Nonprofits are a very tangible way for cause-driven and socially motivated women to make a difference in the world. But while the workforce is still overwhelmingly female, the same can’t be said for the sector’s leadership roles.

Like a vast majority of companies of any kind, the nonprofit world’s lack of diversity is having an impact on its effectiveness, both within the organizations and in their hindrance of an organization to fully represent the community and the voices that it aims to serve. There are many viable ways for women to make an impact in the nonprofit sector, including starting your own nonprofit. It’s a lot of work, but it can be done — and here’s how:

1. Do your research. This includes assessing whether there is a real need for a new nonprofit, making a proof of concept, and determining the anticipated costs and potential funders, which, as in starting any new business, can be one of the most difficult tasks. “If done properly, this step can be one of the most strenuous and time-consuming steps,” says Jason Chmura, Executive Director for the Society of Nonprofits. “It’s also perhaps the most critical to the organization’s long-term success.” Chmura says to “make sure you take the time needed to build a proper foundation.”

2. Make a business plan. This will be a summary of the information found in your research. You’ll need to determine whether your idea, based on your findings, is feasible.

3. Reserve your organization name and file for incorporation. Once you’ve done your research and have a feasible plan in place, you’ll need to incorporate. The agency that handles this process and the specific steps required vary by state; your state association can help you with this.

4. File for federal tax-exempt status. Chmura advises that these applications are closely scrutinized, so this process can take anywhere from a couple of months up to a year. There is also a fee that will cost you upwards of $850, so be prepared for that. An organization like Harbor Compliance can help you with filing the paperwork properly.

5. Ongoing compliance. Congrats! You just successfully started a nonprofit — now here’s where the real work will begin. Many state and local governments require additional filings to maintain your tax-exempt status. from those institutions. The IRS has lots of info to help you do this properly.

Have any other questions or tips? Tell us @BritandCo!

(photo via Getty Images)