As you surely know, starting a nonprofit can be challenging.
Nonprofit leaders usually find themselves with way too much to do—and too little time and expertise to tackle every detail.
That would be frustrating at the best of times, but even more so when you just want to get your organization up and running so you can start doing good for the world.
That’s why my guest today, Christian LeFer, created Instant Nonprofit. His business helps those creating and working within the nonprofit space overcome legal hurdles so they can stay focused on running their organizations.
As you might imagine, we talk a lot about the challenges associated with wearing too many hats as a leader, and about offloading the items that someone else can capably take care of. (And yes, if you’re curious, Instant Nonprofit has a host of valuable resources available to take things off your plate—from filing your paperwork to streamlining your Board meetings.)
On top of all that, Christian is just a really great guy and a great conversationalist! Hope you get a lot out of this episode.
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Take action and share it with us. Just hop in and get your feet wet. Examine your “why” and answer your call for adventure.
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Overcoming Your Nonprofit’s Legal Hurdles With Christian LeFer From Instant NonProfit
My guest on the show is Christian LeFer. He’s the Founder of Instant Nonprofit. His company helps people who are trying to spin up a nonprofit and get everything going from an organizational and legal perspective. They help nonprofit founders stay focused on the stuff that they’re best at as opposed to wallowing around in all of this legal stuff that is hard to navigate. They do some cool work as well in helping create bylaws and how to run meetings, etc. They’re a great organization to take a peek at if you’re planning on spinning up your nonprofit.
One of the things that we talked about, which was super interesting, is the idea of wearing too many hats. It’s a subject that is close to my heart because I find myself doing it all the time. That’s exactly what Instant Nonprofit does. They take a couple of those hats, let you put on the right one for your organization, and help you keep focused on the things that matter most. It was a fun episode. Any nonprofit can get a lot out of this one. I hope you enjoy it. Here we go.
Christian, how are you?
I’m fantastic. How are you, Stu?
I’m well. It’s good to have you on the show. We first bumped into each other several years ago. We reconnected this fall when a client said, “Do you know Christian?” I said, “We have connected in the past.” It’s good to have you on the show.
Thank you. It’s exciting to reconnect. I went through and said, “I met him a while ago.” I looked up who we met through and where we met. It was at the now-legendary original Galvanize startup collab and co-working space in the Golden Triangle. It’s not even open anymore. They ended up opening all over the country and doing some amazing things, but that was very early in those days of co-working. Some of the best friends I’ve made in my life are people that I met in that space. I’m excited to reconnect with you.
That was a cool space. We joined an office out of Galvanize before this whole pandemic thing hit. One of the reasons we did that is because we could park our stuff in Boulder and then have access to Golden Triangle. I was down there at least once a week. It was one of my favorite spots.
It was a great spot. I loved working there. I could go on about that, but we have other things to talk about. They have this big beautiful bar. Behind the bar, they had a great chalk drawing. I learned some incredible things at that bar. The only brief story I’ll tell is one of my best friends. He sketched an idea that he was working on back then. I started a student-based nonprofit. He was a student at DU. He’s like, “I’ve got a student organization.” I was like, “That’s so cool. We’re going to start your nonprofit.” I gave him the scholarship to start it because he was a college student.
He already had members and the whole bit. We did that thing. He had members all over the world. It was cool. He sketched out this little idea that he was working on. I thought he was one of the most amazing people I had ever met. At 27 years old, the company that he started based on that idea is worth $174 million or so. It’s some crazy number. He is based in Colorado and doing amazing things by creating a life-saving device for people who are being rescued in the mountains or at sea. This idea turned into an amazing thing. You never know what’s going to happen out of Galvanize or any relationship.
One of the reasons we love co-working spaces is that you get to meet so many great new people and bounce up against many fantastic ideas. The energy there is always fantastic. I’m missing that opportunity, but we’re going to continue to stay safe in our remote location at this point. Tell our readers a little more about Instant Nonprofit, which is your organization that helps nonprofits level up.
It’s easier to start a used car lot than a nonprofit that does good work.
InstantNonprofit.com is a concept that was born out of some moral outrage. We used to be called Yippiekiyay, which captures the spirit. Whether you’re a Bruce Willis Die Hard fan or a Gene Autry cowboy, roll up your sleeves, help your neighbor, fight the bad guys, and shed light into the darkness. We won’t drop any suffixes on Yippiekiyay, but it’s that same attitude.
Instant Nonprofit came about around 2010 or so. I had been in nonprofits for a little while, fundraising, flying around the country, and meeting amazing people who were giving. I was a professional fundraiser giving money to causes that we believed in together. I found that to be eye-opening. I was never in the nonprofit world prior to that job. I decided to start a nonprofit with a couple of friends.
I said, “Why don’t you handle the programs? Why don’t you go out and maybe put a little money together? I’ll help you with that. Let me take this application thing. This is supposed to be hard. How hard can it be?” Those are famous last words. I soon found out how difficult it was to start a 501(c)(3). When I called the IRS, I was all proud of my carefully and meticulously assembled application or what I thought was meticulous. I called the IRS and they’re like, “Don’t worry. Sit back, kid. It’s going to take a year for us to approve that typically. Cool your jets.”
I thought about my sister. When I was 8 and my little sister was 4, she went to the doctor again. We learned something. She appeared to be normal, but she was developmentally disabled. The reason she wasn’t speaking at four is that she never would speak. She’s still my amazing sister who has taught me so much about being a human. Her name is Monique. When I tried to start that nonprofit and ran into this brick wall, I immediately thought about my sister, from age 8 to 9, going to Special Olympics and experiencing all these organizations.
I didn’t know they were nonprofits, but as an adult, I know that. I thought, “How ridiculous is it for it to be hard to do good and start a nonprofit.” If you want to start a used car lot, then it’s pretty easy, but if you want to help kids like my sister, they’re going to put you through potentially thousands of dollars with a lawyer who very well may screw this up because they don’t do this all the time anyway. The IRS is going to sit on the application for a year. I thought, “Who better to do something about this than me?” It was moral outrage that kicked me off on that path.
Sometimes moral outrage can make wondrous things happen. I’m so happy that you took that on and didn’t say, “This wasn’t meant to be,” which is what a lot of people would do. It’s cool to hear how that came about. What you do is help smooth that transition and keep it from such a lengthy arduous process.
It is arduous. There are a lot of steps to it. They gave me the little phone number on a form letter to call the agent that was supposedly dealing with my file, although they were never available. I called about twenty extensions North and South of that phone number, changing the last couple of numbers around, knowing I would probably get somebody in that department. I begged, pleaded, cajoled, and tried to bribe. You name it.
“Why is this so hard? What makes the ultimate file? It’s not only the problems. What would make your day, Mr. and Mrs. Bureaucrat? What would be the greatest thing you’ve ever seen as far as one of these files?” I curated a process and documented all of that stuff. I started getting 30 to 60-day approvals and then went from blogger to businessman. We have pretty much adopted that approach through the various state processes and the IRS as well.
We’ve got that so down that we don’t even worry about that anymore. There’s no other company that handles the process the way we do. It makes this so easy for people. You’ve probably run into a lot of people. There’s a second order of challenges. Those are all the other things that people run into that make it hard to start a nonprofit, “How do I run a board meeting, recruit people, and raise money?”
We started going, “We do have to handle this formation legal entity problem.” That’s where our formation packages come in. How do we help smooth out and beat down every other speed bump between a founder whose heart is set on creating a difference in the world and achieving the results, not just getting the nonprofit but also making it and succeeding? That has been the fun journey we have been on.
In adding those additional layers of expertise and handholding, I bet you’ve brought a lot of people to the nonprofit space. Do you have a feel for how many nonprofits you’ve helped over the years?
We have helped with maybe advice on our site or YouTube comments. There have been a lot of ways that we have contributed to people getting through the next step. There are hundreds of thousands of those comments and views, but I know that end-to-end, we have done well over 3,000 501 (c)(3)s. It’s our done-for-you process. You do very little, sign up, and pay a reasonable amount. We do nothing but deliver good news to your inbox and documents to your shared folder once we put you through that initial power of attorney process and gather the information we need.
It’s such a great service because we have spoken with quite a few nonprofits, both very long-term ones as well as people who are starting to get the ball rolling. One of the things I hear, particularly with the people who are getting things going, is there’s a lot of frustration and confusion around the legal process. Knowing that there’s an entity out there like Instant Nonprofit that can help smooth that out and keep you focused on the things that you’re best at as you’re trying to develop your nonprofit is such a great thing to have out there.
I appreciate it. It’s a great reason to get out of bed in the morning to help people stay on the mission and then make it easier to do good in successively bigger ways. We’re starting to work with more entrepreneurs and people who are successful and who say, “I have a big plan for this. I’ve been working very hard for many years and now I have the means to do something about it.” We help them with some basic tax strategies. We also are doing a training we’re calling the Quantum Entity. It’s got a little bit of quantum physics and quantum mechanics in there, but we believe that a nonprofit can help somebody superposition their life, legacy, and future with starting a nonprofit.
Do you think that having a nonprofit legitimizes things? Is that part of that quantum piece that you’re talking about? Is it bigger than that?
That’s certainly part of it. I do believe it’s bigger as well. That’s the whole concept of superposition. I’m no physicist, but I can explain anything like Richard Feynman, who was elegant in his simplicity, even though he was a brilliant physicist. It’s the ability of something to exist in two states at the same time. Light is a photon. A photon is both a wave and a particle. Sometimes it acts like one and sometimes the other. A nonprofit is a business entity that lives in a little bit of another dimension and can help you live in a little bit of another dimension.
People can do business all day long, but they want to do business with people they love and are connected to.
I always give this example. I would love to meet Tim Ferriss. It could be Warren Buffett, Oprah, or anybody who you say you want to meet someday. If I were to try to go through the typical business of networking, looking at my LinkedIn network, or trying to find if I know somebody that knows them that can introduce me, these people are bombarded with people. They have gatekeepers in every way to not make their life a tyranny of pitches. I don’t even want to necessarily pitch these people. I want to get to know them, hang out, and learn from them.
I’m a little fascinated by who you become to become someone like that. If I wanted to meet, for example, Tim Ferriss, there’s no way I would go pitch a business idea. He’s not even into the business anymore. He invested in Uber and all these things early on and made a lot of money. His passion now is advancing psychedelics like psilocybin mushrooms and MDMA through formal studies to address things like PTSD from military combat experience or domestic violence.
I would align myself with the network superposition aspect of this quantum entity idea that I’ve got with nonprofits. I’m also into that same thing. Tim is a perfect example. We got an ayahuasca church approved by the IRS, believe it or not, in Denver. That’s going to be an incredible process to unfold. I would get involved in some of these groups and efforts that Tim is being involved with. He’s raising money for MAPS, which is a nonprofit that does psychedelic research, and Johns Hopkins.
I would go jump in, roll up my sleeves, and see how I could contribute to one of those efforts. When I meet Tim Ferriss, there’s going to be a connection that defies the eye-rolling, “What is this person trying to talk to me about?” There’s going to be a genuine heart connection. What everybody wants to get back to in this crazy world we live in is a genuine heart connection. We can do business all day long, but I want to do business with people I love, enjoy, and my heart is connected to because we’re drowning in an opportunity but choked in our heart connections with other people as we shelter in place and all this crazy stuff, especially.
I haven’t experienced this to date, but the guards go up when you do get pitched all the time like that. I have a friend who has been very successful. I remember him talking with me one time about how he’s always on his guard for the what the ask is going to be. I’ve talked to a lot of people about this for whatever reason. Creating those natural connections and things that one has in common is a way to lower those barriers and create opportunities to engage with people on a different level. If you are a successful business person or whatever your “normal life” is and then you establish a nonprofit, that puts another opportunity for commonality into play and lowers those barriers.
I’ve heard about so many examples of what your friend describes. People who have a level of success or money, and it might not even be money, but people who were in a startup that did well, or maybe they were employee number five and they got screwed over, but they become that person, “You built that website that did the $5 million a year in year one.” That becomes the identity.
I don’t think anybody wants that, but we don’t know how to get out of it. This is one way that we can bring things back to a place of a little bit of sacredness, fun, and heart connection to start a nonprofit and be cause-oriented. It’s still a business. It still needs to operate and bring in money and everything eventually, but it’s so much more exciting to get out of bed and be doing that thing.
If you look at the other side of the fence, let’s say a successful builder or somebody owns a construction company. They have been doing projects. They’re probably doing well. The kids’ college is paid off. Those things that they thought were big goals at one point are done. What brings that person joy and meaning in their life? It might be your little nonprofit introduced to them in the right way that helps them wake up again and realize why they’re here on this Earth. It’s not just making another deal.
Who needs another yacht? One of the things that I’m always fascinated by is how much money one needs before you have everything that you ever want from that perspective. Granted, it’s pretty easy for me to say that by not being in that position. However, I’m fascinated and inspired by these people out there who pivot and spin into this idea, “I can make some more money, start a foundation, join up with a nonprofit, or start my nonprofit to try to make even a bigger impact to those who need it most.”
This has been a long time in coming. If you look at Maslow’s hierarchy, it starts with food, shelter, and belongings. Sex is somewhere in there. Once you get to the point where all of those needs are a little more than taken care of and you’re not in fear of losing those things, there’s the neuro cocktail that we get out of another raise. You don’t have to be rich, but after you’ve made it, they have found that the number is around $80,000, $70,000. It’s beyond where you’re worried about maybe slipping back below those basic needs. Once that is reached, there is a diminishing return in increasing the amount of money.
That’s why Millennials don’t respond exclusively to raises. They want lifestyle, social events, and a certain combination of benefits that are intangible and not related to money. This has been a long time in coming where this convergence of cause and commerce has to be paid attention to, whether it’s businesses and their employees or not being caught making your clothes in a sweatshop.
People want to know that their values are represented by their employer, the businesses they buy from, and the companies they associate with and do business with. In a way, that’s very cool. When we like something on Facebook, we’re not saying we like that. We’re saying we are like that. It represents our values, “I’m a proud Apple snob.”
I love that we’re starting to see this become ingrained in our culture. It’s the idea that if I go to work every day, I’m spending 1/3 of my life in this place, wherever that is, whether that’s an office, a hospital, or a restaurant. Most of us tend to work if we’re employed full-time, 40 hours a week. That represents 1/3 of our workweek’s time in terms of our lives.
Seeing these younger generations pushing on businesses to do something to bring purpose into the mix and have something that they stand for or are working toward that’s not just about making more money but doing more good and seeing the fallback to that is fantastic. At Relish Studio, part of the work that we do with our partners is to help them understand the values, vision, and mission that their businesses are engaged in.
It’s easier to work in the nonprofit space because that’s baked into the nonprofit mentality, but it’s important to work even for nonprofits to do if you don’t have those values baked in and understood, you don’t have that long-term vision of this aspirational future that you or your little chunk of the world is trying to get to, and then you don’t have your mission, which brings that aspiration down into that day-to-day focus.
What are the activities that we’re doing that are going to march us along toward that North Star that we have created with our values and vision? When you don’t have that, things get a little wonky. Creating that opportunity for all of your stakeholders, whether your employees, vendors, or beneficiaries, to have a great understanding of where you’re going is certainly driving the nonprofit space. I would argue that it’s one of the things that should be driving business in general.
Doing things in the right order helps you manage your energy and stay as close to your zone of genius.
That’s happening. Simon Sinek often talks about businesses that ignore the fact that people increasingly want companies to be a part of a solution, whatever that solution is. They ignore that trend at their peril. That sums up Simon Sinek. I’m a huge fan. Start with Why is one of the greatest books ever written as far as I’m concerned. He talks about that first level of stakeholder. Your employee is going to touch all of your customers. As an executive or founder, you’re not going to touch the customer as your employees are going to touch your customers.
How are you treating your employees and getting them bought in? Back in the Galvanize days, I remember reading a study. In software shops, code engineers are in high demand. They can move laterally from one company to another every year or so and get a 15% to 20% bump in pay. They have an incredible turnover rate. It’s super expensive to recruit someone, hire them, train them, lose them, and have to do it again.
This company puts its engineers on these long-term community-based nonprofit projects where they would see. It wasn’t like, “We’re going to go to swing a hammer for the weekend, and then that’s it.” They were involved on a consistent basis in a way that they could see there was a long-term two-year horizon or something. They could see the benefit. Their turnover went from about 80% leaving within a year to 20%, making the company massively more profitable.
You can imagine the social connection, feeling of belonging, and all the other things that we say that they want. Employees want that stuff because people aren’t leaving all the time. People could risk being friends with the people that they worked with. That’s a massive culture change. I see inspirations like that all over the place. The question is this. How do we help the little nonprofit to be on board with that trend, stay on their mission, and not get distracted by the things that bog them down?
Part of our mission at Instant Nonprofit is to help them stay on mission, build a culture like that, and not get caught up in the bureaucratic filings or not scramble around trying crowdfunding one-offs and stuff. It’s sustainable fundraising. Long-term, look at your nonprofit in terms of the five stages of the life cycle. Where am I? What do I need to do that’s appropriate? If we can help them stay focused that way and let go of the things they don’t need to worry about, then people can build some stellar organizations with almost no resources to start with.
That’s what’s so important, particularly in that early phase. I remember I wrote a blog post about this years ago. I called it Too Many Hats. All entrepreneurs and certainly the founder of a nonprofit fall into that bucket. What we fall into is at the onset, we were forced to be the HR. We’re the janitor and the person doing the coding if that’s part of your nonprofit.
We’re organizing volunteers or going out, soliciting donations, and doing all of that networking and outreach to try and build that nonprofit. It’s any of those little things that one can take the time to notice, “I’m not particularly great at this. I don’t love it.” Figuring out how to offload that to an expert is very valuable in time savings as well as energy savings, particularly in the early phases of starting up one’s nonprofit.
Energy management is so key. Even here, I’ll have conversations with our staff and say, “How are you managing energy around that?” We’ve got this limited amount. Every day we start with a store of it and it goes down by the end of the day but then over our lifetimes too. Burnout is a huge challenge for entrepreneurs, whether for-profit or nonprofit. It’s super important that we put things in the right order.
I’m a very creative person and a lot of entrepreneurs are. Putting things in the right order is probably my biggest if I were to encapsulate my personal challenge in life. It has always been doing things in the right order. You can do things in the right order, like provide a rallying point or a beacon that other people can come around so that you can get that key volunteer and put some of the administrative stuff in somebody’s lap even if you don’t have any money. That’s a leverage goal.
It helps you manage that energy and stay as close to your zone of genius as possible. A constant fight for both for-profit and nonprofit founders is how to manage that energy, do things in the right order, and keep from getting burnt out because things feel pretty dark on days when you don’t know, but something great is about to happen. That’s when the resistance comes.
In the way that you and your team engage with nonprofits, it sounds like you have a done-for-you type of option. Are there other options for engaging with you and your team?
The core is the done-for-you 501(c)(3) package. It’s a three-step process. If they sign up, we choose the appropriate package and then they complete a very brief form, which helps us put everything in motion with the articles and the EIN. It’s easier for me to say what’s not included because there is nothing not included. There are bylaws, articles, the EIN, and the Conflict of Interest policy.
It’s a complete corporate governance package with video training on how to run a board meeting in 30 minutes instead of the average, which is three hours, for example. All of that stuff comes with the core package. We build the application and the IRS process out from there. People started calling us, “What do I do?” We built it a few years ago. The pilot had great success. We have a partner and a very close friend of mine for the past couple of decades, Dan Reed.
We partnered with Seed Fundraisers to build a product called Foundations. That has raised $100,000 to $1 million in 2021 or any given year straight out of the gate through major gifts, events, and other areas of fundraising that you might think about. It is a video training program with coaching, community, and content. You get videos and live training with people who are raising millions of dollars.
Dan’s portfolio is about $100 million-plus a year. We’re super excited about that because it’s very affordable. Anyone can afford to do this. It’s designed to pay off in 90 days. Somebody can take that to millions. I have personally raised millions of dollars using the exact principles and the same downloads, templates, and stuff that is included in that package. We have some other things as you move up into grant writing and into assisting.
We have a lot of chiropractors, holistic practitioners, and a few dentists in public student loan forgiveness who want to work for a 501(c)(3). They create a practice alongside their for-profit practice and a sliding scale. They get relieved of their student loans of an average of $265,000. We help them year in and year out qualify for that program by simply working for 30 hours a week for the nonprofit that they create.
The only difference between being able to do something and not being able to do it is in the hope that you actually can.
I love that you’ve layered in all of the aspects of that process. It sounds to me like if somebody has a nonprofit already and they have already gone through the 501(c)(3) process. There are probably ways for them to plug into you to do some of the governance stuff and the board meeting and get all that knowledge without having to do the nonprofit. Is that something that you would offer to an existing organization?
It’s in the works. We’re rolling out. We had such success helping our customers create some operational frameworks that we are rolling out at an operationalized level of coaching and training. That will go alongside the fundraising. You have the front of the house with the fundraising and the back of the house with the operationalizing. They’re leveraging all these amazing free tools like Google and Trello.
People shouldn’t have to figure this stuff out from scratch and sign up for all these ridiculous free downloads that come with a huge ticket cost behind them. We have assembled best practices by talking with thousands of our founders as to what’s working for them. We have assembled it into these other programs. Once you start your nonprofit, you want to know what to do next. Here’s a program that you can follow so that your life is still manageable. We want this to stay a blessing and not a burden.
We’re a big fan at Relish, if not reinventing the wheel and using the tools that are available as opposed to trying to do some crazy build on things if it’s not necessary. Certainly, we look at the longer-term needs of our clients and partners to determine whether or not one should build or buy, for example. For the most part, there are a lot of resources out there that can be tapped and used effectively without having to invest a ton in technology that you have to own and maintain, for example. It sounds like a similar approach that you are taking.
When I talk about some of these things that are in the works, we’re looking forward to partnering with Relish and developing other partnerships as we have with Seed because we’re not out to reinvent the wheel either. We love what you’re doing. We’re looking to continue to collaborate. I appreciate you having us on. This is a fun conversation so far. You never know where one of these is going to go.
It’s always interesting to dig into the expert-level stuff on the show. In most of the shows, I’m trying to help a specific nonprofit figure out some things to do with their marketing. It’s refreshing to have a conversation where I get to learn some stuff too. It’s not that I don’t learn something during every one of my shows, but it’s refreshing to hear your enthusiasm and how you are tackling the business of nonprofits. With that in mind, what are some of the things that you see most nonprofits being particularly challenged with that have some solutions that your team could bring to the table?
We talked about fundraising. You can’t save the world if you can’t pay the rent. People start with, “How am I going to end?” This is very much aligned with Simon Sinek, who we were talking about. The human brain, because of the way it has evolved since we were running around with bows and arrows and maybe not even immediately goes how, “How am I going to do that? How am I going to pay for this, grow this, and do whatever?” We have to start at that why level and go, “Why are we doing this?” We need to go to the what and then it’s the how.
I’ll give you an example. When I put a project together or help someone else vision cast a project even for their selves to get out of their minds and go, “I’m going to do this,” I say, “How much money do you think it would take to achieve MVP or help one kid?” You want to start a dojo or a baseball team in a town that doesn’t have any. How many kids is that? A baseball team has nine. Let’s put some numbers together. How much is a uniform?
If you start putting those things together, the how will create itself because the why is there, “I’ve got to help the why. This town needs this baseball team.” The what is there because it’s like, “practically, we need a dozen uniforms, some balls, and a place to do this.” When you start putting their things into a spreadsheet and putting actual numbers to them, you come up with something and say, “That’s $46,000 that we have to come up with. How am I going to do that?” We broke down the other elephant into bites. It’s time to take this elephant into bites.
When you show someone, I’m sure you’ve done this because of what Relish does, you break that down into a donor or fundraising mix. If I had this many $5,000 contributors and this many of this and then it’s $5 on social from this many, people start going, “I know the first three people I’m going to call.” When I started that conversation with that person, they were crying on the floor, “I don’t know how I’m going to start this baseball team. This is too much. My mom is getting older. I’ve got to take care of them. I’ve got this other thing going on at the house and the kids.”
When you break it down like that, they say, “I can do that first thing. That step is obvious. Let me get on that.” That is what’s exciting. It’s about breaking down the vision so people can feel like something is attainable because the only difference between being able to do something and not being able to do it is the hope you can. I love Nelson Mandela’s quotes about being stuck in prison in solitary for the majority of 27 years and becoming the president of the ANC and South Africa. Hope is the only difference between him hanging himself in a jail cell and having that legacy.
It’s amazing what you can do when you stop looking at the entire journey that you’re going to have to take. It’s great and important to have a good understanding of that North Star and have a good framework for where you’re trying to go. When we go back to that vision piece, that’s that North Star, but you don’t have to take that entire journey in one step. It’s all little bitty chunks.
You can even break those chunks down even further. It’s super important for people who are thinking big like that to not lose track of the fact that even when you’re thinking about doing huge things, it’s always one little step at a time. Figuring out who you can plug in to help is important. There’s this great book that came out called Who Not How by Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy.
When you get down to it, it’s not incredibly revolutionary thinking, but it’s how they break things down and help the reader understand that there’s a lot of value in retraining our brains to not always go to, “How do I do that?” I’m notoriously terrible about this. If there’s something that I need to do to my house in terms of adding an electrical socket somewhere, I immediately go, “How am I going to do that?”
I’ll find myself watching YouTube videos on how to install that when all I need to do is train my brain to think, “Who do I need to call? Who do I know that can get me in touch with somebody who can get this done for me? That way, I can stay focused on those things that I’m best at.” The more quickly we can all embrace that idea that there are tons of people with a lot of very specialized expertise out there, we don’t have to know how to do it. We just need to know who we can call to get it done.
Dan Sullivan has been so influential on so many people over his career, including somebody I follow, which is Garrett White of Wake Up Warrior. Dan Sullivan shows people how you don’t want to dismiss anyone’s concerns about anything. I don’t want mine dismissed. You don’t want yours, but our concerns are often silly. We have very First-World problems. We’re not running around trying to avoid mines as we go get water for the day or something, but we psych ourselves out.
If you need words of encouragement, don’t become an entrepreneur.
He’s able to brilliantly take you out of that, shake you up a little bit, and have you look at things in a very different way. Whether it’s who or breaking down the complex into the symbol, these frameworks are essential if we move mountains and change the world. I have tough days. I’ve had a lot of family tumult with my kids. It has been a very challenging couple of years.
I often think about Elon Musk. He’s a celeb, but he’s the anti-celeb. He doesn’t care what other people think. He’s not trying to be all great on Instagram. I saw this quote from him that said, “If you need words of encouragement, don’t become an entrepreneur.” Somebody asked him, “What are words of encouragement you would give to someone who wants to become an entrepreneur?”
Meanwhile, I find that guy super inspiring because he talks about things that defy the normal order or the average way most people do things. One of the main things Elon Musk talks about and we’re touching on here peripherally, is first principles. You don’t worry about how somebody else shot rockets into space or how NASA, the Russians, or whoever has failed at this or that. He goes, “How much do the materials cost to build an electric car or build a battery?”
The guy is revolutionizing so many different things in many different industries. The number of patents that he has is astounding. What does he do with those patents? He opens them up to the public and says, “Here you go. I’m making all of my patents publicly available, so you can go do even more awesome things.” It’s an abundance mentality that everyone could benefit from. When he talks about first principles, he goes, “How much does the pile of wires and crap that you need to make a rocket, an electric car, or a car battery cost?”
He does the math and goes, “How much does the finished product cost?” He does the math on that. He’s like, “That’s about a thousand X. All I have to do is draw a path between that number and that number that costs less than the current paradigm.” For fun, he shoots his Tesla into space to orbit Mars and revolutionizes things by not looking at what other people have done. We do that to ourselves in a way that is debilitating.
We can learn to for ourselves break things down, find out who and not how, and leverage whether it’s Relish Studio or Instant Nonprofit. I’m not even here to pitch my wares. It’s about a way of thinking. I created this love letter to a bureaucrat because I was pissed about how hard it is to start a nonprofit. I hope that my anger in calling the IRS inspires somebody to go, “I’m going to do an end-run around my problem that nobody else has ever done.” That’s where the meaning in life is.
I love two people who push those barriers. You think about Roger Bannister in the four-minute mile back in the day and how that was this goblin, ghoul, or something that people felt was never going to be eclipsed. As soon as he did that, it was broken again several times in the next year or two.
It’s the permission. There were scientific papers written about how no one would ever break the four-minute mile. We’re in this world where we have a normal human being unless Elon Musk is an alien or something. You talk about the ultimate person that I would like to hang around with, get to know, or experience. That’s probably the guy. He’s a regular human being who is doing things that are fairly superhuman in multiple dimensions and areas at the same time in a way that I believe is setting a model for humanity to go, “I’m not going to be held down by failures of the past, the people around me, or anything else.”
Turn off the news; it’s half lies anyway. Go make a difference in this world.
If there’s one takeaway for me here, we have been touching on this in tangential ways throughout our discussion. Not allowing the past to define the future is an amazing idea to wrap our arms around. For anyone out there who is interested in starting a nonprofit or switching the paradigm of where they are in the business world, there’s so much opportunity out there for the taking if you set your mind to it and decide you’re going to go after it. There are people there who are going to help you along the way like you.
You think of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. You wake up in the Shire. If you take the challenge of Gandalf and all that stuff, those are stories. Star Wars and all those great stories are written along that same model, but it is the story of every person’s existence. They know that they’re Luke Skywalker and that there’s this battle that they’re called to. The question in life that is most important of any question is, “Am I going to take the call to adventure or stay here in my safety zone and miss out on the adventure?”
I’m having significant challenges with one of my kids. I told my mom. I was on the phone with her. I said, “Rather than live a small life, be safe but not okay, and not experience the heights, depths, and life, I would rather have them be the kind that has to climb El Capitan and may risk their lives to do that than a life of what has been described as quiet desperation.”
With the Coronavirus and all the things that are going on, people need to remember that the nonprofit sector has $4.3 trillion in assets. Private individuals and corporations give $239 billion per year. That’s not going to stop with Corona. If you look at the 2008 depression, giving and nonprofit revenues went up relative to the economy. There is so much money out there and so many old and sclerotic nonprofits that are slow-moving. They have not adapted to what you can adapt to and learned what you could learn as a new nonprofit founder.
Go get your piece of that and create the change that you want to change with that because there is going to be a passing of the torch from the old order to the new order, as we have seen with the millions of solopreneurs. It’s Shark Tank nation. People are pitching ideas and stuff. That is happening in the nonprofit sector as well. It’s time for people to say, “For God’s sake, turn off the news. It’s half flies anyway. The rest don’t know.” Go do something to make a difference in this world. You will never regret that day.
That is a fantastic attitude as well as a way to end our discussion. I’ve had so much fun talking with you. Most of the time, I have to ask my guests for an action item at the end of the show. I’ll ask you as well. What’s the one thing you would like people to do? He may have said it.
Take some action. Share it with Stu, us, and anyone. If you want to come by the site InstantNonprofit.com, you will see a Book a Call link. You can see our nonprofit packages. Get your feet wet but maybe even before that, run that spreadsheet or say, “What would it take to do this?” Don’t look at how but examine the why and ask that question to yourself.
“Am I going to answer this call to adventure?” This idea was not accidentally planted in your head. You are the one to make the difference in the way that you see it because out of 7 billion people, no one has your perspective. I appreciate you. I’m super excited to move forward and explore more ways that we can collaborate together, Stu. I appreciate you so much.
That would be awesome. You are doing some great work. Let’s keep the momentum rolling. Thank you so much for being on the show.
If anyone wants, go to InstantNonprofit.com/PodcastFan. Also, we have a free gift of a nonprofit boot camp and all the things that you need to know to start a nonprofit. You can also go to InstantNonprofit.com/RelishStudio. We will send you that free course and you can have it and see if this is something for you. Thank you so much, Stu. It has been great. I always enjoy talking with you.
Me too. Thanks again. I’ll talk to you soon.
There you have it, another great episode. Thanks for reading. If you would like to learn more about how to apply the Audience Engagement Cycle to expand your organization’s mission, there are two things you can do. You can go to MissionUncomfortableBook.com to download a copy of my book. While you’re there, you can get your purpose-driven marketing score to see where you can unearth some gold for your organization. If you would like to listen to back episodes of the show or sign up to be a guest, go to RelishStudio.com/podcast. That’s it for this week. I’ll be back next week for another great episode.