Start your own charity--or not?

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Tomorrow's philanthropists are fast becoming today's philanthropists. That means the millennial mindset is a rising force in emerging charitable giving behavior. Has starting your own charity ever crossed your mind? If you've got the millennial mindset, the answer is probably "yes."

Thousands of new charities are started each year by people passionate about a cause. Millennial or not, if you've got a cause you're passionate about, how do you know whether starting your own charity is right for you?

Here are two key questions to ask yourself before you get started.

First, do you really want to start a charity, or is a for-profit structure better for you? The answer starts with what you want to accomplish. And then you can see what revenue model is best. Either way, you have to ask for money--either by selling a product or service, or by asking for people to give to support your cause. Be sure to review the pros and cons of a nonprofit versus a for-profit.

Second, find out whether an existing charity is doing something similar. There are more than 1.3 million charities in the United States, so chances are pretty good that there is a charity already doing what you're wanting to do. Competition for dollars is high. Requests for charitable contributions are filling up everyone's inboxes, not just yours! A great idea is to consider incubating your idea as a volunteer within an existing charity to test your concept and get early traction.

Remember, starting a charity is just like starting a business, with the added twist that it's governed under a section of the tax code containing rules relating to the deductibility of donations and the exemption from taxation. You still have to make sure ends meet and that your expenses don't exceed your revenue.