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Melissa Lopez, CNP,
Many individuals start off already knowing their purpose, having several ideas for a nonprofit, or even believing that they need to jump on filling out Form 1023 as soon as all parties agree on a mission. Well, my journey was a little different. In fact, it was a little backwards. I started a community organization that, by choice, has yet to be registered. But before I jump into why I have made the decision to hold off on registering my wonderful organization as a 501(c)(3), I think I should give you some background on the little gem.
Let me take you back to March 2012. During that month my friend Magui and I had both received some very unpleasant news about our health condition. Apparently our M&M nickname went from “Mel and Mags” to Medical Mystery! We were both frustrated with the fact that although we led very active lives and were at the top of our physical goals, our immune system always appeared to say the opposite.
Well, because we both felt the most invincible when we ran, and because we wanted a way to feel like we were getting back at our ridiculous immune system, we decided to sign up for our first full marathon. We agreed that no matter how bad the diagnoses or the news, illness would always have to try its hardest to catch us! That night we discussed starting a Facebook page to document our training and gain our friend’s emotional support, but our random spurts of creative ideas led us to something bigger. Creating a community of kindness by getting runners together, with those who did not know they loved running yet, became our calling.
On April 20th, 2012 Soles-de-Soul was born. We came up with the wonderful idea to host free themed 5k/10k “Fun Runs.” Though we were high-spirited, we remained realistic and knew that not everyone found the idea of running to be appealing. The two main reasons: 1. running is “boring,” and 2. it costs money to join a run. We figured that by eliminating those two factors and combining a sense of community and silliness (FUN), with noncompetitive running (RUN), we could create an enjoyable and positive experience that would encourage people to become more active. Soles-de-Soul became known as the organization that “promotes health and wellness while providing a sense of community!”
Now that I have painted a picture of the birth of Soles-de-Soul and my emotional attachment to it, we can talk about why it has been well over a year of receiving great support but still has no status. Of course the thought of having Soles-de-Soul be recognized as a nonprofit was not far from our minds. To be honest, the moment we came up with the name we quickly purchased the .com and .org domains, started drafting the logo, and even created a mission statement. The plan, however, was to spend the first year trying to get a firm grasp on its potential before making any big moves.
We figured we would play around with our ideas, try to see what worked and what didn’t, and thought for sure by 2013 we would celebrate Soles-de-Soul’s one-year anniversary by turning in Form 1023. That whole first year was spent on trial and error. We created a Facebook page, a liability waiver, opened a zero balance bank account, tested out themes, routes, schedules and fundraisers; it was a year of experimenting to say the least.
Long story short, the one-year anniversary quickly approached, and Soles-de-Soul’s name eventually became a familiar face amongst the local community. Though Soles-de-Soul had grown a lot in its first year, and had even reached some big milestones along the way, we still felt that the deadline we set was too soon. A lot of time was spent filling out Form 1023, but I was really hesitant about submitting it when the time came. We knew that Soles-de-Soul had all the right ingredients to become a wholesome part of the nonprofit world, but we both felt that completing another year of being a work in progress was the best route for us to take.
By now I’m sure you all know that Soles-de-Soul is all about the journey and not just the destination, so with that said, here’s to April 20th, 2014!
Melissa Lopez became a Certified Nonprofit Professional through the ASU Lodestar Center's American Humanics program (now the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance). She is a recent graduate of the master of communication studies program, specializing in community relations and advocacy. Melissa founded Soles-de-Soul, a health advocacy organization, in 2012. She is also vice president of the ASU Nonprofit Professionals Alumni Club.
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Read Dick Erwin's, "Fighting for a cause."