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540WMain Receives Tax Exempt Status, Now What? by Calvin Eaton
Last week I shared the good news that 540WMain has received tax exempt (501c3) status. This news was well received and I’m so grateful for all the kind words and congratulatory expressions submitted on our Facebook page and website. This news also solicited questions from supporters and volunteers alike. One question stood out and I wanted to share my reply as a blog to help everyone understand the tenacity, patience, and challenges that it takes to build a small non-profit from the ground up.
I wanted to ask if the recent non-profit status has made it any clearer if you will have funding and/or a position available for me in the near future?
To be honest, not really. With its tax exempt status official, 540WMain is now eligible to apply to grants and large funding opportunities from foundations and other sources that require this status. It is important to understand that the process of incorporating as a non-profit 501c3 takes a considerable amount of time. Our process took well over a year and I cannot stress enough that working with an attorney was absolutely necessary. This designation is mainly a tax (business) structure. You don’t receive 501c3 status and magically have hundreds of thousands of dollars granted to you. This would be nice but unfortunately this is just not how the system works.
“You don’t receive 501c3 status and magically have hundreds of thousands of dollars granted to you”
Grant writing is very hard work, takes a lot of time, energy and waiting. You can literally spend hours (depending on the scope and requirements) on a grant application with no guarantee that your organization will be selected to receive the funding. As a non-profit leader another large part of the process is getting into the right circles, building relationships with foundation leaders, philanthropic groups, and sitting in meetings. Lots and lots of meetings. All of this takes time. Time is a precious resource. Sometimes we forget this. In addition to this there is:
Building trust in the community
Having a service that people need and want to support
and proving your work is worth being funded are all very real considerations.
For now, most of this work is done by me. I’m one person and putting together even an “easy” grant can take upwards of 6 hours. You also have to spend time searching for grants which can take an entire working day. This is just one facet of my work in the scope of a week or month. All this in addition to the administrative tasks, calls, emails and programming that has to be designed and then attended to, to move the organization forward. I also have my own consulting firm and work that I have to manage, plan for and execute. I do not receive a salary from 540WMain at this time. I’m working as hard as I can to grow the team of people that support and carry out the mission of 540WMain, but it all takes time. I hope this gives you a slight understand of the work that I engage in every single day.
(he/his/him) Calvin Eaton is a disabled community educator, content creator, and social entrepreneur, whose area of expertise includes antiracism, equity, justice, instructional design, and program development. In 2016 Mr. Eaton founded 540WMain, Inc. a non-profit online and community-based organization for accessible education and events that promote justice for all.
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