Starting a Foundation with Less Than $1000 | Moodley Foundation

What did it take to launch Moodley Foundation?

  • $1,000 in risk capital
  • Three free weekends
  • Inspiration & Motivation

When I told my wife that I wanted to start a foundation in our name, she was enormously supportive. She wanted to help in any way she could and showed visible excitement over the idea.

Once the idea settled in a little more, she asked “When are we going to have time to do all this?” – to which I actually had an answer. See… we had just had our first child, were both working full-time jobs that were traditionally 12hr/day commitments, and somehow found time to take on projects around the house and spend time with our family and friends. Even with all of this, I pulled from my experiences with startups and marketing to get things rolling without alienating our many other commitments.

1 – Figure out what your organization is going to do, and how you’ll do it. It may sound simple, but there are tons of different types of charities and foundations that exist, and the structure of your organization will affect how you need to file as an entity and how you are taxed. For instance, if you’re going to raise money exclusively from a limited amount of large donors, you may only be classified as a private foundation, which is much different than a charitable foundation. In marketing I’ve always referred to our clients businesses as a “machine” that need “fuel” to produce something. In our case fundraising events and campaigns were going to fuel capital raises that would result infinancing of social projects. These were all things that went into our Organizational Document – essentially a Word Doc of all specifics around how we were going to do business. [Running Total of Hours (4) and Costs ($0)]

2 – You don’t need a lawyer to start a company or organization in your state. Filing starts at the state level with your Secretary of State, and most departments have resources for people looking to start a business. In Ohio, there was 4 pages of really straight-forward questions and a low filing fee. You can find your state office by searching “secretary of state <state name>” and following the directions on their website. And if things seem complicated, give them a call. Normally people are helpful if they know you’re trying to start a charity. [Running Total of Hours (6) and Costs ($125)]

3 – You can also file for a Federal EIN and Tax Exempt status without an attorney. The US Government has actually made this process much easier for organizations that are already filed with their state. Both forms are now available to complete on-line, and there’s only a fee for applying for tax exempt status ($400). In addition to the info found on the filing forms, there’s a guide that walks you through each question and even helps you to set up your organizational document. You can file for your EIN online here and your 1023-EX (tax exempt status) online here[Running Total of Hours (8) and Costs ($525)]

4 – Create your brand. As a marketing strategist I’ve spent literally thousands of hours planning our campaigns and collateral for businesses, so I understood how important it would be to identify the core function and value of Moodley Foundation so that I could communicate it to others down the road.  Transparency is extremely important in marketing, which is the case more so than ever before – so I spent a lot of time figuring out who are we as an organization, what makes us different than other foundations, why would someone trust me to spend their philanthropic giving, and how are we going to make the largest impact possible? [Running Total of Hours (16) and Costs ($525)]

5 – Build launch collateral. Once you’ve decided on your brand, it’s necessary to secure brand collateral so that you can begin to build a tangible entity. This includes designing a logo, writing boilerplate copy, and building a digital presence. I’m OK with design, and was able to create something original that was simple and clean. For someone who doesn’t have design experience, there are low-cost design resources that can be found on websites like Fiverr.com or eLance.com. We also wanted to build a website, so I secured a domain and hosting for a year through GoDaddy for less than $130. It included emails, and a one-click install of WordPress (which is an idea platform to build a website on if you’re web-savvy but don’t know how to code a website). Once I had the application launched, I searched google for “great charity wordpress themes” and found a complete website install for just $48. I also had the option to have someone install it for me for just $50. [Running Total of Hours (24) and Costs ($705)]

6 – Set up a bank account. Even before we received a tax exempt status, I wanted to make sure to get an account set up so that any future payments that we made were going through the organization, and not through my wife and my personal account. So we made a deposit of $200 in order to have the ability to finance upcoming fundraisers. [Running Total of Hours (26) and Costs ($905)]

Granted this was a quick launch, but with any good organization you’re always going to revisit your strategy and refine your process – so it’s OK not to have everything figured out right away, just make sure you’re filing all the right papers. I’ve visited a number of charities online that raise millions of dollars every year, and some of them don’t have awesome websites or the greatest logo. What counts the most is that they have the motivation to help people, and the means to fulfill their vision.