Community members sometimes speak to us about starting a nonprofit in order to help people back home. But this may not be the best solution to the problem to be solved – and may actually create new challenges. Getting grants or donations to sustain a nonprofit usually requires a lot of volunteer time from multiple people, including those recruited to serve on a board. We reached out to the Maine Association of Nonprofits (MANP) to learn what it takes to start a nonprofit, and to help readers figure out if it’s the right choice for them.

  1. I want to start my own non-profit here in Maine to send money abroad. How do I figure out what to do?
    A great first step is to learn about the role of nonprofits in the U.S., since some of the rules and ways they operate are different than in other countries. MANP partners with SCORE and Portland’s Office of Economic Opportunity to offer free workshops on starting nonprofits. The next one will be August 3. Register at
  2. If I start a nonprofit, can I use it to send money to family and friends abroad?
    Unless you are raising a large amount of money, setting up a nonprofit may not be the best option. We suggest working with an attorney who understands nonprofit and international law in order to avoid expensive fines and legal problems. Individuals do not “own” a nonprofit the way someone can own a business. All nonprofits are required to have a board of directors, which is a group of people responsible for making sure the nonprofit is fulfilling its mission and following state and federal rules. The board is involved in deciding what programs and services are offered and how money is spent. Sending money internationally is possible, but can require specific research and documentation, and the expenses and grants must meet certain qualifications, and must be appropriately documented and tracked. In most cases, this money cannot just go to family members. And depending on the country where you’re sending money, rules can be complex.
  3. Are there any alternatives to send money abroad to support my community?
    You could look for existing nonprofit organizations, either here in the U.S. or back home, that are already providing services for the community you care about. Contact those organizations to donate money or to see how else you can help. You could also collect money to send back home directly. Donors wouldn’t be able to deduct these donations on their U.S. taxes, but for many donors that isn’t a big factor. Reach out to our office if you’d like to find organizations that line up with your vision. Email: [email protected]