I took another step. The houses are now officially part of the Community Houses. It feels like a huge leap. But getting the houses is not the goal, it is only a small piece of the puzzle.
One of the courses we are working on is ahout Inspired Action. Taking those steps towards living the life of your dreams. Often people make goals that are ends in themselves. Like, for example, deciding to write a book. That is a common one.
While there is nothing wrong in a goal like writing a book, it is so much more powerful to create a vision. Writing a book can help me move closer to that vision. It is an integral part of a bigger dream. It may be a very small part of the bigger whole, and that is good.
Dream big, and take little steps towards that dream every day.
What is the little step you will take today towards your dream?
So I received a letter from the IRS assigning the Community House Network an EIN-- for those wondering, it means Employer Identification Number. That is exciting.
The next action we were instructed to take was to host our first meeting of the board to discuss and sign the bylaws. We used the standard boilerplate version, but we likely will revise them as we get accustomed to how this whole rigmarole works. As a business model for decision making, I believe in true consensus. This is where we all agree upon the next step of action, rather than a majority rules version of voting. Sue talked a lot about participating in some of the decision making process of the Japanese companies she worked with. She said it was long, but they truly worked to get everyone's ideas into the pot, and no decision was made until there was consensus. I like the Ringi process. This allows everyone, at all levels of the organization, to contribute to the final version of the plan.
Open discussion, transparency, shared beliefs, communication are the foundation for a good, healthy environment. Just because I like one idea when the conversations starts doesn't mean that my idea will look the same at the end of the conversation. If we all bring our ideas to the table, and let the process of making the sausage begin, in the end we will all have a bit of our personal intersts in the story, and a most delicious sausage. This doesn't mean that every idea is adopted, or goes into the pot at the same time. Some of our lawmaking processes have these terrible addendums at the end that muddy the water. I may have a great idea, but the time is not right. Through openness, willingness and a shared vision we will eventually come together on what is the next right action.
The standard form of decision making, and what was written up in the bylaws provided by the Foundation Group, is of course majority rules. But it will do for now.
Next steps, send in a copy of the Articles of Incorporation to the Secretary of State.
So I had my first conversation with Nick from Foundation Group and he had me convinced that I should become a public charity instead of an operating foundation.
Advantages to a public charity - Allows anonymous donation, easy payment of program directors (including myself), and some other things I can't remember.
But there were a few troubling things.
First and foremost, 1/3 of all funds must come from small doners (the public). I am not sure it would be easy for me to do this. Initially, I have set aside funds that were left to me by my step-mom to start this project. My own monies will be used to purchase the houses and these will be considered part of the revenue of the project. I am not sure I could make up 1/3 in donations, and I DON'T want to have to beg.
Also there are limitations regarding board members. Although I have members in the community ready to participate, I also would like Ed my fabulous fiancee who is my level-headed support system to sit on the board. In a public charity you cannot have board members who are related.
Anyway, my intuition is telling me to go with the private operating foundation. As I said to Nick, if it doesn't pan out, then it will simply be "back to the drawing board".
So I had my first conversation with Foundation Source and the bottom line is, try again.
Apparently there are a number of different entities that will support charitable activities that allow one to become a 501-C3. There is the public charity, which may be right for me, still trying to determine, and then there is the foundation.
Foundation Source helps people who are creating a foundation, but only if it is what is referred to as a "non-operating" foundation. In a non-operating foundation the funds are directed towards other groups and charities, rather than towards its own day to day operations. Because I am hosting the primary activities of the Community House Network, and in particular since we will begin as three properties being held by the foundation, the very helpful Erik Larson advised me that I should set up as an operating foundation and that he was not the man to do it for me.
So back to the drawing board. The newest lead is... Foundation Group!
Their website is: www.501c3.org
Whew! When this is done, I should be an expert.
Starting a non-profit sounds like a daunting task. In many ways it is a bit overwhelming. Just like the first time you do anything, there are a lot of unknowns.
I am grateful to have an excellent financial advisor who has already put monies aside for the project as is willing to work with me while I figure out how to complete the process. Since I will be making my way through as a total novice or N00B as the computer geeks like to call them, I have decided to share with you what I encounter so that others may follow my lead.
First I am investigating how to create a Community Foundation, which is a private foundation rather than a donor advised fund.
I really have no idea what I am talking about, so I will have to let you know more later in the process.
The suggested website for my research was
Just a few more days and I will take ownership of the community houses. I am so excited and ready for the challenge in front of me. It will be a test of my belief in people's ability to co-create effective change together in community. It will be an opportunity to bring together people who care about their community and their children. I have many people on my side here, and I also have some training in leadership and organization. But moving from and idea into reality is always much trickier than it seems.
A colleague of mine and I have been working on a leadership program focused on moving an idea into action. It has taken many forms over the past year or so, but ultimately the purpose is to discover what issues are calling to you. What is it that you are drawn to do? What problems are close to your heart? Once identified the course which we are calling "Inspired Action" guides each individual from the problem space into the solution space.
As I have been working with this approach, I have had the opportunity to apply it. I have seen what problems we face in our community and an opportunity to do something meaningful by way of solution has been presented. The Community House Network was thus born.
Now that I am moving from problem to solution, I can only begin to imagine all of the details of how this might unfold. The responsive action that will be part of the process of engaging community in this project will put our program to the test.
Can we truly grow together organically through shared interests? Can we co-create this community project without a hierarchy? Can we share leadership and ideas? Or will the whole thing dissolve into a heap of chaotic confusion?
Only time will tell. I know I am up for the challenge.