Are you founding a nonprofit remotely?
A note from the author to Blue Avocado readers:
A few years ago, I was stranded in Malta, a small island country and, with two friends, started to reach out to refugees in a local camp. Located in an industrial area, the camp’s inhabitants got food, a place to sleep, and small allowances. Yet, they had absolutely no idea where they were or how to get to a doctor or interpreter, and they longed for social connections to the rest of society. We stepped in and provided some orientation on a case-by-case basis. Long story short: We ended up founding a nonprofit.
However, all three of us, and many of the volunteers who followed, had one big issue: We did not plan to live on the island forever.
The island country was small, and thus the pool of potential volunteers who live there long-term was small, too. Thus, handing over to locals was not an immediate option. The alternative, onboarding every new volunteers from abroad in a rotating system, would have come with a high cost and the smack of voluntourism.
Thus, we decided to design our nonprofit in a way that keeps volunteers involved remotely, after they have returned to their home countries. The idea was this: If we can outsource some of the work, those who are on the island could concentrate on outreach on the ground.
This workflow needed to be reflected in our policies too, as we wanted all volunteers to have the same say in the nonprofit’s decisions with flat hierarchies and democratic decision-making via digital tools. At that point, I could not find any template policies for remote teams, so I wrote them myself. They passed in our team meeting, then the check by our lawyers and eventually by the authorities. Be sure to pass them through your own attorneys.
Last year, when the pandemic broke out, I thought these policies might be interesting for other projects as well. Especially those initiatives whose undertakers are now required to work remotely and implement flat decision making through web tools. Then I told myself, the pandemic will be over faster than I could write this article.
It turned out I was wrong. While the lengthy pandemic will not last, remote work is here to stay for even longer. So, here is my article and the template policies as a download. If you plan to found a nonprofit in these times and are required to work as a hybrid or remote team, feel free to have a look, adapt, and tweak it as you like! Share widely: It’s issued under Creative Commons license CC-BY-NC-SA.
Best of luck!
In case you missed it…
Yunus Berndt is the founder of the social fintech startup &Arise and of the Maltese NGO Hal Far Outreach, which are both aiming to empower asylum seekers in the EU. He is also regularly presenting social innovations in Clot Magazine and on ICNC’s blog Minds of the Movement. Yunus holds a B.A. in International Relations and Management from the University of Applied Sciences Regensburg and is admitted to the Master in Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. His research interests encompass phenomena in in-between spaces, namely migration, failed states and digitalization.
Articles on Blue Avocado do not provide legal representation or legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for advice or legal counsel. Blue Avocado provides space for the nonprofit sector to express new ideas. Views represented in Blue Avocado do not necessarily express the opinion of the publication or its publisher.