How to Start a Doula Program ~ For Doula Program Visionaries

doula program

How to Start a Doula Program

Are you a doula program visionary? We provide guidance for doula program start-up for community or hospital-based doula programs. Save time, aggravation and money and let Patty Brennan guide you through the set-up process. From founding a nonprofit organization, to choosing a model, managing risks, and learning to write grants for funding, you’ve come to the right place!

Forming a 501c3 Nonprofit Corporation

Feeling daunted by that IRS application? Are you under the impression that you need to hire a lawyer and/or accountant to accomplish this task? Think again! We have the following resources available.

doula business guideThe Doula Business Guide, 3rd Edition (2019)

This definitive guide contains a Nonprofit Primer. Read this chapter before proceeding and save yourself from learning everything the hard way like I did! Topics covered include:

  • Pros and cons of nonprofits
  • Step-by-step set-up
  • About “the board”
  • Cloning the executive director
  • Fundraising–the bottom line
  • And more!
The Doula Business Guide ($34.95)

cforms contact form by delicious:days

Help with the 501c3 Application

Purchase our Sample Nonprofit Articles and Bylaws to help complete your application. Use as a template and then adapt them to meet your organizational needs and goals (instructions included). No need to reinvent this wheel!

Sample Nonprofit Articles & Bylaws ($25)

cforms contact form by delicious:days

[Back to top]

doula programDoula Program Models

Two Community-Based Program Models

Following is a brief description of two program models. Each is described in more detail in The Doula Business Guide.

Doulas Care

Doulas Care was founded in 1999 by Patty Brennan, as a grassroots, community-based, volunteer doula program serving families throughout southeastern Michigan. Patty served as executive director of the nonprofit, providing leadership through 2007. During her tenure, Doulas Care attracted numerous community partners and funders, expanding program capacity to provide free doula care to over 250 families annually. In 2004, Doulas Care was awarded the DONA International Founders’ Award for Excellence in a Doula Group.

Michigan Doula Connection

This 100% web-based, nonprofit, volunteer doula program was founded in 2011 by Patty Brennan. With the web-based approach, volunteer doulas became more accessible to families in need, providing direct access for families in need to potential doula volunteers

doula programStarting a Hospital-Based Doula Programs

Proposal for a Hospital-Based Doula Program (Template)
Launch a hospital-based doula program! Get the conversation started at your local hospital with our proposal template. This proposal is delivered as a Word document that can be adapted for any model of hospital-based doula program, including birth and/or postpartum doulas, volunteer or paid doulas, and on-call or continuity-based programs. The template is designed to be adapted to your unique care setting and to complement your target hospital’s over-arching mission, values and vision. This comprehensive proposal encompasses the following:

  • Overview
  • Role of the professional birth doula
  • Role of the professional postpartum doula
  • Doula scope of practice
  • Benefits of doulas
  • Benefits to hospital
  • Program model options/variations
  • Doula training
  • Marketing the program
  • Sample implementation timeline
  • Potential challenges and solutions to implementation
  • Budget items
  • Revenue streams
Proposal for a Hospital-Based Doula Program Template ($67)

cforms contact form by delicious:days

[Back to top]

Funding Your Doula Program

How to Write a Winning Grant Proposal ($75)

cforms contact form by delicious:days

doula programHow to Write a Winning Grant Proposal–Online Class

With this accessible, comprehensive grant writing training package, you can become a successful grant writer and get up to speed quickly. This program provides an overview of grant-writing basics with emphasis placed on maternal-infant health initiatives. You will learn how to identify funding sources that are a good match for your organization, create measurable “outcome objectives,” cultivate relationships with funders and, in short, get your program or initiative funded. Avoid common mistakes that make the difference between, literally, thousands of dollars and zero dollars for your program. This package includes video from a live conference training with members of the Michigan March of Dimes grant review team. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to gain the insider’s perspective on the grant-making process! Over four hours of training–all at your own pace.

Key topics include:

  • understanding the dynamics of the grantor/grantee relationship
  • demonstrating community need
  • establishing community partnerships and fiduciary relationships
  • describing your target population
  • developing objectives that are specific and measurable
  • defining parameters and tools for evaluating success
  • budgeting considerations
  • developing sustainability strategies



Grant Writing Basics (~ 2.25 hours)
PowerPoint presentation with audio voice over in video format.

Group Discussion (~ 50 mins)
Video of live event—March of Dimes sponsored pre-conference workshop at the Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Annual Conference in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan in June 2010. This video features analysis of the results of small groups’ efforts to articulate goals and objectives for maternal-infant health initiatives. The groups were attempting to apply knowledge gained from the in-depth Grant Writing Basics presentation. Critique is offered by workshop presenter Patty Brennan and members of the March of Dimes grants distribution committee.

Open Q&A Session with Grant Review Team (~ 50 mins)
This video features an open question and answer session with audience members and March of Dimes Michigan Program Services Committee members who review the grant proposals submitted each year and decide which ones to fund.

Grant Writing Resource Guide
This PDF download contains 44 pages of useful information to supplement our Grant Writing Basics presentation. It includes:

  • How to search for funding
  • Tips on writing objectives (excellent templates will help you master this essential grant writing skill)
  • Proposal writing tips
  • Sample March of Dimes Letter of Intent Application
  • Sample March of Dimes Request for Proposals (check with your state chapter of March of Dimes for current-year RFP)
  • March of Dimes Grant Reviewers’ Score Sheet (invaluable resource!)
  • Two sample funded grant proposals
  • Bibliography & Resources

Read what our customers have to say:

“I liked this format/combination of very concrete, thorough, practical overview and group sessions… I learned so much. The ideas, information and resources I received will help me write better proposals!” — Joan Earhardt

“Loved it! Liked the panel too.” — Delicia Shimkoski

“Great basic training to understand the grant process.” — Brenda Luckhardt

“Everything was very good. Appreciated having practice and sample forms…. This training provided me with a good overview on ‘how to.’ I feel like I can tackle writing that first grant proposal.” — Julie Lothamer

[Back to top]

About Patty Brennan

doula programIn The Doula Business Guide, Patty shares her years of experience and hard-won wisdom in the establishment and funding of doula programs. Patty’s expertise in the field of maternal/infant health includes:

  • Grant writer (16 years; 85% funding rate for proposals submitted
  • Doula program development (19 years)
  • Nonprofit start-up and management (19 years)
  • Adult education specialist (35 years)
  • Doula trainer (19 years)
  • Childbirth educator (35 years)
  • Small business start-up and development (37 years)
  • Volunteer management (19 years)

“Patty Brennan’s book (The Doula Business Guide) was an inspiration and practical guide as we started our non-profit community doula program. Her thorough, clearly written advice was invaluable as we made decisions about how to structure our organization, manage risk, plan our service model and draft our data collection instruments. We appreciated her honesty about the challenges of operating as a nonprofit and, because of her book, feel that we have realistic expectations. We also recommend Patty’s book to all doulas who take trainings through our organization. This is a comprehensive source of information for new (and experienced) doulas, who are passionate about their profession, but frequently not comfortable with the business aspects of their work.” — Susan Petrus, Co-Founder of BirthWell Partners Community Doula Project, Birmingham, AL

[Back to top]