by Kia Morgan Smith | Featured Contributor
Everyday people ask me for advice on starting a non-profit business. They have the desire and passion to start one but are overwhelmed by the reality that by starting one they will immediately become a small fish in a very big pond. And with being a new non-profit business how do you overcome the naysayers and prove that you won’t end up as one of the 98% of small businesses that fail within the first year?
With statistics like that, the truth is there probably won’t be much support until you prove yourself. But small fish can have a very BIG VOICE. Persistence is key.
In just two years the non-profit I founded, Atlanta Diaper Relief, went from a virtually unknown business to a widely popular Atlanta staple for parents who are struggling and pinching pennies to buy their babies a basic essential like diapers. We are a diaper bank and give out diapers for free to low-income parents who can’t afford them. And it’s a big deal in a city that is known as one of the poorest cities in the US, according to the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless.
When there is a need such as this to keep babies dry, happy and healthy, you have to trust and believe that support will follow and doors will open. And they did.
For one, non-profits are built off a mission that people are passionate about. Maybe someone has suffered from cancer and wants to form a non-profit to ensure that there’s more research for the cause or maybe you have a desire to help kids in your community to have access to more programs to keep them off the street. Whatever the reason, the passion for your mission will ignite others to act and support your cause.
If you don’t believe in your work, well you already know that no one else will. As a mom of five children who has purchased thousands of diapers in my lifetime, I could certainly relate to the expensive price of diapers and the fact that diapers have to be changed often to prevent diaper rash and subsequent diseases. So this cause was something I knew about and was near and dear to me. And it’s definitely something I am passionate about. From there, it was about championing for this cause and getting everyone else to support it. In order to do that:
Form Powerful Partnerships
Yes everyone matters. Identify community partnerships that will help propel your cause like churches and local community groups. And mommy groups and mommy bloggers can also be instrumental in getting the word out as well. Send letters to public officials and reach out to businesses to encourage them to support your cause.
- Don’t be afraid to go after the BIG CORPORATIONS. There are so many people who told me that I would not get BIG support. However, in just two years we have received support from Walmart with a $5,000 grant, Atlanta Parent Magazine with a $2,000 grant and the Ford Motor Company naming me as a Ford Unsung Hero. Don’t be afraid to approach big companies. You will be surprised by how much they support small businesses and want to see them thrive.
- And write letters and follow-up! Ever heard that the pen is mightier than the sword? Well it’s been so true for me. I constantly write letters and surely if you do, someone will respond in your favor.
- And don’t be afraid of No’s! Just because someone says no doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It just means that you can’t do business with them, and there is a yes waiting for you elsewhere. I never get discouraged by no’s and neither should you.
Make the Most out of Media
You’ve heard this over and over again, but are you listening? As a small business owner you probably won’t have a marketing budget. I don’t. But social media and mainstream media have done more for Atlanta Diaper Relief than I could have ever dreamed! Reach out to newspapers, local TV and radio because they are always looking for a good community story.
- Send public service announcements to your local radio station. We’ve had several air and even after they aired we received financial donations. These brief announcements are usually aired free of charge for nonprofit organizations.
- Your business should at least have a Facebook and Twitter account. Do not underestimate the power of Facebook and Twitter. They are very powerful mediums that will amplify your message. For instance, I received 40,000 Huggies and had no way to pick them up. I tweeted the Ford Motor Company, asked for help, they called me and sent a truck for free to pick up the diapers and transport them to our storage unit. There is POWER in social media.
- And certainly learn how to write a good, basic news release starting with the most important information and ending with the least. Use simple sentences and keep it brief. Also there is a format that most news agencies prefer. Find out what that is. Remember you are catering to them so if they prefer a one-page press release and you send three pages, just know it will probably end up disregarded.
- Be ready to answer the hard questions when reporters ask. Know statistics and basically know your business inside and out. Be an authority on your cause.
If you are willing to put in the work, then be ready to get the results. Just know it will take a lot of hard work from you in order to win big support. And it only takes a few small but concentrated steps to get to success. And there’s nothing more gratifying than to win support for a mission that will help the masses.
Kia Morgan Smith
Atlanta Diaper Relief
Please visit www.AtlantaDiaperRelief.org to support this cause.
Non-Profit Expert – Kia Morgan Smith from Atlanta Diaper Relief, Atlanta Georgia
Kia Morgan Smith is the Founder and CEO of Atlanta Diaper Relief, the first non-profit diaper bank in Atlanta Georgia. She works tirelessly to ensure that families have an adequate supply of diapers for their infants; and works to raise community awareness that “basic human needs” include diapers and that these needs are not being met for children living in poverty.
With ‘diaper need’ being a relatively new concept to many in Atlanta, Kia was up against the odds in proving children without diapers suffer more than a rash; there are emotional and financial consequences that parents bear too. Kia built awareness and strong community support surrounding this issue in just two years, earning endorsements and support from major Fortune 500 companies like Walmart, Huggies and most recently honored as a Ford Unsung Hero.
With her ‘get-it-done’ attitude and gumption, Kia has harnessed the power of community and built a diaper bank with more than 100,000 diapers which serves thousands of Metro Atlanta families through help from partner agencies. Atlanta Diaper Relief has been making a huge impact by helping Atlanta’s poorest and neediest families who are struggling to pay for a basic essential like diapers.
Kia is a mother of five children, a grandmom, and a loving wife. And when she’s not covering “bottoms” she is an active mommy blogger on Cincomom.com. You can find out more about diaper need at www.AtlantaDiaperRelief.org or follow @AtlDiaperRelief or friend Facebook.com/AtlantaDiaperRelief. Or catch her tweeting about life as a mom of many, @KiaMorganSmith or @TheCincomom.
Melissa Stewart is the founder of SheOwnsIt.com. She is a Purveyor of Possibility, Entrepreneur Advocate and Coffee Addict. She believes that behind every successful woman is her story. What’s your story?