Ask The Expert: Gianna Montinola of Hands On Manila teaches us what takes to start your own non-profit.

Gianna Montinola is co-founder of Hands on Manila Foundation Inc. a non-profit organisation which develops volunteer and CSR opportunities for companies. She is also co-founder of PeaceTeach Inc. a non-profit entity dedicated to peacebuilding and conflict resolution through the use of information and communications technology. Gianna is currently the senior vice president for corporate affairs at Far Eastern University. Find out what her tips are for how to start your own charitable endeavour:

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What is the first step you recommend someone take in starting a charity?

The very first step you must do in starting a charity is to find what it is you care passionately about. What advocacy resonates with you – Education, the Environment, the Arts, Women Empowerment, Livelihood, History and Culture, Health? The choices are endless. Then zero in on what facet of your chosen advocacy you would like to dedicate your work and energy to. Starting a charity requires hard work and patience. You will need inspiration to achieve your goals and it will make a big difference if you are determined to solve a problem that is close to your heart.

Once you have decided on your advocacy, you should research and see if there are organisations that are already doing what it is you want to do. You might want to focus on a cause that is not getting much attention or do something to augment what others are already doing.

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What documents or steps do you need to file to make the organisation official?

Your organisation must be registered as a non-stock, non-profit corporation with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Sometimes, these are referred to as foundations, like Hands on Manila Foundation, Inc.

You may want to obtain Philippine Council for NGO Certification (PCNC) accreditation. This will allow you to have a “donee institution status”.  Corporations who donate to you will be exempt from the donor’s tax and their donations can be used as tax benefits.

How do you get your message out and advocacy known?

It is helpful if you pick a catchy name that already describes what you do. Names like “Bantay Bata”, “Habitat for Humanity” or “Make a Difference” quickly give people an idea of what your organisation wants to achieve. Then you have to map out an operations plan. Included here is the need to develop a marketing strategy to build recognition.

You need to get the word out that you exist publicly. Choose the platform you find most effective for your audience whether it be television, radio, newspapers, magazines, a website, or social networks and get started.


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What full time jobs are needed in your team when running a charity?

Full-time jobs may include that of an Executive Director who will be the overall head, a Program Officer, a Marketing and Communication Officer, an Administrative Officer, and an Accountant. You can choose to start with a few persons, especially when your operations are still small, and you want to conserve your money.

Any other tips you want to share? 

Fundraising is a very important activity for any charitable organisation because you will need substantial financial amounts to run your operations. So it is in your interest to make donating to your company as attractive as possible. 

As a charitable organisation, it is imperative that you build a reputation of trust, especially with your donors. Be circumspect with how and where you spend your money. Earn the respect of everyone, including your beneficiaries and partners.

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