I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you the story of why this particular blog is here, the way it is, right now.
About a month ago now, I guess, I invited people on Twitter to participate in what I was calling a “Twitter Town Hall Meeting.” I wanted to see if we could identify some weak spots in our Social Media community, and I wanted to see if the stories that were coming out about online bullying were spurring others to action, as was the case with me.
The town hall meeting got more activity than I expected, and everyone agreed that a weekly chat would be a good idea. I then decided that having a central hub for all of the resource links people were sending me would be a good idea, so I purchased the domain http://www.suicidesmuststop.com and I built a little blog site there. As I was building that site, the weekly chats continued, and the action items kept increasing exponentially. We discussed creating educational materials. We discussed creating a network of contacts across the country. It became clear to me that there was enough work to do to warrant creating a not for profit organization.
There was just one problem. One small, teeny tiny detail that was amiss. I had no idea how to do that.
Big trouble in little details
If you’ve ever tried to do something you’ve never done before, you know that approaching the project invokes a mixture of fear and excitement. In this particular case, the fear was winning. In order to do what I wanted to do, I would need help. I would need to learn how to pay people because I needed a LOT of help. I would need to learn how to get a 501c3 status so that I could pay people. Before doing any of that, I needed to rename my project, because smart people like Chris Brogan warned that naming an anti-bullying, suicide prevention site with a name where the first word is “suicide” might not be the best idea. In order to choose the new name, my friend Suzanne Vara noted that consultation with an IP attorney would be a really good idea. To pay for that, I needed money. Did I need to get 501c3 status first?
The days passed. People kept sending me great links, but now I had nowhere to put them. I had a lot I wanted to write about, and people were offering to write posts for the project, but none of it had a home. I was stuck in the mud.
If you’ve ever tried to research how to create a not for profit, you know that you can get bogged down pretty quick because the more you learn, the more you realize you need to do. My friend Claudia Jackson (@quality1 on Twitter) sent me a fantastic document about how to create an NPO, but in that document I learned that you need a board. How do you get one of those? When you go to the IRS page to try to learn how to apply for a 501c3 status, you are lambasted with legal speak that is hard to understand. The dollar signs and the word “audit” seem to stick out most.
Through all of that, I started asking myself, “Do I really need to be a not for profit right away? I want to give this information a home. I don’t need money for that. I digested blog posts all over the place talking about not trying to do everything at once. Rome wasn’t built in a day. I could give myself at least a week. Still, I was filled with doubt, and I was getting a bit forlorn about it.
Charity is her first name (on Twitter)
In a last ditch effort to try to get a compass, I decided to try to contact some experts who could maybe point me in the right direction. Being a reader of Chris Brogan’s blog, and having heard about Estrella Rosenberg in lots of other places as well, I decided that I would try to seek her out. My friend @CateTV mentioned that Estrella was involved in a new website that was in soft launch, and it was called 501missionplace.com.
I went to the “welcome” page and saw the following verbiage:
I believe in giving. I believe that when we collaborate, share ideas and share energy we all benefit. We can carry out our missions more effectively. We can help more people.
501 Mission Place is a community of Non-Profit Founders, Executive Directors and Chapter Directors that feel the same way. A lot of what it takes to fulfill our missions can make us view things from a place of lack. Lack of funding, lack of time, lack of help, lack of knowledge, lack of the right connections – the list goes on. The reality is that there is only abundance. In a community of peers and colleagues the right connection, the right answer or the right idea is just a conversation away.
Have you ever had a moment where you look around and say, “are you talkin to me? Are YOU talkin to me?”
An answer to your biggest questions? Just wait 5 minutes
When I signed up for the site, there were already webinars, blog posts, and articles to read, but I headed straight for the forums. I asked a two-fold question that was the core of my frustration/disappointment/stuckedness. How do you become a not for profit organization and do I need to do that right now?
Do you know who answered literally about an hour later?
Estrella Rosenberg, a woman who has made a name for herself in the not for profit sector. She answered my question in great detail, promised me more resources, and assured me that starting the blog first was not a cop-out and in fact was a good idea. Testing the waters before going through the lengthy process of applying for a 501c3 was okay.
Is it possible that I could have started following Estrella on Twitter, been privileged to have her follow me back, sent her a Direct Message summarizing my question in 140 characters (hard!) and gotten an answer? Sure, it’s possible. Would I have been able to get additional feedback from other people who have walked this path? Probably not. Not right away.
Would I have ever launched this particular blog site going the path that I was on before I joined 501missionplace? Doubtful. I think that the path I was on would have led to increasing feelings of ineptitude, frustration, disappointment, and to be truthful, giving up. It all seemed too much. The mountain seemed too big.
Into the Future
As happy as I am that this blog site is up, this is just step 1. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of other steps I want to take to spread the word about online bullying and suicide prevention. Each of those steps will involve questions. Each of those steps will most certainly involve me wanting to get feedback from people who have experience.Each of these steps will involve me asking for feedback from you.
One really nice thing about having found 501MissionPlace is that I now have a friend who can walk along this path with me. It’s not just Estrella and John Haydon and Marc Pittman and Rob Hatch, but it’s all of the other folks who are walking this path, who can offer me their unique perspective. And who knows, maybe I can be of use to those folks as well, like if they have a Social Media question, or if they want feedback on a new website. It’s like a Facebook site, except everyone you talk to is interested in one single common thread – helping people.
I feel very fortunate that 501MissionPlace launched when it did. I feel very fortunate that I know people who could let me know about such a great site. I feel very fortunate that I have met passionate people like Patrick Prothe, Deb Morello, and Kat Caverly, among others, who have offered immense amounts of help and support.
I thought I would write about this experience here in case you are looking for a way to help people and don’t know how to get started. I highly recommend building a community of friends in the world of Social Media, and yes, I do recommend, if you are even remotely interested in the NPO sector, that you join 501MissionPlace.com ($27/month membership fee). You could buy a pile of books, which remain static and which may be hard to get through, or you could join a living, dynamic community for the price of one of those books.
I hope to see you here. I hope to see you there. I hope this little story was useful in some way. Thank you for your ongoing support!
1st Image by Marek Wojtal. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/marekwo
2nd Image by John Kasey. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/zweettooth
4th Image by Colin Brough. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/ColinBroug