If you've ever been involved with creating a new organization – whether nonprofit, startup, or whatever – you'll know it's a lot of work, not just to do but to figure out what to do and how to do it. If you've done it more than once, or if you think about it a bit, you'll also know that a lot of this is at some level re-inventing the wheel. Approximately every organization needs a board, incorporation, bylaws, banking, accounting, employees, contractors, expenses, budgeting, IT, etc., etc., and in many cases these don't really depend that much on what the organization does, at least in early stages. And you don't need the absolute best solution for every one; what you want is a good solution that you can trust and is unlikely to cause problems or disasters.
FLI is very interested in building a toolkit and set of procedures that new organization founders, especially but not just in the longtermist space and especially but not just nonprofits, can use to get the organization up-and-running as a well-oiled machine with much, much less effort. The goal is to have a "checklist" and set of procedures such that a capable person can get a small organization (with a handful and up to ~10 personnel) up-and-running inside of a month or so, and thereafter provide all operational support. My experience suggests that with the right toolkit both of these are possible. Some tools appear to exist for this in the startup space (like Stripe Atlas), and in nonprofit (like at Charity Entrepreneurship); but none seem to quite fulfill this purpose.
FLI thinks this could have significant positive impact: there are a lot of projects that are best run by a new organization, and (after finding top-level leadership) probably the biggest barrier to this is who will make that happen, and how.
Our current plan is to hire a fulltime contractor – see this advertised position – to assemble such a toolkit, working with operations people at FLI and elsewhere. If you're interested, please apply!
We'd love to hear from everyone else on:
- What comparable resources already exist that could be folded in? It's even possible a solution (or close to it) is already in place, which we can adopt instead of running this project. Please let us know!
- If you've started an organization yourself or are doing a lot of operations for one now:
- Would you be willing to spend an hour or two talking to the person doing this project?
- What were the most annoying or tricky parts of it that we might want to focus extra effort on?
- Are there any solutions or resources you're especially excited about?
- If you're considering starting up a new org, would you be interested in eventually using or (even sooner) testing out the toolkit?
- Who is an amazing operations person at an organization that you know, so that we can hunt them down and pick their brains, if they don't see this post?