If you’re passionate about yoga and wish to make a difference by helping those in need, you should consider starting a nonprofit yoga studio and running a donation-based studio.
So, how do you build and run a donation-based yoga studio? Here are the main steps involved in opening and running a nonprofit or donation-based yoga studio:
- Pass a 200-hour yoga teacher certification course.
- Incorporate as a nonprofit organization.
- Register with the IRS.
- Open the yoga studio.
- Register for donations.
The process is lengthy, but worth it for motivated teachers with a cause.
This post is part of a series of guides and articles providing in-depth information about how to start a yoga studio. Head to the main article to find a list of articles and guides covering the topic.
Donation-Based Yoga Studio V/S NonProfit Yoga Studio
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of running a donation-based yoga studio, let’s be clear of the difference between a donation-based yoga studio and a nonprofit yoga studio, as we use the term interchangeably.
A donation-based yoga studio can either be a for-profit yoga studio or a nonprofit yoga studio. For example, you could run a regular yoga studio and offer discounted classes to people in need. You could even advertise your discounted fee structure.
However, in this case, you will not be eligible for any grants and “donations.” To receive grants and donations, you will have to register as a nonprofit yoga studio, and then you can operate the true donation-based business model.
To clarify, feel free to offer discounted or free classes if you wish to do so. However, when you start taking donations, grants, and “gifts,” then you will need to be set up as a not-for-profit yoga studio.
Should You Start a Donation-Based Yoga Studio?
Before you start a donation-based yoga studio, you should figure out if it’s something you deeply desire to do. It involves a ton of work and time investment, so you should make sure you are passionate about the idea before proceeding.
The next few sections will tell you what you can expect from running a nonprofit or donation-based yoga studio, and you should be able to decide if it’s right for you or not after reading through them.
What Work Will You Do As A Donation-Based Yoga Studio Instructor
There are quite a few things that donation-based yoga instructors can do to help people improve their lives:
- Assist people who are suffering from traumas in shelters
- Teach yoga to people with medical conditions in hospitals
- Help children and students relieve anxiety in schools
- Offer donation-based yoga classes for corporate workers in offices
- Rehabilitate inmates by teaching yoga in prisons
- Volunteer to teach yoga abroad
The main reason many of the disadvantaged people mentioned above need not-for-profit or donation-based yoga studios is that yoga is expensive. Yoga classes cost $200/month on average. This cost is why many yoga studios and organizations are popping up over the country and offering donation-based yoga classes to people in need.
Here’s an example: Bilyana Simonoski started her nonprofit yoga organization “Tough As Milk” after her father swung an ax at her and damaged her hand. He also attacked her mother and left her with brain damage.
Bilyana struggled with PTSD after the incident, and yoga helped her relieve the mental pain from the event. Her yoga organization has helped dozens of domestic abuse victims overcome their anxiety by practicing yoga. Tough As Milk now services 20 new students a month at domestic abuse centers in Ohio.
If you’d like to help people similarly like Bilyana does, then read on.
5 Steps To Start A Nonprofit Yoga Studio
If you’ve decided that starting a not-for-profit yoga is right for you, congratulations.
The following is a step-by-step guide to building a nonprofit or donation-based yoga studio. We’ll go over each step, covering the most critical information, from yoga styles to renting a studio to filing the proper tax forms.
Starting Nonprofit Yoga Studio Step 1: Register For Donations
There are three ways to bring income into your nonprofit studio to finance your operations: Donation-based classes, grants, and soliciting wealthy private donors.
Maintaining a yoga studio is expensive. To cover the rental costs, you can ask students to donate whatever they can each time they come to the studio.
The average class in a ‘for-profit’ studio will cost $20 per class or $200 a month. For nonprofit classes, you could ask for $3-10 a class, depending on how much students can chip in. Let them know it’s only to cover the administrative fees such as the rental cost of the space and that you don’t pocket the donations.
Grants For Nonprofits
There are charitable foundations such as the “Give Back Yoga” Foundation that help nonprofit yoga studios. They provide free yoga mats and grants up to $1000 to all nonprofits throughout the United States. There are specific eligibility criteria to obtain their grants:
- Certification. If you want to receive their grants, you must complete a 200-hour course and have a certificate. The Yoga Alliance should also license you.
- US Shipping Address. Your studio or address has to be within the United States as Give Back Yoga doesn’t provide grants to studios internationally.
- Meaningful Cause. The cash grants they give can only service projects such as teaching people at hospitals. They can’t fund conferences or festivals.
The main advantage donors have is that they can donate to an organization and use their donation as a tax write-off. This write-off enables them to save money on taxes while furthering their cause.
To make yourself visible in the eyes of these individuals, you’ll first have to incorporate as a nonprofit and file paperwork with the IRS. Once you’ve done that, you can register on nonprofit directories like GuideStar.org to increase your visibility among potential donors.
Starting Nonprofit Yoga Studio Step 2: Obtain a Yoga Teacher Certificate
You need a certificate for credibility. Once you discover your yoga style, it’s time to get certified as a teacher. Knowledge of yoga isn’t enough to start teaching. You need a piece of paper testifying you’re trained to teach students. The average yoga certification course lasts 200 hours.
The same requirements that professional studios have also apply to nonprofit and donation-based yoga studios. Some courses will also have instructions on dealing with traumatized people and people with medical conditions, which is what you’ll need to learn as a nonprofit teacher.
Pro Tip: Start by attending yoga classes yourself. After you’ve gained 6-12 months of experience, you’ll be ready to enroll in yoga teacher training. Teacher training will teach you how to teach yoga class, become confident, form a sense of community, and bring presence to the class.
Teacher training helps you integrate yogic philosophy into the daily life of your students. The training will prepare you to empower hundreds if not thousands of students who you’ll actively teach throughout the years. As a nonprofit teacher, you should seek out courses that have modules about vulnerable populations and high-risk environments.
The average yoga certification course costs $2000-4000. You can take the course online or enroll in real-life classes.
The exact price of the certification depends on the location. In cities with a lot of demand, such as New York City, the price will be higher, and you will easily pay over $3000 for a yoga teacher certification course. Almost no schools offer scholarships, and you might have to pay for the tuition out of pocket.
Additional Costs For Licensing
There are hidden expenses in addition to the tuition fee. You’ll also have to pay for the books and materials which could cost as much as $300.
The certification course might take months to complete, which means there are travel costs involved. To save money, buy used books.
After you obtain your certificate, you’ll have to register with the Yoga Alliance, which is the umbrella organization for all certified yoga instructors in the US. They charge an initial fee of $50 and an annual renewal fee of $65.
Starting Nonprofit Yoga Studio Step 3: Register A ‘Nonprofit’ Company
- Average time: 3-12 Months
- Average cost: $200-600
The nonprofit has to be registered as a “not-for-profit” entity to receive a tax-free status and become eligible for donations. Many wealthy individuals and organizations are looking to make donations to organizations to get tax write-offs. If you want donations from wealthy contributors, you need to register as a nonprofit organization.
In essence, nonprofit means your personal finances are not part of the corporation’s liability. Registering as a ‘nonprofit’ entity carries many benefits over registering as a ‘for-profit’ entity:
- Limited Liability. The owner of the yoga studio is not held personally responsible for the debts of the organization.
- Permanent Incorporation. Nonprofits remain incorporated even if it goes without management or the owner passes away.
- Cash Grants. Nonprofit organizations are eligible for grants by large organizations, and they can also receive private donations.
To start the incorporation process, fill out the “Articles for Incorporation” papers in your state. It’s wise to consult an attorney or hire a mediator agency that can fill out the paperwork for you. The administrative fees should be reasonable.
Filing With The IRS
Nonprofit organizations must file all donations with the IRS, and this is to keep track of the money coming into the organization. Just because you operate as a “nonprofit” doesn’t mean you won’t have cash coming into the organization.
The government wants to know the money came in legally, and despite being tax-exempt, you still must file “Form 1023,” which is a tax declaration for nonprofit organizations. You’ll be exempt from paying taxes on the Federal and state level.
Registering with the IRS will give you the following benefits:
- 100% Tax Exemption. You won’t have to pay a dime on the Federal or state level for any of the donations you’re receiving.
- Better Branding. Nonprofits are considered virtuous, and this prompts many organizations to donate to them.
- Tax-Deductible. Wealthy individuals donate to organizations because it qualifies their donations for tax write-offs. People who give to you can write the amount off as a tax deduction.
Note: The application for tax-exempt status that certifies you as a nonprofit organization might cost between $275 and $600. The IRS will also review your request for 3-12 months and send you a letter once your application is successfully processed. Prepare in advance to file your 501(c)(3) IRS paperwork.
Starting Nonprofit Yoga Studio Step 4: Build A Studio (Optional)
- Average cost: $1000-3000/month for rent
- Equipment cost: $100-200 total
Nonprofit studios are identical to for-profit studios – they need yoga mats, mirrors, blocks, and stereos.
However, unless you’re dead set on having a private space to invite students to, you may not need to rent and outfit a studio.
You can ask for the opportunity to teach at other local yoga studios and venues. Once you have sufficient donations, then you can establish a permanent studio location.
If you still want to have your own space but want to avoid the costs associated with renting a large studio, there are two decent alternatives:
- Convert your garage into a yoga studio.
- Start with a small studio apartment with one reception desk.
Then, once you start getting donations by organizations that want to help your cause, you can expand the studio space. Make sure to make the space you have appealing. To do this, you’ll only have to spend a couple of hundred dollars on equipment.
Necessary Yoga Equipment
The main component you need to facilitate yoga classes is yoga mats. Each student requires an individual mat, and you’ll have to have spare mats in your studio for students who don’t have yoga mats. On Amazon, you can buy 10-pack yoga mats for $90.
Yoga blocks are essential for teaching beginners. Each studio has a dozen yoga blocks around the room available to students within hands reach. You can buy yoga blocks on Amazon in 10-pack for $40.
Straps assist with stretching during classes. Yoga straps are also relatively affordable, and a 10-pack will cost you as little as $30.
Depending on the style of yoga you’re teaching, you might need a stereo system. Many stereo systems are portable and lightweight – they cost as little as $50.
Create A Website
The website and social media presence of your organization will attract people interested in your classes and donors. People are actively searching for donation-based and nonprofit yoga studios on google.
Example: If your yoga classes target people with a medical condition, you’ll need a way for hospitals to contact you and inquire about classes.
For nonprofits, the best domain name is one ending in “.org” as this establishes your presence as an organization. Take a look at ToughAsMilk.org as an example of a nonprofit offering yoga classes to domestic abuse victims.
The registration costs for a .org domain are $10 a year on NameCheap, and you’ll also have to pay additional expenses for monthly hosting, which amounts to $10/month on average.
NOTE: You can also operate without a website if you use a yoga studio booking software like StudioGrowth. With Studiogrowth you can share your schedule publicly and even collect online payments. We also give you beautiful splash pages where you can sell your class packs and memberships. We have a free 14-day trial, so give it a try!
Your organization must have a professional logo. Analyze other nonprofit yoga studios to figure out what you’d like to emulate. The logo has to convey your brand message. Logos can be designed for as little as $50 by freelancers on the internet.
The website has to have easy navigation that includes access to the following pages:
- About Us/Mission Statement.
- Benefits Of Your Classes.
- Pictures/Videos Page.
- Donations Page.
- Contact Us Page.
- Social Media (Instagram, Facebook, etc.)
The website has to be impressive in terms of design, color choice, image placement, and content. Start by installing WordPress, looking up “Yoga Themes,” and customizing your website with your own details.
Starting Nonprofit Yoga Studio Step 5: Discover Your Style & Niche Of Yoga
The particular style of yoga you teach should cater to your specific audience. The following are the most popular styles of yoga:
Vinyasa is the most popular form of yoga, and it’s taught in all yoga studios across the world. If you want one basic yoga style that you can’t go wrong with, vinyasa is the go-to.
Vinyasa is an Indian word for “breath and movement.” Students practice postures that establish the flow of vinyasa. The moving postures serve as a guided meditation.
Ashtanga is a very traditional Indian yoga that translates to “eight limbs.” If you’ve ever seen South Asian folklore, you will have a general idea of what the symbols resemble.
This yoga type is similar to Vinyasa yoga. The asanas (Indian word for “poses”) also combine breath and movement through various postures.
Ashtanga has a series of postures, and the sequence consists of Sun Salutation A, Sun Salutation B, standing, and closing. Ashtanga doesn’t require music, and the yoga instructor is usually quiet.
Iyengar yoga is similar to Ashtanga yoga in the traditional sense because it models the Eight Limbs of Yoga.
It got its name after the most famous yoga teacher of all time, B.K.S. Iyengar.
This type of yoga became popular in the United States in the early 21st century. The practice aims to teach proper alignment and breath control. Iyengar is a slow-paced form of yoga with deeper postures, and background music usually accompanies the practice.
Yin yoga is a relaxing meditative yoga that focuses on comfortable poses. It is also known as Taoist yoga, and the emphasis is on extending the connective tissues in the body. Yin Yoga uses additional equipment such as props, and there is no background music required.
Power yoga involves very fast-paced yoga pose changes that incorporate physical training and targets muscles in the upper body. It adopts a more gym-like approach to yoga and uses upbeat background music.
Jivamukti yoga incorporates parts of spiritual exercise and physical exercise, which means it’s excellent for fitness. This style incorporates asanas with Sanskrit chanting, and it began in the 80s in New York City. Jivamukti translates to “liberated being.”
Sivananda yoga combines several principles, such as breathing, relaxation, positive thinking, and diet. It incorporates 12 postures, Sun Salutations, and savasana. Sivananda yoga does not have background music during practice.
Bikram yoga is a relatively new form of yoga that became popular in the States in the 70s. It features 26 postures and two breathing exercises. Bikram Yoga takes place in very hot rooms that exceed over 100 degrees F (37 degrees C), and each class lasts 1.5 hours. The room also has bright lights, and there is no background music.
Should You Offer Donation-Based Yoga Classes?
You must have a strong motive to start teaching yoga for free. The donation-based model has different interpretations. Some yoga studios offer discounted classes and classify them as “donation-based” classes, while others provide a donation-based model where it is up to the student to pay what they can afford.
If you aren’t sufficiently motivated to teach yoga without adequate compensation, you might fail in your pursuit. You have to decide why you’re teaching and what you’re trying to change in the world. If profits are top of mind, then a non-profit and donation-based yoga business is not for you.
Similar organizations to “Tough As Milk” have popped up all over the country. Some take it overseas and teach yoga in Africa. Some take it to the correctional institutions and help rehabilitate inmates by teaching yoga classes within the prison system. There are also organizations offering yoga for people at hospitals.
Pro Tip: Start by evaluating your personal motivation. Bilyana was clear in her intention to help domestic abuse victims because she went through a traumatic experience herself. What experiences have you gone through?
If possible, teach to people who share a similar experience. If past traumatic events motivate you, use that as fuel to start your nonprofit yoga studio.
Start By Volunteering
The first step is to become a volunteer. Start by offering your services as a volunteer to a nonprofit yoga organisation and seeing where your volunteering takes you.
It’s possible to volunteer with only a certificate. Volunteering will save you thousands of dollars that you’d otherwise spend opening up your own yoga studio.
Spend a few months teaching and see if this lifestyle is for you. You need to feel a calling before you start teaching on your own.
Take your time and read statistics. Teach abroad to foreign populations. Read more about the demographics of people you’re teaching. If you’re training the elderly, find out what they like. If you’re teaching inmates, find out their favorite style.
There are many unique yoga niches and styles you can teach. Each one carries its own merits. Don’t blindly jump into starting a donation-based yoga studio without doing research. Find your motivation and build on it. There’s no reason to start a nonprofit yoga studio unless you really feel like you’re making a change in the world.
Salary Of A Donation-Based Yoga Instructor
You won’t get paid as much as you expect for a nonprofit or donation-based yoga studio. You might even go into debt if you decide to rent a space for the yoga studio.
Your total income will depend on donations, which you’ll have to use to fund equipment for students. Most nonprofits survive by asking for donations and applying for grants from organizations. Certain yoga studios ask for donations for each class, which can range from $3-10 (the average cost of a ‘for-profit’ studio class is $20).
Your instructors won’t get paid either. If you open a studio and it starts gaining traction, you might get volunteer instructors who come to teach at your studio for free. The same things that motivate you will motivate these people: the urge to educate people and make a difference.
Don’t feel guilty that you can’t pay volunteers, as they are on the same mission as you are. You will attract the best volunteers when you start a nonprofit because they come to teach out of passion.
Also, if you’re worried about being alone on this journey, don’t be. There are many good people out there. You will get donations from wealthy private investors who like to make a difference, especially if they resonate with your cause. The average student dropping in might also chip in some money.
Besides, you will be eligible for many grants that include free yoga mats and payments, usually up to $1,000. Karma works in surprising ways. When you start trying to make a difference, and your cause takes off, people tend to reward you in unusual ways. This reason is why you must believe in your cause.
You’ll Have To Work As Much As For-Profit Studios
Do you know any popular instructors in your area making thousands of dollars and living the high life by teaching yoga?
Well, you will have to put in the exact same effort as they do, but you won’t get paid as much.
You’ll have to register your company, build a studio, file taxes, hire volunteers, teach classes, buy gear, pay the rent, and more. You’ll probably spend hundreds or even thousands of hours working on your nonprofit yoga studio.
This endeavor takes hard work. In addition to the tasks listed above, you’ll also have to be applying for grants and finding ways to collect donations to help support your cause.
The social networking work you’ll have to do will surpass that of regular for-profit yoga teachers. You might feel tempted to give up if you don’t receive appreciation from the people you’re teaching. However, your cause will help you surpass every roadblock. You’ll make it through sheer motivation and willpower.
Starting a nonprofit or donation-based yoga studio can be extremely rewarding. While the monetary incentives might not be there, the ability to help other people in a meaningful way is often more than a suitable replacement for pay.
Before you decide to open a studio, start volunteering to see if you think running your own nonprofit studio is a good idea. You should also understand your motivations before starting out on this endeavor.
If you do decide to open a studio, you will need to come up with at least $5,000 to cover the certification classes, licensing, incorporation fees, and equipment.
This post is part of a series of posts providing in-depth information on everything you need to know to start a yoga studio. The other posts in this series include:
- Are yoga studios profitable?
- How much do yoga studio owners make?
- What is the cost of opening a yoga studio?
- Teach yoga without certification
- Do yoga instructors need insurance?
- How to name a yoga business
- How big should a yoga studio be?
- Best place to open a yoga studio
- Yoga studio decor
- What color to paint a yoga studio
- Best flooring for yoga studios
- Heaters for yoga studios
- Best plants for yoga studios
- Music in yoga class: do’s and don’t
- Candles for yoga studios
- Incense, scents, & essential oils for yoga studios
- How yoga studios pay teachers
- Yoga studio marketing: Ultimate Guide
- Opening a yoga studio in a small town
- Yoga studio grand opening ideas
- Why yoga studios fail
- Yoga studio franchise
- Yoga Studio Scheduling Software
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Naz has an MBA from IESE Business School and started his journey in the wellness industry when he set-up an on-demand wellness business. Naz currently resides in London, U.K.