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Dear Amy:

My organization is in the process of becoming a non-profit organization. One of the goals we our focusing on is opening a transistional house for women/children who have been battered and abused and need a safe place to go and recover. How do we find the resources to purchase a home and get the funding. Also how do we learn to write the by-laws for our organization-- is there a place where we can find a sample one? And is there anything else I would need to do? Please let me know.





Dear Claudette,

To become a not-for-profit -- you need to get an attorney -- hopefully you can find one pro-bono -- most are required and do do a percentage of pro-bono work. They will file incorporation files on your behalf -- and even if they do this for free -- there are filing fees -- hopefully minimal.

The Support Center, which is based in NYC can provide you with some information -- if you want to do on your own -- but it is tedious and time consumer and the lawyer might be easier. Both the lawyer and the Support Center can provide you with sample by-laws. These are pretty formulaic -- you will have to decide things like formal name, officers, how many board members, how you vote, how many meetings you want to have, etc..... But much of the language is pre-determined/dictated by the government.
Some of it can be simply changed over time through resolutions, but most of it obtuse and required.

Once you "incorporate" -- it will take a few months -- you will have to register with your state and with the feds. They will give you a number, which confirms you tax-exempt status.

Once this is done you can officially fundraise -- you can start before -- but you will need a fiscal sponsor -- an existing tax-exempt org -- who will take money on your behalf. They will usually charge a fee for this.

There are a range of ways to fundraise and three primary bases of
funding -- individuals, foundations and the gov -- you seem to qualify for all three -- though some put restrictions on funding "construction, etc..." For individual appeals -- you need to build up a list of proposed people and just start sending them letters or having house parties, etc... For foundations --- check out the Foundation Center and research by key word -- many matches will come up.

Be as precise as possible and also search by your state or region. Call these foundations -- most need to build relationships before they fund. For the govenment -- both local and state support can be solicited. I wrote a How to Fundraise which I will gladly send you if you send me your mailing address.

Good luck -- what you are doing is great,

— Amy


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