Tips on Organization Building From a Friend (and Me)

A wise man bearing silver coins came to me last night and told me a few things that I never really thought about before.

I swear, my brain is like a sponge — I love hearing new things.

Anyway, to not sound like a prophet came to me in a dream-state, my friend came over and I bought some silver off of him.  We got to talking about organizations and a project that he’s working on.

He told me something that struck me.  One — work from the bottom up, not top down.  Why?  Because if your organization spends all their time on fundraising and trying to create something super huge right away, you’ll fail.

Such a simple concept, but wow, it made me re-think some of the projects that I’ve been working on — I’m glad Shaman Scents is small, working within other businesses to make sales, and through the web.  Students for a Stateless Society is working with the Center for a Stateless Society.  The only thing is Liberty Weddings, which I am not piggy backing off of anything in particular, but it is a decentralized group so I think that prevents power corruption.  Also, affiliating with larger groups is tough without experience, so why not make your own?  Also, LW doesn’t require money to function, so that’s always a plus!

Much of the speculation of top down organizations is true though — I’ve worked for a few non-profits at this point and I’ve walked away completely disgusted for the most part.  The begging for money becomes their number one priority, even beyond their mission, and it seems to be on everyone’s mind.  Starting from the bottom up would hopefully ensure a more stable form of fundraising that doesn’t require these acts of desperation.  Or who knows, perhaps people could do volunteer work for the organization (think anarchist collective) part time and not become too angered by  not making over $50,000 a year per employee.

Here are some tips that I’ve put in a simple-to-read list for you to keep in mind:

  • Find volunteers over paid employees — typically there are people who go hog-wild over your cause and would love to help out.  And find a decent quantity because no matter how much they like your mission, they typically burn out quickly or are not as accountable as if there was a threat to be fired.  Make this volunteer position high ranked, however, and even require an application, if necessary.  People like feeling like they earned something or like they are put on a pedestal for their efforts — cater to that.
  • Start bottom down — rather than start your efforts with buying a retail space or office, relying on funds, and eventually going into debt and tanking out, start simple.  A website.  A Facebook page.  Asking a church or established group (anarchist bookstore, political candidate’s office) for some space.
  • $ tips — don’t make your organization all about money.  In fact, don’t even think about it.  Don’t!  I know it is tough, but it legitimately corrupts — trust me, I’ve been corrupted enough by it.  It is not about the money, but about the cause!  Come up with a public plan if you do need some money for specific things — mainly things that give back to the donors or supporters of the cause — not just “we need this money to pay the employees.”
  • Don’t be dissuaded by “humanity’s weaknesses” — I promise you, everyone is good at something.  They may not admit it, but it is true!  Also, do not alienate people who are not like-minded — they have some use, even if it is just strengthening your arguments.
And that’s all I have for you today, best of luck out there.
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