Strategies for Nonprofit Success: 9 Tips for Charitable Agencies

Nonprofit organizations do a lot of good, but it’s not always easy to get started. Whatever your calling, it’s worth the effort to launch and manage your nonprofit the right way. Take note of these tips for structuring your organization and serving your cause, courtesy of The Enlightened Worldview Project.

Approach Funding Creatively

Business loans are an option, and specialized financing is available for many nonprofits. But finances are often the toughest part of organizing a nonprofit, so prepare to get creative.

  • Outline your financial needs and goals with a business budget — a nonprofit is a company.
  • Seek support within your community and personal and professional networks.
  • Engage with potential investors to generate interest and support.

Organize and Focus for Progress

Having a long-term vision in place for your nonprofit is a must. Even as you’re just getting off the ground, maintaining that forward-thinking approach is crucial.

  • Establish specific goals that you can quantify and measure as you make progress.
  • Structure your nonprofit for accountability and growth.
  • Find ways to gauge and publicize your successes.

Recognize Reporting Requirements

As a nonprofit, your organization is held to a specific standard. That means tax responsibilities, legal documents, and other details.

  • Select a business structure — like LLC formation — that protects and enhances your nonprofit (click here to learn more).
  • Track your tax needs and obligations when it comes to donations and exemptions.
  • Release annual reports to promote investor relations and community engagement.

From finding the cash to get your nonprofit going to navigating the inevitable piles of paperwork, running a nonprofit can be a true test of your business prowess. With these resources, you’ll be that much more prepared to do great things with your charitable organization.

This was written by Brittany Fisher of Financially Well.

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Intersubjectivity as Mutually Understood Subjectivity

Sometimes people speak of “objective reality”, but objectivity is actually just the most unbiased treatment of things that we can mentally construct through the gathering and scrutiny of evidence.  Everything that we can speak of is a mental model, even the objective.  Sure, there is a truth out there whether we know about it or not, but we’re probably never going to have a 100% perfect understanding of it.  The models that we use to speak of things are still within consciousness, and that is the only thing that anyone has integrated within their consciousness.  But the objective is the subset of the mental models where we have gained the highest possible mutual understanding through social verification tactics.  The outer world is still a mental model, but one where multiple people have gone through processes of refining and synching their models and have attained high levels of confidence that they have pretty accurate models of things that have persistent existence outside of their own and any other person’s consciousness.

Can our inner world also be mutually understood, to some extent?  Every conscious being has their own inner world, and this is private-access knowledge, but there might be similarities among our inner worlds such that we can develop some degree of mutual understanding.  It certainly would not be possible for anyone to enter the consciousness of another and to experience their thoughts and feelings firsthand, but there might be indirect tactics through which we can socially verify certain common features of our inner worlds.  It is, indeed, conceivable that multiple people could be internally observing similar phenomena these people could potentially find ways to communicate details about their experiences with each other and could then develop mutual understanding.

To consider another example that is similar to the one from the previous section but different in an important way, let’s say that two or more people not only looked at a rock, but each dropped it on their own foot.  Each of them therefore has an experience of pain from this, but this pain is not a perception of the rock.  The experience of pain is real to each person, but this kind of experience is different from seeing and hearing in that it does not perceive a medium.  This means that one can focus on their own experience of pain, but this experience of pain itself does not give them any understanding of other people’s pain.  On the one hand, one is able to get a good idea of other people’s experience of sight and hearing by seeing and hearing, but one is not able to get a good idea of other people’s pain through their own experience of pain.  They are able to conclude that other people have the experience of pain through seeing and hearing other people react to the rock hitting their foot.  Since the other people’s reaction is similar to their own, each person can therefore conclude that the others have similar experiences.  There can also be processes through which these people can further refine their mutual understanding of each other’s pain, which would rely on further observations of the outer world, which is understood through the communications medium, and then comparing these findings to their own inner world, which are subjective experiences that nobody else can directly understand, but might indirectly understand through these processes.  We can by analogy say that these people have mentally come onto the “same page” or that something is “resonating” within each of their minds because they are all “tuned into a common wavelength”.

There is an important difference between the first example (involving sight and sound of the rock) and the second example (involving the experience of pain inflicted by the rock) in that in the first example the social verification of the experience occurred through the same medium that the experience is the subject of, while in the second example the social verification of the experience occurred through a medium that is different than the subject of the experience.  In the first example, it is the fact that social verification occurred in a way that is so closely related to the experience itself that allowed each person to eliminate (or at least minimize) personal biases and to develop more accurate conceptions of an object in the outer world.  In the second example, the fact that the social verification requires another level of analogy ends up making it much more difficult to eliminate personal biases.  In the first example, each person was able to understand the rock without personal biases, perhaps aided by a tape measure or a scale.  In the second example, each person’s experience of pain is still colored by their own inner world, even though they developed this mutual understanding of the experience of pain.  Therefore, it is unlikely that an experience such as pain can become objective.

This does not mean that pain is any less real than seeing or hearing.  But it does mean that it is more difficult to understand other people’s experience of pain and other experiences that are not the subject of a communicative medium.  It is probably impossible that such knowledge can become objective, but there is a certain reality of these experiences that can still permeate the outer world, in a sense, because it can be mutually understood.  In situations where such subjective knowledge has been socially verified amongst multiple sentient beings, this knowledge becomes intersubjective

We can talk about anything we can see or hear or physically touch as objective, provided we have gone through the necessary processes to try to understand the object as closely as possible to how it actually is.  If we have any subjective knowledge that cannot be made objective but where we have gone through the process of communicating details about this knowledge with others, which in turn allows us to reasonably conclude that others have similar subjective knowledge, then this can be called intersubjective.

We can consider that which is intersubjective to be a subset of the subjective that is socially verifiable to some extent.  Aspects of our inner world that can never be mutually understood because social verification is impossible can be called purely subjective.  One’s particular thoughts, perceptions, and emotions that they alone will experience and that nobody else could ever fully grasp would fall into this category.  We can figure that categorization would include subjective experiences that are quite unique to an individual and are simply impossible to fully relate.  However, by the very nature of the concept, there is nothing specific that we could identify and speak about that would fall within this category.  If we could speak about some particular experience and develop some mutual understanding of this subjective phenomenon then it would not be in this category.  By definition, any such phenomenon would not be purely subjective and would instead be intersubjective.  For example, let’s say that Mary says to her friend Sarah “I have been having this unique feeling recently and I don’t think anyone would ever understand…” but then after explaining her feelings for a while, Sarah starts to relate and empathize because Mary’s description seems similar to her own past experiences.  Thus, they can discuss their feelings and come to refine their understanding of each other’s experiences.

For any person who can communicate, we can figure that some of their thoughts, emotions, and perceptions can be relatable to other people, but it still makes sense that there are aspects of each person’s particular experiences that could never be mutually understood.  It does intuitively make sense that most of our experiences are purely subjective, even if there is nothing in particular that multiple people could possibly identify as being in this category.  The distinction between the intersubjective and the purely subjective would have to be a spectrum rather than a fine line because some things are barely mutually understood by people and some things are only mutually understood by a select few.  People sometimes talk for hours about abstractions and then think they have some mutual understanding, but they can’t really be sure.  Such things would probably fall into the gray area between purely subjective and intersubjective.

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Our Understanding of the Present Can Help us Understand the Past and Vice Versa

Since understanding history is so important, there has to be a certain kind of science to help sort out fact from fiction.  We need to be able to compare and contrast historical situations and developments within time periods, cultures, countries, nations, and civilizations in order to extract lessons and this should not be an arbitrary and unscientific process.  If done methodically, this can be reasonably reliable.  The hypothetico-deductive model (HDM) cannot possibly be the only scientific method.  It has to work in conjunction with historical science methods that study evidence relating to how things came together, how things transpired, how things unfolded, and how they are continuing to unfold into the future.

This is not to say that people necessarily should look to times from generations ago or from ancient history for their personal and group identity nor necessarily for their guidance and purpose in life, but that is how people typically think and that is why we need to have more reliable and evidence-based processes for investigating, tracing, evaluating, and coming to reasonable conclusions on this stuff.  Essentially, the study of history needs to be scientific in the general sense.

Despite the fact that unique past events cannot be reproduced, we can analyze evidence that we do have access to that was produced by past events, such as relics, artifacts, and fossil remains, to give explanatory power to phenomena in the present and we can also in many cases observe phenomena in our world so as to better explain the past.  As we develop a clearer, deeper, and richer understanding of the past, this can provide us with better and more reliable explanatory and predictive power for our replicable experiments in the natural and human sciences.

Our studies of recurring and replicable phenomena can aid in our studies of past and non-replicable phenomena, and vice versa.  This goes for fields such as evolutionary biology and astrophysics, which often study physical and biological events in the distant past, and also for studies of particular historical figures and ancient civilizations.  Our understanding of these phenomena from ages ago can add depth to our understanding of the present.  For historical people, we can try to understand their psychology and their motives by studying current people and we can in some cases also get a better understanding of living people by studying the details of the lives of people who are no longer living.  For social science, we often have to rely heavily on the interpretation of large scale phenomena of the past, including cultural trends, political regimes, legal systems, institutions, and economic policies in order to understand the present and to try to predict the future of social phenomena.

This relies on several principles, including the recognition of areas of similarity between present and past phenomena and the acknowledgement that the natural laws that govern phenomena are, at their most fundamental, the same in all times.  The fact that past unique events cannot be reproduced should not entail that they are inaccessible to experimental science, since that would be incoherent.  Certainly, the HDM relies on the ability to reproduce phenomena and to control for a variety of variables in order to discern cause and effect.  This method can be very effective and has given the ability to explain and to control a wide range of phenomena, but this should not cover the fact that this process still relies on interpretation.  The truth is that the same exact events never recur.  If we consider all factors for any experiment, there is always something distinct about each one.  Even when we have the most highly controlled experiments, there will inevitably be certain factors that are unique each time it is conducted.  Certainly, either the time or place of the experiment would have to be different.  In addition, science makes progress in part through reliance on the accounts of scientists who conducted controlled experiments in the (perhaps recent) past to help explain and interpret our results in our current experiments.  Science cannot occur without interpretation of the past.  Thus, this notion that the interpretation of the past is not scientific is quite wrongheaded.

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Why History is Important to Our Lives

Understanding history as accurately as possible is important because a person’s orientation toward the present and the way that they go about life is very much based on their conception of the past.  At the most basic level, this starts with one’s personal memories and those their family, their community, and those with whom they most closely identify.  There is no way any of us could engage with the world without a model of the past because this is essential to our personal and group identity and also that of our family and our nation and our world.  It is vital to for each of us to reference the past in all aspects of our lives because that is what tells us what works and what doesn’t work and the range of possibilities for future actions and also the ideals toward which we should strive.

Our conception of history has powerful psychological effects on us, for better or worse.  Families, communities, and nations feel driven by the need to fulfill the original purpose of the founders of their culture and of their nation and they feel the need to stay true to the vision outlined by these forefathers and to the ways of life exemplified by the great people of the past.  Some people think there is this eternal ancient wisdom, or perhaps that there are commandments and exemplars and perfect people from the past.  These ideas and stories are very powerful in forming one’s identity, purpose, and connection to the world.

Stories and narratives are an important part of how people think and conceptualize reality.  They need to feel like they, their family, their community, their nation, and their world are a part of a greater story.  This includes the recent past and distant historical events of great achievement and tragedy, such as the oppression of ethnic groups, the horrendous acts committed by tyrants, and the supposed past greatness of one’s nation.  This also includes stories that explain who came up with some invention or innovation originally, what was the origin of certain things that are now commonplace in our lives, and who was responsible for certain bad deeds in the past.  Stories along these lines are necessary for all kinds of things in life because they give us needed information that connect memories to our understanding of the present in a way that guides our actions into the future.  This also plays into accountability and justice and attempts to address past injustices and to prevent similar atrocities and inhumane events and suffering from recurring.  If we have no conception of the past, we will never make progress as a society.

Whether these narratives are accurate or not, they drive people’s thinking processes and societal norms, values, and ideals.  We can imagine that much of our history is true, but unfortunately some stories that one might read will be partially inaccurate or entirely fabricated.  We cannot afford to ignore the importance of historical accuracy because history can be weaponized.  A society based on false and highly skewed history will be as problematic as building a skyscraper based on bad and erroneous physics, math, and engineering.  If we have a false conception of history, we can become tools of the powerful and charismatic who would like to deceive us for their gain and for their small inner circle.  There are some people wish to perpetuate myths of the past in order to benefit themselves personally and without regard to the multitude of people who could be harmed by the furor and frenzy that they would incite as a result of them promoting such myths.  Those who have a hard time getting along with people of other ethnic groups will sometimes try to invent myths of the prior greatness of their ethnic group and the evil acts committed by other ethnic groups.  When charismatic demagogues come to power in times of economic and political crisis, these factors can coincide and result in bloodbaths and genocides.

The people’s conception of history has the potential to lead to political and governmental upheavals.  For this reason, some people would like to rewrite historical records so as to remold our collective memories and to provide more favorable societal conditions for them.  There is lots of money and power on the line and there are people who will relentlessly manipulate and spin false narratives to achieve power and to maintain it.  If these stories that are so influential to our lives and to society are not investigated and refined through reliable and evidence-based processes, then they will inevitably be revised and rewritten so as to be more convenient to a certain powerful class that wishes to legitimize their authority.  We cannot allow people’s hearts and minds to be taken and captured by people with ulterior motives because this would be a threat to global stability.

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How Social Verification Works

In order to present the evidence in favor of expanding the definition of empirical knowledge to include some things considered subjective, perhaps including things such as experiences that may lead one to form beliefs regarding value judgments and ethics, it will be necessary to elevate some subjective knowledge to a more reputable status similar to that which is given to objectivity.  First, it is necessary to analyze how knowledge can become objective, according to the definition provided earlier in this section.

The most important aspect of the more accurate definition provided above is that objectivity becomes possible not when someone has a perfect understanding of external reality, but when people are able to reasonably conclude that other people can have a similar understanding of some object if they are using similar methods of unbiased observation.  There is a process through which my bias and your bias get whittled away, which leaves us both with a conception of an object that is as unbiased and accurate as any could be.  If a situation is set up in a way such that one is able to imagine what it is like from someone else’s point of view, which they can then be compared and contrasted with their own point of view, then this can allow them to form a conceptualization of an object as it would be observed by anyone.

Objectivity depends on being able to convey empathy through communication in a way that is integrated with acts of perception.  The process through which objectivity is constructed becomes possible only when one perceives an object while also observing other people (and perhaps other conscious beings) who are judged to be perceiving this same object.  The central aspect of this interaction is that one’s perception of objects in a shared space occur simultaneously with perception of other beings who can also perceive, think, and feel.  Our minds automatically analyze our sensory data, and each of us should correctly conclude that there are other beings similar to ourselves.  One can get an idea that other people are having similar subjective experiences based on their reaction to an experience.  If someone else reacts to their perception the same way as oneself does, then it is reasonable to conclude that the other person is having similar subjective experiences.  This empathy allows one to imagine what others are likely experiencing from their point of view, and through this a more detailed conception of the shared space and the objects within it can appear within one’s mind.

The process of realizing through this kind of analogy – that other people’s experiences are similar to one’s own – is what we can call social verification.  Social verification of the inner world is the process through which the private understanding becomes public.  Of course one might say that the physical world is public anyways and that it is publicly accessible whether anyone recognizes it or not, but the truth is that all understandings that one might have of the outer world start within their inner world.  There is a process through which one can differentiate between the public access knowledge and their own private access knowledge.  Before someone has undergone this process, they would have no way of making this mental differentiation.

For example, one can start with actually seeing a tree in front of them and also imagining a different tree near there.  Perhaps this person is a small child who might not be able to easily discern real from imaginary and therefore might not be able to tell which image of a tree is public and which is private.  If this child sees other people and animals touching a tree and these other people and animals are interactive and are therefore clearly understood to not be mere figments of the imagination, this should sort out pretty well that this tree exists in the same outer world as everyone else.  This child does not experience anything similar in relation to their imagined image of a tree, and thus is able to conclude that tree is only in their mind.  To some extent, situations like this occur even to adults.  There are slight variations in our experience in small details that sometimes are misconceptions of reality and we rely on other conscious beings to help us make corrections to our mental models.  Often times, this process is still a work in progress, even for the things in the physical world that we think we know quite well.  For instance, we might sometimes think we hear or see things and we can’t be sure that they are real unless we others corroborate this with reports of their own similar observations.  As such, we rely on others to help calibrate our senses and refine our understanding of external reality and also to weed out illusion and misunderstanding.

Any knowledge gained from experience where one can reasonably conclude that other beings can and do have very similar experiences is therefore socially verifiable, even if it has not yet been socially verified.  Knowledge can be socially verified through a communicative medium, such as the visual medium or the auditory medium.  There is a communicative medium any time two or more beings have the ability to act in a way that affects the other’s perceptions.  The action, which can be anything from a speech act to writing to body gestures, is then a communication that travels through the medium and is perceived by the other.

For example, if we were to take something as simple as a rock and have two or more people touch the rock and pick it up and drop it and listen to the sound, and each of them could see the other’s reaction to looking at it and picking it up and dropping it, and discussing the features of the rock amongst themselves, then the features of the rock are then socially verified.  This process has also allowed them to have a good idea of how the rock is in reality and to minimize biases that are introduced from their own personal point of view, since they have all had opportunities to eliminate prejudices they may have otherwise had towards the rock in the process of viewing it, hearing it, and discussing it amongst themselves.  Each person present therefore can be said to understand the rock objectively.

It should be noted that the process of social verification does not eliminate all biases but does work to minimize them.  Before the social verification process, each person had personal biases.  Afterwards, each of them should have minimized personal biases, and there are likely processes through which a deeper and fuller mutual understanding of this object can be developed.  It is possible, however, for certain kinds of group biases or societal biases to remain if each member of the group that conducted the social verification had certain biases towards the object that were shared amongst them.  Though it may sometimes be difficult, it is possible for people to minimize group and societal biases and to get to the point where the only biases that remain are those that are simply inherent to any person or perhaps to any sentient being.

The question of how to minimize such societal biases is a more complex matter that is mostly outside the scope of this project.  But just to briefly attempt to solve this problem, people can understand their own societal biases by empathizing with people who have had different experiences in life.  If some person observes other people from different cultures and different backgrounds and tries to get a feel for how these others conceive of a given object, then this can allow that person to understand this object with minimal personal biases and also minimal societal biases.

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