to dedicate the time. Instead, I looked to partner with an on-campus organization, and invited a guest speaker to come in and present.

From my experience, I learned many lessons about starting an organization. This is one of my few experiences, but I believe I have some advice that may be helpful in starting your own non-profit or organization.

  1. Identify gaps. Research other non-profit organizations that work in the area you are interested in. Identify the niches that they have taken within their own organization. What areas have not been addressed yet? What are ways that you can distinguish your own organization?

  2. Develop your mission and vision statement. What do you hope to accomplish with your organization? What do you hope to inspire others with? What is your ultimate dream or goal with your organization?

  3. Find other like minded partners or individuals. Sometimes this may be the hardest part. Be really clever with your words. Look into your network or network of your friends to find other people who may be interested in joining your team. This step is key to sustainability. It was so difficult to run a one-person organization and I do not recommend that anyone should. Sketch out the people and roles you would imagine that would make your organization a success!

  4. Look into grants, stipends, or other sources of funding. If you are a college student, does your university have funds for students? Sometimes there are funds for student entrepreneurs.

  5. Fundraise! If you cannot find grants, then fundraise. Ask parents, friends, former teachers, colleagues, or others. There are also many platforms for fundraising, such as Kickstarter or GoFundMe, and Muslim specific platforms such as Launchgood or HasanaH.

  6. Create branding. Once funds are secured, create a branding toolkit. Find a style that speaks to the mission of the organization. Use the branding to create a website, promotional materials, and social media accounts

  7. Launch! Set a soft launch date and the actual launch date. Schedule a week full of events to inform other people about your organization

  8. Email. Email is a great way to inform others about your organization. Reach out to other organizations in your area and those who do work around your topic.

  9. Make du’a. Pray that Allah provides success to your organization, or that He does what is best for you.

وَيَرْزُقْهُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَحْتَسِبُ ۚ وَمَن يَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ فَهُوَ حَسْبُهُۥٓ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ بَـٰلِغُ أَمْرِهِۦ ۚ قَدْ جَعَلَ ٱللَّهُ لِكُلِّ شَىْءٍۢ قَدْرًۭا

and provides him (with what he needs) from where he does not even imagine. And whoever places his trust in Allah, He is sufficient for him. Surely Allah is to accomplish His purpose. Allah has set a measure for every thing. (65:3) -Mufti Taqi Usmani

- Mayesha Awal

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