Should I go work for a green nonprofit or start my own?

Advice on how to make the world better.
July 8 2009 9:30 AM

The Environmental Entrepreneur

Should I go work for a green nonprofit or start my own?

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And if I've scared you away from starting your own nonprofit but you still have a burning desire to start a project that matches your exact interests, think about approaching an existing organization with a complementary mission. This can allow you to avoid the red tape of starting your own nonprofit while still pursuing your own idea. See if the organization is interested in incubating your project or acting as a fiscal sponsor. Fiscal sponsorship is usually a formal agreement between an individual or unincorporated group and an existing 501(c)(3). This allows the new project to use the organization's tax-exempt status, and often its back office services (accounting, HR, etc.), while maintaining a certain amount of programmatic autonomy. Ideally, it ends up being a win-win situation for both parties.

Do you have a real-life do-gooding dilemma? Please send it to, and Patty and Sandy will try to answer it.

Sandy Stonesifer works on issues related to adolescent girls' health at a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C.