A message from Chris Marlow: The people on your team are your most important asset. 


Step 2: The Team


After I returned from South Africa, I quickly begin to share my story with as many people as possible. A few friends had gone with me as well; together, we assembled a team of “doers, donors, and advisors” and started to move forward with the hope of launching a nonprofit that would engage the global orphan crisis and community development. (All of these folks, except for one, are still highly involved in Help One Now!)


Doers, Donors and Advisors


The first phase in the life of a nonprofit is locating donors for start-up capital, doers who will do work, and advisors who will guide you through key decisions.


Doers are those people who help you get work done. In our case, we had people help with:

  • Legal Paperwork (until we hired a company)
  • Branding
  • Website Development
  • Live events

Doers are folks who will help you launch;  they will use their talents to help move the mission forward. Most nonprofits do not have the capital to simply hire professionals to do all the work. So, you must rely on doers, especially in the first year or two.


For instance, one of our co-founders is a web designer and photographer. He worked pro bono for years. On the original trip to Africa, one of the team members was a branding specialist; she created our first logo and brand development.


These doers helped get us off the ground and running.


Donors are the people who believe in your dream and give before you have the proof that your vision will work.  They are generous people who help with key start up capital so you can get some momentum.


In the beginning of Help One Now, we had a handful of small donors. We literally bootstrapped the launch of Help One Now. No big checks or foundations -- just normal people giving some seed money.


Many people dream of starting a nonprofit and this is what they tend to do -- sit in cafes all day and PLAN over and over and over. This will lead to failure quickly.


Founders must concentrate on asking people to back the nonprofit financially. If you are the Founder, you should have 5-10 meetings a week that are designed to do one thing - ask for financial support.


If you are scared to ask people to help financially, then stop what you are doing and keep your day job. The founder’s key job is to ensure the organization has the funding that is needed to launch successfully.


This is very difficult work; you literally have to craft your vision and share it with as many people as possible. You will get a lot of "no's" and a lot of "yes's". You will face rejection and you will experience much joy.


This is what determines if a nonprofit will be around five years later. Be brave, make the ask and get meaningful work done. No money means no mission.


I also assembled a quick Board of Directors and consultants. They were close friends who believed in me and the mission of the organization, but they were also leaders who would keep me accountable and help the organization gain momentum.


You will need key advisors in the areas of finance, business development, branding, marketing, systems, copywriting and staffing.


When you organize your first Board, be sure to put together a team of people who understand what it means to start an organization, who believe in the vision and are personally willing to sacrifice to see the vision become real.


You need a balanced Board as well. You want lots of talent from key disciplines that include:

  1. Wisdom: Some people just have a knack to give good advice at the right time.
  2. Platform: Who will help spread your story and open new channels on your organization's behalf?
  3. Execution: Who will get work done on behalf of the nonprofit?
  4. Wealth: Who will actually invest in the organization at a high level to make sure funding is available?
Putting together a board is hard work. A board can make or break a nonprofit. One of the Executive Director’s primary jobs is to ensure that the right board is in place and help move the organization forward.



I feel like I made a big mistake in the early years. I wish I would have hired a coach quicker. I had many excuses, but I finally learned that hiring a coach is not an expense -- it is an investment. You simply cannot put a price tag on wisdom, and you will avoid so many mistakes that cost money and time.


You need someone who will help guide you and that has no personal connection to the organization.

No Team -- No Scale


A founder has five main responsibilities that will create momentum and scale.

  1. Vision: Why does the organization exist?
  2. Strategy: How will you accomplish the mission, or, what are the nuts and bolts?
  3. Funding: How will the organization be funded?
  4. Develop a team: Who will help you accomplish the work?
  5. Execution: Who is actually taking on the “on the ground" work?. You must tell donors that you have a mission. The founder has to make sure the actual mission is being completed and real problems are being solved.

Key positions that must be filled:

  1. Executive Director / CEO: Usually, this is the founder.
  2. Administrative: Hire a part-time, detailed person as soon as possible. Also, you will need a great CPA/Bookkeeper/Accountant. (I made a terrible mistake and hired a poor accountant; it cost me time and money. Be wise, pay well, and be detailed)
  3. Creative Director: This person will tell the story, design and maintain the website and make sure your organization does not get lost in all the noise of this world.

When you think of “team,” you need to think in terms of a staff (paid by the organization), Board of Directors (volunteers), consultants (paid occasionally), and outsourced partners (accountants, filmmakers, etc).


If you design this right, you can scale the organization, control costs and keep your sanity in the process.

Next week, we will discuss how to fund the organization. This tends to be the single biggest reason why most nonprofits disappear within a few years. It’s a problem that must be solved if you are going to see your mission accomplished.


Also, if you missed the first two weeks of the series, click below to catch up.


Chris Marlow

PS: Every week, I will send the next newsletter directly to your inbox; make sure you sign up for updates here.


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