Building a nonprofit or social enterprise is a broad topic that we have not yet tackled as part of the Social Good Guides project. However, for those of you who are considering becoming a founder we’ve put together a list of first-rate resources for you organized by key topics. There is a section for both nonprofits and for-profit social enterprises. Although not comprehensive or sector-specific [i.e. education, the environment, technology, health, renewal energy, housing, etc.] these selected resources are intended to explain the general process of how to go about founding a social impact organization. You’ll also find practical tips and guidance for taking next steps. Once you go through these resources you will start to understand what you need to know before you begin.

Though there’s no sector-wide agreement on the definition of a nonprofit and social enterprise, we’ve come up with a definition for each that are consistent throughout these guides. Below is an excerpt from Idea To Launch by Andrew Greenblatt, co-founder of BeneStream. Below he articulates the differences between the two for the purpose of these guides.

“First, we need to take a moment to define what we mean by a ‘social venture’ or a ‘social enterprise.’ This is a young field and there will be competing definitions. For the sake of this guide series, we will define social ventures as for-profit and nonprofit ventures that aim to sustain themselves financially without relying on donations while still making the world a better place. While traditional nonprofits achieve their missions by relying on grants from foundations, contributions from donors, or money raised from fundraisers like bake sales or galas, for-profit and nonprofit ventures bring in enough revenue every month from their products and services to pay their bills – and maybe even grow. The toolkit you need to successfully bring in customers is quite different from the toolkit you need to successfully woo donors and foundations. Despite what some people might think, a social venture can be a nonprofit organization. For example, Housing Works is a wonderful nonprofit based in New York City that provides healthcare and other services to people with AIDS. Less than 10% of their annual revenue comes from donations, while the largest share of their revenue comes from insurance and Medicaid payments for the services they provide. The second largest source of their funds is a chain of thrift stores they run throughout the city. They are most certainly a nonprofit, but to survive they don’t need to worry as much about their donors as they do about their customers – whether they are people seeking healthcare or people seeking a good deal on a used sofa.”

Andrew Greenblatt, author of Idea To Launch

Getting Started

Starting a social venture is a major undertaking that is intensive in terms of time, money, labor, and other resources. The decision to launch a new venture has significant ramifications for you, the people you work with, and those you intend to serve; as such, it should not be entered into lightly. It’s important to bear in mind that setting up a new organization is often complicated given the multitude of facets that need to be considered, such as developing a clear mission, distinguishing your organization from others doing similar work, legalities of accepting charitable donations for nonprofits, recruiting and training volunteers, developing an effective governing board, obtaining funding for programs and operations, and measuring the impact of change efforts.

Factors to be taken into account in deciding whether to launch a social venture are too numerous to mention here. However, there are some critical aspects that are worth briefly touching upon. Having a clearly defined mission that explains what you want to achieve and how you will go about doing it is essential and is often a good place to begin. Once the mission has been articulated, you’ll want to determine what legal structure is best suited to carry it out – this can take the form of a nonprofit, business, or hybrid. From here you’ll want to consider the work that needs to get done, skills needed to do the job, and what mix of staffing (i.e., employees, volunteers, consultants) is most appropriate. Lastly, it’s important to be intentional in developing an organizational culture, which are the values and behavior that determine “how things get done,” that can create the conditions for a happy, healthy, and productive work environment.

The following resources are organized according to topic and are consistent with the steps to be taken in establishing a new nonprofit or for-profit social enterprise. Within each topic resources are presented in the order of how you will want to spend your time as you progress through each step.

Kimberley Jutze, author of Nonprofit Funding for Long-Term Sustainability

ANoteToOurInternationalReaders_new_blueThe guides are primarily intended for social entrepreneurs based on the United States, though some of the resources may be generally of interest to an international audience. Please remember that many of the topics covered by the guides, such as corporate structures, laws and legal customs, accounting, business planning, funding and fundraising, etc., vary widely from country to country, and that the information presented here may not be correct, applicable, or relevant to any other country or jurisdiction.

We strongly advise those of you building social impact ventures outside the United States to seek advice and support from reputable professionals who are licensed in your jurisdiction, and/or have area expertise in the country where you plan to build your businesses. For more information, please see our Terms of Use.


Resources for How To Start a Nonprofit by Kimberley Jutze


The Foundation Center Knowledge Base: How Do I Start a Nonprofit Organization?

How to Start a Nonprofit, National Council of Nonprofits

Establishing a Nonprofit Organization, The Foundation Center

“The Things You Gotta’ Do to Start a Nonprofit Organization,” Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York, Updated August 21, 2014

“Starting a Nonprofit: What You Need to Know,” University of Richmond, School of Law, 2006

Life Cycle of a Public Charity/Private Foundation, Internal Revenue Service, Updated September 18, 2014


“All About Strategic Planning” by Carter McNamara, Free Management Library

“Business Planning for Enduring Social Impact,” by Andrew Wolk and Kelley Kreitz, Root Cause, 2008

“Theory of Change Basics: The beginning of making a difference”, by Angela Kail and Tris Lumley, New Philanthropy Capital, April 2012


Social Good Guide: A Legal Primer for Changemakers by Carly Leinheiser: Resource section

“For Love or Lucre” by Jim Fruchterman, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Spring 2011

Resources on Legal Issues for Nonprofits, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, August 12, 2014

Legal and Ethical Issues, Arizona State University, May 10, 2010


Knowledge Space: Where can I learn about developing my nonprofit’s board? Foundation Center

Board Responsibilities and Structures – FAQs, BourdSource, 2013

Stages of Board Development, National Center for Nonprofit Boards

Board Development Best Practices by Jenny Walty, Mayor’s Office of Contract Services

“Good Board Governance is a Good Business Practice” by Sonia Pouyat, Succeeding at Social Enterprise, 2010


“Employee or Volunteer: What’s the Difference?” by Melanie Lockwood Herman, Nonprofit Risk Management Center

“The Seven Deadly Sins of Recruiting Volunteers” by Thomas W. McKee, Volunteer Power

Volunteer Management, Nonprofit Resource Center

KnowledgeBase: Where can I learn more about recruiting and managing volunteers for my nonprofit? Foundation Center

Volunteers, U.S. Department of Labor, elaws – Fair Labor Standards Act Advisor

Nonprofit Job Description Toolkit, Bridgespan


Tech Soup

Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN)


Nonprofit Funding for Long-Term Sustainability by Kimberley Jutze

Ten Nonprofit Funding Models, Bridgespan

“Fundraising Mastery for Change Agents” by Jonathan C. Lewis, Social Entrepreneurship Clinic, 2014

Introduction to Understanding and Accessing Social Investment: A Brief Guide for Social Entrepreneurs and Development Practitioners by Jessica Shortall with Kim Alter, The SEEP Network and Virtue Ventures September 2009

Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits: Real-World Strategies that Work by Ilona Bray, 2010

Fundraising 123, Network for Good

Knowledge Space: The Funding Research Process: Proposal Writing

Grant Writing Revealed: 25 Experts Share Their Art, Science, and Secrets by Jana Jane Hexter

“Involving the Board in the Fun of Charitable Giving” by Barbara Diehl, Journal of Gift Planning, December 2006

Nonprofit Fundraising: Legal and Tax Concerns, NOLO

Code of Ethical Principles and Standards, Association of Nonprofit Professionals

Causevox Learning Center


Design for (Real) Social Impact by Kevin Starr at IIT Design Research Conference 2010 video, May 2010

“Clear Measurement Counts” by Kim Jonker and William F. Meehan III, Stanford Social Innovation Review, March 20, 2014

“Zeroing in on Impact” by Susan Colby, Nan Stone, & Paul Carttar Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall 2004

“Measuring Social Impact: The foundation of social return on investment”, London Business School, New Economics Foundation, and Small Business Service, 2004

“Building a Performance Measurement System: Using Data to Accelerate Social Impact” by Andrew Wolk, Succeeding at Social Enterprise, 2010

Measuring and Improving Social Impacts: A Guide for Nonprofits, Companies and Impact Investors by Marc J. Epstein and Kristi Yuthas, June 2014


The History of Marketing: An Exhaustive Timeline [Infographic], Hubspot, February 9, 2012

Beth’s Blog: How Connected Nonprofits Leverage Networks and Data for Social Change

Network for Good Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Non-Profits on Facebook

Google for Nonprofits



Community Resource Exchange: Resources for Nonprofits

National Center for Charitable Statistics


Ashoka Fellows

Charity Navigator

Echoing Green Fellows



Social Earth



Chief Change Architect, Shifting Patterns Consulting

Website | Email

Kimberley Jutze is chief change architect at Shifting Patterns Consulting, a certified B Corporation, where she facilitates social change by working alongside organizations that think and act outside the box to address society’s most pressing challenges. She frequently collaborates with startups and early stage social enterprises to help them obtain funding and strengthen their organizational capabilities. A strategic thinker with a passion for excellence, Kimberley draws upon her organization development experience to bring additional value to her work. Beyond the satisfaction of achieving sustainable results, such as facilitating the transition of an international nonprofit social enterprise from a concept to a fully functioning organization, she also takes an active interest in the success of the people she works with. Kimberley has consulted with nonprofits and for-profits in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America, working within the communications, economic development, education, gender, health, information technology, and international development sectors. She is also an organization development and social enterprise presenter at industry conferences, webinars, and workshops. Kimberley’s commitment to social change and socially responsible business includes serving on the nonprofit board of LDI Africa and as an advisor to the Chesapeake Sustainable Business Council. Professional affiliations include the Affinity Lab, Impact Hub DC, Mentor Capital Network, #SocEntDC Host Committee, and Think Local First DC.

Raised in New York, Kimberley has since made her home in Washington, D.C. An avid traveler, she has visited over thirty countries and has gone on long-term assignments in Southeastern Europe and Asia while working for an international humanitarian aid and development organization. She also enjoys improv acting, boot camp classes, and cooking.


Resources for How to Start a Social Enterprise by Shana Dressler

This list is far from exhaustive, but we’ve chosen curated resources which we think are among the best – including our guides, of course!


Before you spend time building a social enterprise you need to do the research necessary to see if your idea is viable and needed.

Our Social Good Guide Idea To Launch by Andrew Greenblatt is a great place to start.

Nesta’s Introduction to Innovation

THNK’s Are You Piloting The Right Idea


Starting with a beginning strategy will save you precious time and money. “Figure it out as you go along,” is most often the default strategy, but far from the winning one.

Social Good Guide: What’s Strategy Got To Do With It? by Lee-Sean Huang


We strongly suggest you spend time understanding the various types of legal structures before you rush to incorporating. Are you aware of the costs involved? Ownership? The types of funding vehicles are associated with each? DIY legal is highly discouraged. Hire a seasoned professional!

Social Good Guide: A Legal Primer for Changemakers by Carly Leinheiser


If you don’t have a plan in place, your chances of success are slim. You don’t have to spend months writing a 50+ page business plan, but you need to have a starting idea of how you will build your enterprise. Investors will expect you to have answers to the topics found in a standard business plan. Be sure you are prepared before you approach them for funding.

Social Good Guide: Business Plans and Planning for Social Enterprises and Nonprofits by Mischa Byruck


The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
A very important book that has influenced the way companies are built today using the lean methodology.

Business Model Generation co-authored by 470 Business Model Canvas practitioners from 45 countries

Canvases + Lean Resources

Business Model Canvas

Social Enterprises Business Model Canvas

The Ultimate Dictionary of Lean for Social Good Lean Impact by Leah Neaderthal and Leanne Pittsford, Co-founders of Lean Impact

Lean Startup Machine


This is most likely your primary concern, but we suggest you explore the topics above first. Our funding guides listed below explain why.

Social Good Guide: Funding Your Startup Social Enterprise by A. Lauren Abele

Social Good Guide: Nonprofit Funding for Long-Term Sustainability by Kimberley Jutze

Social Good Guide: Accounting & Taxes for Social Enterprises: Your Journey Starts Here by Aaron Fox


If creating positive impact isn’t your main goal, ask yourself what is. We think this topic should be top of mind.

Social Good Guide: Evaluation + Impact Assessment by Andy Fyfe

B Lab’s Impact Assessment

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s A Guide to Actionable Measurement

Building a Performance Measurement System: A How-to Guide Andrew Wolk, Anand Dholakia, and Kelley Kreitz, Root Cause

Developing Metrics

IRIS Metrics Catalog

Urban Institute’s Outcome Indicators Project

Tools and Resources for Assessing Impact



Despite Good Intentions: Why Development Assistance to the Third World Has Failed by Thomas W. Dichter (2003)

The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good by William Easterly (2007)

More Than Good Intentions: How a New Economics Is Helping to Solve Global Poverty by Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel (2011)



Often thought as “nice to have,” we think design, branding and identity is a “need to have.” Good design can even increase how much money you raise. Find out more from our guides.

Social Good Guide: Why Great Design Matters by Mark Randall

Social Good Guide: Branding + Identity by Deroy Peraza


We consume marketing every day, but what is it? In a crowded market, how do you create a compelling case for the public to pay attention to your venture? How do you get the word out? Our guides offer many answers.

Social Good Guide: Marketing: Lean In and Control The Lane by John Rooks

Social Good Guide: What You Don’t Know About Social Media by Andy Smith

Social Good Guide: Building Your First Website by Amy Harzler

Social Good Guide: Publicity: Getting The Word Out by Marissa Feinberg


Perhaps the most neglected topic by startup changemakers. If you don’t have solid operations in place your chances of scaling is next to impossible.

Social Good Guide: Operations: An Overview by Aria Finger


Social Good Guide: How To Find A Job In The Social Impact Space by Dev Aujla

Ashoka’s Changemaking 101: A Student Guide to Social Entrepreneurship

A Comprehensive Guide to Developing Your Social Enterprise by UnLtd

Changing the World: A Beginners Guide to Social Entrepreneurship by UnLtd – Interactive Guides for entrepreneurs, associations, content marketers, business coaches, and authors

DIY Toolkit

Impact Design Hub

Service Design Tools


Social Impact

Ashoka’s Changemakers
Plus Social Good


Cofounders Lab
Founder Dating
Founder Institute


+Acumen Courses
General Assembly
Harvard Extension School Online Courses
Kauffman Foundation Founders School
Standford D School
Standford’s Center for Professional Development “Free Stuff”
Stanford’s Online Courses
Unreasonable Institute: Learn Hard Skills

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Founder, Social Innovators Collective
Series Producer, Art Director and Editor, Social Good Guides
Website | Email | LinkedIn | @shanadressler | @sic_org

In 2011 Shana Dressler founded the Social Innovators Collective. The organization’s mission is to train and nurture the next wave of social change leaders so they can demonstrate measurable impact and achieve financial sustainability. In addition to her work with the Social Innovators Collective, Shana also develops and leads classes on business development for social enterprises and nonprofits at General Assembly, New York’s premiere center for entrepreneurship, the Social Good Summit and creates workshops for social enterprise conferences at Harvard, Columbia, New York University, Brown, School of Visual Arts, Rhode Island School of Design, and others. In 2014 she developed the curriculum for the Makers Institute, a social good business school designed to support 21st century entrepreneurial problem-solvers and creatives tackling the most pressing social and environmental challenges of our time.

Realizing that there was a need for longer format education and curated resources, Shana co-created Social Good Startup: Idea To Launch, an eight-week workshop for professionals interested in the social impact space, and produced the Social Good Guides, a series of 20+ essential small-business guides designed to support startup changemakers.

Shana is an Aspen Institute Scholar, a 2014 Delegate to the UN Global Accelerator, a member of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, and a judge for The Webby Awards as well as for other national social venture competitions. She is an internationally exhibited photographer, loves all things chocolate, and makes her way around New York on a midnight blue Vespa.


Three years in the making, the Social Good Guides are the result of the generous contributions of a team of esteemed authors, designers, copywriters, proofreaders, project managers, marketing consultants, researchers and interns. Initially conceived as a “nights-and-weekends” labor of love, the project quickly expanded beyond its original scope once we realized that there was a significant missing in the social impact space – accessible information about the essential small-business skills needed to build sustainable social impact organizations.

If you would like to make a general donation so we can finish the final guides, click here.

Please donate. Your support is needed and appreciated!


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