First of all, it’s awesome you’re forming an NGO (more formally, a Non-Governmental Organization). We believe in the power of young people to change this world, and we are excited to see your idea take off! Since this journey is quite possibly new territory for a high school student, we did some research into best practices for the process. To help you and fellow high school students out, we pulled together the best resources and a recommended “order of operations” for forming an NGO as a teen. Let’s go!
While we’re here, let’s discuss how our Research Team works at Empowerly. In basic terms, our Research Team is a panel of experts who answer high school student and family questions to support your plans. As a student, this eliminates a lot of the confusion in the process, so you can focus on what matters and make bigger strides forward.
For now, let’s dive right into this review of key steps to forming an NGO for high school students. Among other responsibilities, your biggest tasks will be creating a fundraising plan, finding the right people, and registering your NGO.
1. Develop an elevator pitch.
Elevator pitches are a verbal outline you can deliver off the top of your head in the time it would take to ride an elevator. Creating one allows you to describe to someone (especially potential donors and mentors) within a short period of about 30 seconds what the goals of this new organization are. While you could hold off on this like you’d hold off on creating a title for your essay until the end, starting your project out with this helps you to give a starting point and connect with people faster.
Empowerly Tip: “Don’t be afraid to take some time—and many drafts—to write your pitch! As someone who’s written a few, I suggest rewriting a new copy each time, so you have every iteration on paper. It stinks, I know. But this way you can go back to your first copies for ideas and wordings you might decide you need to reuse. Here is a site that can guide you in your first draft, and here is one that can help you finesse it.”
2. Connect with a mentor.
While eventually, you’ll need a group of people to help you run the NGO you’re forming, for now, finding someone who knows how to run an NGO overall is a key step. This individual doesn’t need to be the CEO of the organization—just someone who knows their way around the logistics and formation of a nonprofit.
You may be able to find connections who are there to help match you with people who can help. On the other hand, you could also reach out to organizations on your own with a cold call/email/visit to see who might be able to meet with you. Even just a single meeting can get you on the right track until you meet the person you need—at this stage, finding someone who’s available and willing to answer quick questions is ideal.
3. Determine “how.”
Determining “how” you plan to achieve your goal is crucial to getting from an idea to a working business plan (I understand it’s a nonprofit, but you have to come at it like a business in this step, so you can talk to the people who have the money, about money).
The biggest “how” issue(s) you’ll have to address is how to raise money. Some organizations work by funding directly from very wealthy individuals, some crowdfunding, and some, like LifeWtr, make an arrangement with an established subscription service. You’ll have to figure out what works best for you, and then find the people who know how to do what you’re planning.
4. Find your people.
Once you have a pitch, a mentor, and a plan, you’ll need people. Not just friends who you know can help you run the day-to-day tasks, but the kind of professionally-experienced people who know how to do things like run fundraisers, manage legal papers, properly manage the money, etc. (Maybe these are your friends—only you know!)
If you figured out “how” thoroughly enough, you know what kind of skill sets you’re looking for when building your team. Maybe you don’t really need a fancy money manager, but you know for sure you want a fancy immigration lawyer. The more you figure out in your plan, the better you can pick your people. This way, you won’t have to know everything—your people will know a little bit of it for you.
5. Research & register.
While I, and these links, can certainly lead you, it’s up to you to look through them and figure out the best approach, the best pitch, and the best people to help you. It will take time. But that’s ok! You’ll get there.
Once you feel like you have all the pieces in place (and your people, your mentor, and your plan are behind you), you’re ready to officially register your NGO! There’s a lot of documentation that goes along with it, and I cannot pretend to understand it all, but there are sites to help you along, like this one and this one.
When it comes to running an NGO, you’ll need to put facts first. Checking the rules and regulations before making permanent decisions can help you avoid mistakes—“measure twice, cut once.” If you don’t have time to consult an expert or researcher, make sure to make this a practice you rely on in your journey.
While we hope this all helps to give you some direction, it’s alright to feel a bit overwhelmed sometimes. Take your time, fight any doubts you have with action—do a little bit each day, and one day you’ll look up and be helping people, left and right. It’s never too soon to start working towards a positive impact on this world.
Absolutely reach out if you want to enroll as an Empowerly student and submit your own research request if you need more help! We’re here to empower students to achieve their dreams. With the right support team behind you, high school students can truly catalyze change. Good luck on your journey.