Hey there and thanks for stopping by for this special segment of Venture Coffee Talk. Get ready for an extended time of knowledge infusion because there was so much to cover with today’s guest. And hopefully a lot of you will be caught off guard for some needed paradigm shifting. During today’s interview I talk with David Good, son of Kenneth Good, a renowned anthropologist who years ago worked with the little known Yanomami tribe deep in the Amazon rain forest of Venezuela.
As an interesting segue way, David’s part American part Yanomami. Like his father, he’s been working with the tribe but has taken his father’s work one step further. Not only is he documenting how the Yanomami live, he’s set up an organization called “The Good Project” which protects them from the dangers of outside society that would seek to exploit them.
The takeaways from this interview are many. But I’d say the most important one is learning what constitutes real life. Living in the jungle, the Yanomami have no access to computers, tablets or TVs and most of them don’t even know this technology exists. But don’t feel bad for them… without these distractions that we deem as necessary, the Yanomami connect better with the people around them. Community is central to their lives which is in direct contrast to the values of modern day civilization.
At the end of the interview, David reveals some valuable tips on how to successfully start your own tax exempt 501(C)3. He’s learned a lot since having gone into the fray himself and he shows that not all life goals are conducive to a taxable LLC or S-Corp. After hearing about David’s own journey through the jungle and up to the doors of the IRS, you yourself may be inspired to bring your own community building ideas to life.
As with all non-profits, David’s organization has been involved in fundraising. I made sure to ask him about why he prefers to use Indiegogo over Kickstarter. Both platforms are fundamentally different and it’s necessary for any fledgling entrepreneur to know their participation requirements. As an added bonus, at the very end of the interview you will learn the one skill that is essential for success in any discipline. Without it, you have little chance of standing out among the competition and making your voice heard.
Starting your own 501(C)3 non-profit
Dan: I think it’s an amazing thing that someone has found his life’s calling and I looked at your Facebook page at Join The Good Project and saw that you’ve started a non-profit to go along with what you’re doing.
David: Sure and you know what Daniel? I found myself sort of over exposing my non-profit because it has been syndicated throughout the world with all these media outlets so I’m getting people from all over the world including Japan, Malaysia, China and eastern Europe and so forth, saying that they’d like to join my project… which is a beautiful thing to have so many people involved but… The Good Project has just recently received its 501(C)3 tax exempt status just a few weeks ago. So we are really at the incipience of our mission and goals and we have a lot of things to do. And we feel really confident that confident that over the years we are going to grow and grow and get to the point where we can really truly serve as a trustworthy bridge… a link between their traditional world and the encroaching influences of the outside world.
Dan: Have you noticed any drawbacks to starting a non-profit? Or maybe it’s too early for you to answer that.
David: Right, the drawbacks? Well, when I came back I had an idea and a vision that I shared with my peers and community. Running a non-profit, you need to have a really good team and you really need to have a good board. And sometimes it could take some time to finding someone who shares your mission and shares your goals because the board for a non-profit… when you’re starting out… could make or break your dream and your mission. So the drawback for me was the time that was needed in finding the right people and the right team. And while that held me back in moving forward with the operations of The Good Project, in the end I’m very grateful that I didn’t rush into this, that I found people on my team that are truly willing to advance the mission and the goals of the project.
Dan: That’s a really interesting point and I understand that during meetings you have to meet with board members. And for a lot of people in the audience, they’re not at the level where they can gather people with the same goals in mind. A meeting for them would be sitting at their kitchen table with their dog and their goldfish. I mean, how do you gather people and vet them to know they should be on your board?
David: Yeah, and the thing is, that’s for every non-profit… But mine specifically, I was the only Yanomami American , I’m the only one who has experience with the Yanomami. So that was an issue I had in trying to get people to understand at my level, some of the obstacles and goals that are associated with the project. I participated in a seminar with Dr. Randall Pinkett at East Strousberg University and something that really stuck out in my mind when he was giving his lecture was that whenever you’re starting a business…. and you look at some of the very successful businesses throughout the world, there’s never really just one person. It’s usually a partnership or a team of some sort. and he told the audience that first when you start a business, you gotta find the “who”. You gotta find the right team member. and the person may not be able to spell the word “anthropology”. But if you can work with them and if they have in their hearts the same dreams and mission that you do, then soon as you find the “who”, the “what” will come into play. Then you’ll figure out what it is that needs to happen. Because now that you have a team member, you know… another mind to sort of collaborate with and trying to come up with goals and missions, it makes your job a lot easier. And that’s what I stuck to… yes they’re not anthropologists, they’re not social scientists… but they are good people with good hearts that have the best interests of the project in mind. And I know that as long as we stick to that we will, with confidence, develop plan of action to continue our missions with the project.
Dan: What are some periodic requirements that the government places on non-profits like, “How many meetings do you have to have per year?” and “In you meetings do you have to take minutes?”
David: Yeah, so those would be established when you develop the bylaws for the project. The meetings are quarterly and there’s always talk about numbers and finances and also any changes to the project. And yes, we do keep track of minutes which is the responsibility of the secretary on the board. She is responsible for taking down the minutes and then distributing them to all of the members of the board and appropriate people.
Dan: Can you give any tips for those wanting to form their own 501(C)3?
David: Yeah, it’s the 1023 package and when filling out this package it’s almost like writing a mini book. You’re doing more than just filling out forms but you also have to develop a narrative for the IRS. You have to tell a story. You have to convince the IRS that your non-profit is worthy of the 501(C)3 stamp. And that is something that you have to write up. And so really be specific as possible in what it is you want to do with your non-profit and just really develop a good narrative… maybe a good 2 or 3 pages of material explaining the non-profit and what it is you’re doing and how you see the project developing in the future. Even though you don’t really know, give them a vision. And then the second tip is have a really good business plan, a budget and a forecast of expenses and also how you plan on making more money or developing revenue for your project and also how you forecast the budgets, expenses and revenue in the next few years. So that’s really important. Those were the two big things that really stuck out in my mind when working with the lawyers and developing the 1023 package. It’s developing a good narrative and a sound budget.
Dan: From what you’re saying a big key to success would be creating a great application package for the IRS including information that’s compelling and well thought out. So did you have any problems or confusion with the fact that there are both federal and state application levels?
David: Well, the quick process is first you want to incorporate your brand. At the state level we registered the The Good Project as a non-profit organization. And we had our articles of incorporation and our bylaws. And those are sort of the beginning steps. You know, you could be a non-profit and not have the 501(C)3 tax exempt status. But unfortunately, most people won’t engage with a non-profit that doesn’t have that 501(C)3 status especially because of tax purposes.
Dan: Sure, especially at the end of the year there are these people who want to donate to a worthy cause. And if you’re representing something that they believe in, that tax exempt status is very powerful.