Help starting non-profit organization as a minor

Discussion in 'Starting a Business' started by dragonis, Aug 4, 2011.

  1. dragonis

    dragonis
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    Hi, I’m currently 15 years old and was interested in starting an international nonprofit organization that works through smaller projects (eg. For the first project I was thinking of building libraries with internet access in places like northern Ghana, Malawi, etc.). I have some other organizations in mind that I would like to partner with, since they run and work at the designated areas which I want to help. Now before you suggest that I should volunteer instead of creating a new org. (because of the time/effort it takes with the paperwork), I want to let you know that I have tried to help and volunteer in local organizations doing similar work abroad, but I have always been rejected so far since I’m not old enough for them and they are looking for other people such as college graduate students. I have looked all over the web, and have come to the understanding that here, in the state of California, it is legal for a minor to start a npo, but I was wondering how I would go about signing the legal documents, since I can’t really be held to binding contracts. I can get my parents/legal guardians to cosign them with me, but I don’t know the proper ways to do it. I know that I need help from a lawyer/attorney and I should preferably get one to do probono since I don’t have much money to start with, but I just want to find out if a minor can create a npo in the state of California. If not, I can always try to create a new initiative under an existing organization or maybe some org. supporting youth ventures might help. Is there any way my parents can sign the contract so they are liable, making the contract valid? It will be best if the organization gets a 501(c)3 tax exempt status, which will greatly help, but that can't happen if a minor is signing the legal papers. I have thought this through, and I have potential board members in mind, but is there a requirement of how many need to be above 18? Thank you so much for reading all this, and any help would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. James Greg

    James Greg
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    I appreciate you want to help the poor countries through your organization and you have a passion to indulge in helpful activities. But have you discussed any of this with your parents? Where would you be getting all the funds to carry out your plans? Setting up a library abroad will not be an easy task, think over the factors and most importantly talk to your parents.
     
  3. dragonis

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    I have discussed this with my parents,and though they don't have much time to go do anything out on their own, they are going to fully support me, and are willing to be held liable for anything I go out and do. For the funds, I would try to start out by spreading the message to friends and family, and anyone who is interested in donating to help start this out can. I already know some people that are willing to make the website for free, to help, and that can be up and running around the same time as this starts. I have also seen some seed grants to npo's starting out, even if they haven't received a 501(c)3 status yet, but I don't know how that will work out, so I'm not relying too much on that. Once the organization is up and running, I'm hoping that the partner organizations will provide us with a piece of land and maybe some other things like a construction team and ongoing support by helping to hire people. If they don't provide us with that, I will most probably look towards construction companies working in those place that are based in the US since I feel they will be more reliable. I will try to get funds for the estimated cost of each library through the website, each library divided into different phases, and I know sustaining those libraries are going to end up to be the most costly part, so funds for that will be generated. The organization will be applying for grants, and other various ways for funds. I know this will be difficult, but I want to do this, so I'm just trying to figure out how. . . mostly the legal part of it.
     
  4. Fergal

    Fergal
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    Welcome to Business Advice Forum Dragonis. I greatly admire your ambition and your desire to help others. You have obviously put a lot of effort in already and thought through your plans very well. Have you done any charitable work to date or is this the first project that you plan on taking on?

    What state are you based in?
     
  5. ArcSine

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    Dragonis, major kudos to you for the drive you have for this extremely admirable project. Big things happen when someone grabs the reins and drives it all forward, and you seem to be on your way to doing just that.

    The research and planning you've done to this point is quite impressive. (You've already considered the relative reliability of construction companies, depending on where they're based? The financing of libraries to be structured in phases? Clearly that's a typo in your first post....you're really 35, right? :)) I'll bet 15 years from now your resume's gonna be a leather-bound, multi-volume set.

    Specific to your questions here, these are ones for which you'll really need a California-based attorney. All the issues you're asking about....legal matters regarding the formation and operation of a 501(c)(3); minors and co-signers on contracts; liability issues; ages of board members;....are questions requiring specific answers from an attorney. Also, the laws governing these matters differ from state to state, hence the wisdom of using a lawyer in CA.

    Acting on these issues without legal counsel would be risky and foolish, and I'm glad you've mentioned that you'll be seeking such counsel. Pro-bono is one possibility, as you've noted. And it may be the best way, at least for these early-stage questions you have. Later on, it's likely that your ongoing legal needs could be met from the funds contributed by backers, similar to the other operating expenses of your organization.

    Best of luck with it, Dragonis, and again, congrats!
     
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  6. dragonis

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    Fergal – Thank You! I haven’t done much charitable work, just volunteered with events such as special Olympics, helped with developmentally disabled people, etc. In the next few months, I want to look for a place such as a npo or ngo that helps internationally. I am based in California, and have heard that laws for non-profit organizations seem to be stricter here.

    ArcSine – Thanks! Yea, I’m currently looking on many places online for cheap or free (pro-bono) lawyers based around my area.

    Any suggestions?
     

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