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Making it official: A day in the life of a new nonprofit

Sandra Breed, a member of Elk River Central Lutheran Church, walked into the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office on March 19, paid $70, and incorporated B.A.S.I.C. Outreach, a new nonprofit organization geared to helping homeless families in her area.

B.A.S.I.C. Outreach was one of 10 new Minnesota nonprofits incorporated March 19, and that is a pretty average day. In 2007, the Secretary of State’s office recorded 2,210 new nonprofits, down slightly from 2,358 in 2006. That’s approximately nine new nonprofits every workday. Altogether, Minnesota has 27,933 registered and active nonprofits.

Information on new nonprofits is tough to get. The Secretary of State’s office has no paper trail, and its computer system is old. You can’t search online unless you know the nonprofit’s name — and if it’s new, you are not going to know the name.

The office will generate a custom list, but it costs 3 cents a name, $25 minimum. The printout has names and addresses, no more.

Staff kindly waived my fee for the 10 new nonprofits created March 19. In addition to B.A.S.I.C. Outreach, they were: International Fire Relief Mission Inc., Lindstrom; Northfield Cannon Valley Lions, Northfield; Grand Aspirations, St. Paul; 11870 Ulysses Street Condominium Association, Ramsey; Buffalo Creek BMX Association, Glencoe; Antioch Ministries, Minneapolis; Zugboh, Brooklyn Park; Mesabi Pines Homeowner’s Association Inc., Hibbing; and Knights of Columbus, Red Lake Falls.

Given that list, there probably isn’t a typical nonprofit startup story.

I went to the Secretary of State’s office to find just one new nonprofit. I didn’t wait long. I showed up at 9:40 a.m. and within a half hour I was talking to Breed about her organization’s plans.

It all started with a talk

B.A.S.I.C. Outreach (BASIC stands for Brothers And Sisters In Christ) will encourage Elk River area churches to provide emergency shelter for homeless families. Right now, Elk River is “uncovered,” Breed said; social workers refer families to St. Cloud or Anoka for shelter.

The idea started more than a year ago when Mike Yankoski, author of “Under the Overpass,” spoke to Central Lutheran Church members about his experience living on the streets. The talk sparked conversations within the congregation.

The topic came up again at the area ministers association, Breed said, and informally with other groups in town such as Love Elk River (a charity that provides transitional housing) and Pray Elk River.

A core group coalesced, including Breed and five others: Margaret Parish, Tamera Thorenson and Margaret Ciccateri, also from Central Lutheran; James Holt of St. Andrews Catholic Church and Barbara Wisniewski of Elk River United Methodist.

Churches have nonprofit status, but the group wanted a separate nonprofit so it could raise money, apply for grants and, down the road, even own property. Breed’s sister and daughter work for a law firm, and told her that MAP for Nonprofits could help them get started. For $600, MAP (Management Assistance Program) gave them legal help, a startup checklist and other supports. The core group’s members are now B.A.S.I.C. Outreach’s first Board of Directors.

And the learning curve continues.

The next steps

They still need to file for IRS tax-exempt status. Breed is not sure how complicated it is, but she has a checklist for that, too. The organization has paid MAP $100 for hotline consultations for a year to help them navigate problems.

They also need to market their ideas and raise money. “There may be some HUD (Housing and Urban Development) things,” Breed said. “We are not sure, exactly.”

Amongst the paperwork Breed brought to the Secretary of State’s office, she had a PowerPoint printout on homelessness. Among its bulleted information, “40 percent of jobs in Sherburne County and counties nearby pay less than the regional wage required to afford basic needs.”

Their plan is based on Cambridge’s New Pathways program. For starters, Elk River churches would rotate caring for homeless families a week at a time, Sunday to Saturday. Families would receive an evening meal and a place to stay. In the morning, they would get breakfast and a packed lunch.

B.A.S.I.C. Outreach hopes to expand its current three churches to more than a dozen. Breed says they also want to start a day center to provide homeless families with social workers, “to see them through the problems they are having and give them a way out.”

Correction: The name of author Mike Yankoski was misspelled in the original version of this article. The post has been updated with the correct spelling.

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