for Middle Eastern Belly Dancers
Is a 501c3 Right for You?
by Dawn Devine
Is it possible
to make money in this crazy world of Middle Eastern belly
are dancers in every major city around the world plying their
various trades. We can be found performing in restaurants, private
parties, public events and dance festivals. Our dance sisters
are teaching in various community spaces, fitness centers and
private studios. We plan, organize and execute events, from tiny
student showcases, to giant multi-day festivals that require
complex management skills to contract and schedule facilities,
musicians, vendors, performers, music, video, food and more. A
lucky and talented few even reach the pinnacle of success, traveling
the globe teaching workshops and giving command performances. We
vend, we make and sell music, craft videos, make costumes and
develop websites. All in all, the world of belly dance is diverse,
talented and profitable!
there are times when being involved in a non-profit organization
can be best for business. But how can giving up profit lead
to financial success?
the nature of non-profits, how they are organized and run,
you can see their potential
for developing successful arts organization, performance
space, dance company or troupe.
is a non-profit?
put, a non-profit or not-for-profit is a status granted to an
organization in the form of a corporation where all funds raised
remain within the organization. No part of the organization’s
income is distributed to directors or officers. In contrast,
a private sector corporation will distribute profits directly
to its owner or shareholders.
an IRS designation that is given to organizations that are
deemed tax exempt. These non-profit organizations do not have
to pay income tax on monies earned. However, if the organization
has paid employees, they will still have to pay employment
tax on their earnings.
To gain this
status with the IRS, a non-profit organization must serve the
the potent IRS designation of a 501c3 charitable nonprofit,
the corporation must carry out a mission that is charitable,
educational, religious, literary or scientific. As a 501c3,
the IRS grants the organization tax-exempt status. Arts organizations
fall into the educational category. Most organizations also
choose a charity, cause or other non-profit service to support
non-profit make a profit?
forming a non-profit – a quick overview:
informative websites include a quick reference checklist
for forming your nonprofit organization. Some have as
few as five steps; one I read had no less than 37! Here
is a manageable overview, and yet is still detailed. Although
they roughly go in order, many of these tasks can be
rearranged depending on your individual circumstances,
and certainly, this is not the most exhaustive list –
so there may be steps that have been inadvertently left
you are serious about forming a nonprofit, read as much
as you possibly can, run it past all of your friends,
family and coworkers and don’t forget to harness the
power of like-minded individuals from all walks of life
when recruiting your founding board. If you are serious
about forming a nonprofit, you may want to seek out legal
advice – many lawyers will donate time to nonprofit start-ups
as a tax right-off-able donation!
if being a non-profit is right for your situation.
on your purpose, mission, values and vision.
your founding board members.
a name and check on availability.
the articles of incorporation
a strategic plan.
record keeping and accounting systems.
articles of incorporation for your state, country or
the corporate bylaws.
and hold your initial meetings of the board of directors.
you will have employees, file for your EIN tax id number.
for tax-exempt status with the IRS. (501c3) Filing
for sales-tax exemption with your state.
areas require that you register or apply for permits
for your charity.
to Form a Nonprofit Corporation by Anthony Mancuso
to Manage an Effective Nonprofit Organization: From
Writing and Managing Grants to Fundraising, Board Development
and Strategic Planning by Michael A. Sand
- Starting & building
a Nonprofit: A Practical Guide by Peri Pakroo
Planning for Nonprofit Organizations by Michael Allison
and Jude Kaye
Planning for Public and Nonprofit Organizations by
John M. Bryson
Thinking for Nonprofit Organizations: Creative Strategies
for Extraordinary Results by Bernard Ross
Nonprofit Membership Toolkit by Ellis M. M. Robinson
Complete Idiots Guide to Grant Writing by Waddy Thompson
the Non-Profit Organization by Peter F. Druker
Kit for Dummies by Stan Hutton
to Produce Fabulous Fundraising Events: reap Remarkable
Returns with Minimal Effort by Betty Stallings
Articles to help plan, start and run your non-profit
Profit Dance Groups
in our Community
North Texas Middle Eastern
Dance Association -
Fire Belly Dance
Belly Dance Club
Beledi Club of Huntsville
MECDA (rumored to be a 501c4)
Asociated Artists of Middle Eastern Dance
MEDANZ of New Zealand
Association of Middle Eastern Dancers of Canada
Ammala Middle Eastern Dance & Music –
Jawaahir Dance Company & The
Aria Dance company
Morocco and the Casbah Experience
Other Dance Organizations
Isis Foundation – Publishers of The Chronicles
related subjects to explore- (wish
- Grant writing
structures of business
non taxable but not a non profit-
(what MECDA.org is?)
- S corporation
- C corporation
and experiences of music and dance non profit organizations
a non-profit CAN make money, but it must keep the proceeds within
the organization to spend on future charitable activities, community
education and other activities established in the mission statement.
In contrast, a private sector corporation will distribute profits
to its shareholders. The good news is that many non-profits do
actually make enough money to survive and thrive. And some are
able to earn enough income to hire support staff, such as a director.
as a nonprofit association, you can establish legal protection
that separates your personal assets from the activities of
Founding a Non
a non-profit takes time, research and commitment to the group.
When you form a nonprofit organization, you are starting a company,
with a corporate structure and all the work that running a business
entails. You have to be committed to doing a great deal of foundational
work and leading your team, composed of the founding board members,
through the complicated work of establishing your organization.
operate under a corporate structure, with a board of directors
who set policy and committee members who work within
a structure dictated by bylaws and serve the
mission of the organization.
state or region establishes specific requirements for incorporating. Because
this is a legal entity, it’s important to do your research
for your particular area.
of being a nonprofit:
personal liability of the members and directors.
rates for everything from rental space to insurance.
opportunities through grants and endowments.
can deduct gifts to your nonprofit.
- The organization
continues after you have gone.
- Lots of
- Must keep
need legal advice.
- The seated
board has the power to determine the direction of the organization.
As a dancer
who founds a non-profit dance company, the board of directors
can then hire you to run the organization and pay you a salary
or stipend out of the earnings of the organization. You, as
an employee of a non-profit, draw a salary, and help the board
carry out the mission of the organization. While the board
has ultimate power in such vital roles as establishing the
budget and making policy decisions, the director shapes the
vision and provides hands-on work to achieve the organizations
goals. Alternately, you could choose to sit on the board and
taking an active role in the shaping the mission of the organization,
working as a volunteer.
individuals, dancers can become involved in the planning, organization
and running of a non-profit as a board member, paid staff or
volunteer worker. Depending on the structure and mission of
the non-profit, a member at any level will find opportunities
to perform, shape the dance community and contribute to the greater
good through charitable work. Dancers with vision, a cause and
a strong mission statement are great candidates for establishing
Dance troupes and
dance troupes, having non-profit status provides the group with
numerous fundraising opportunities that range from applying for
grants and soliciting donations from patrons of the arts. Donations
made to non-profit dance companies are tax deductible for the
donors – a bonus that may make the difference in the quantity
and quality of donations. In addition to donations, receipts
from ticket sales are not taxed as individual income, but rather,
all feed into a communal pool of funds. Troupe uniforms, travel
costs, liability insurance and event expenses are all paid out
of the organizations communal bank account.
schools and performance spaces
status offers dance studio's several critical advantages over
for-profit organizations. Access to better insurance coverage,
lower advertising rates and access to more helping hands through
the board of directors, paid staff and volunteers can lead to
more effective management and ultimately, more profitability
for the facility. If you have dreams of running your own studio,
yet don’t want all of the financial liabilities and the tremendous
amount of solo work, you can form a non-profit and become the
paid director of the organization. Ultimately, it is the head
of the organization, artistic director and board that shape the
vision and direction of the non-profit studio or dance company.
Dance clubs and
you are forming a club or association dedicated to the dance
arts, forming a non-profit is a logical step. As a non-profit,
your membership dues are tax-exempt as are other monies from
fund-raising activities. Many organizations carry out their mission
to educate through the production of publications, newsletters
and magazines. Non-profits have reduced rates
on facilities, rental space, insurance rates and provides
opportunity for state and local funding for arts presentations
and Goal Setting
organization is defined by the choices the founders make and
shape the direction subsequent leaders move. The founders lay
the intellectual architecture that shapes the core of the organization. Don
Adams, in his
article “The Pillars of Planning: Mission, Values, Vision,”
proposes, “Mission, values and vision are the glue that holds
an organization together.” These three elements should be considered
by the founders of any non-profit and should be integrated into
the very fiber of the organizations directly in the mission statement
and in ongoing strategic planning.
- Mission –
The mission is a statement that encapsulates and defines
your organization. Why does your group exist? What are
the intentions of the founders? Why was this organization
founded and who or what does it support? Over time, the
mission statement can be reevaluated and refreshed by current
board members to keep the organization fresh, dynamic and
- Values –
Every non-profit organization needs to have a core set of
fundamental values that inform the choices in how the group
crafts their activities. These values will help shape the
choices of the board in event planning, fund raising and
community outreach. The values should be clearly stated
and form the intellectual compass that guides the direction
of the organization.
– What are the plans and goals that keep your organization
moving forward and maintaining a clear course consistent
with the mission of the group? The vision of the leader(s)
serves as a powerful motivating force behind volunteer
and member recruitment. The vision should be meaningful,
supporting the mission of the organization. From this
the staff and volunteers will pull energy,
desire and creativity to do the work they’ve volunteered
to do if they feel moved by the vision of the organization.
Writing the Mission
is no one standard format for your non-profit mission statement,
but there are several functions that it must perform. The mission
statement must answer the most critical question, “Why does this
organization exist?” In answering this question, you will define
who are your members and clients and how you will service them
with your organization. You will also note how individuals of
the organization and the community at large will benefit from
the works of your organization. And finally, you will integrate
your vision and values that guide how your non-profit operates.
The Decision Made
– Mission Established - The Work Begins
you’ve made the decision to incorporate as a non-profit in your
state or region, and have mapped out the essence of your mission,
there is a good deal of preparation that needs to happen. The
next step is to discuss your plans with a lawyer familiar with
nonprofit issues. Seeking legal advice is essential to help
ensure that you craft your mission and business plans to pass
the eligibility requirements of the IRS. Ask other local non-profits
for references or check with your local bar association. In
some cases you may find a lawyer to help you set up your non-profit
and your founding board can accomplish much of the groundwork
of setting up a non-profit, it is always advisable to seek
out legal advice.
many detailed books and informational websites that can guide
you through the process of setting up your non-profit organization. From
designing your bylaws and filing your articles of incorporation
to planning programs, fundraising activities and events. The
books in the reading list will offer expertise to step you
through the process. While no book can replace the advice
of a lawyer, they are a great place to start your planning.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for
other possible viewpoints!
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Trend Report 2002 by Dawn Davina Devine
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I thought I would write about three free useful online services
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