How to find Co-Organizers for a Non-Profit

I helped founded TampaDevs, a nonprofit software tech community for developers in Tampa seeking to grow together. We've expanded in 4 months to 350+ active members, several sponsors, and several thousands of dollars funded through our org or it's members

As we've grown, I want to highlight a challenge that's I've found challenging - that is finding people who resonate with your cause, who can help champion and grow it further

I will breakdown how to find a high quality co-organizer in these steps:

  • Establishing a mission statement for the org
  • Finding someone who believes in it
  • Finding someone who wants to be a part of it
  • Finding someone who is capable of being part of it

Establishing a mission statement for the org

When you build a nonprofit organization, there should always be a one-liner statement that comes alongside it. In startup world, this might be something like "we're building the facebook for business users" -> e.g. linkedin. In the nonprofit sector, this is the mission statement

For Tampa Devs, this is "A community of software developers in Tampa, FL seeking to grow together"

I intentionally kept it simple so anyone can interpret it how they like. Maybe they want to grow together socially. Or maybe they want to grow together in the form of a tech community.

In either case, self-growth is the driving factor for the person I wanted as a co-organizer

Finding someone who believes in it

When you find a co-organizer or co-founder, you want someone to very deeply resonate this mission statement on their own, without your intervention

What do I mean by this?

If you ask someone to do you a favor, they'll probably do so. Maybe relucantly depending on how well you know them. But if a series of events triggers them to want to do this, you have found a great candidate for a co-founder or co-organizer

Derek Sivers wrote a blog called "the first follower" principle.

In this blog, there is a music festival. Nothing happens. One person goes to the fray, and looks crazy in the eyes of bystanders. But his close friend follows suit. And then, a crowd. All of a sudden this person is now the life of the party.

I wrote about how we started Tampa Devs here, and how we were born originally as a community of tech friends that created TampaDevs.

Finding someone who wants to be a part of it

I wrote a blog post about how we grew tampa devs and the merits of growth hacking / creating FOMO.

Creating FOMO helps drive others to want to take you're cause further

In every event we held, we've had 1-2 volunteers ask to be a part of our mission. Sometimes it was for talks. Othertimes it was to help co-organize events.

In our last talk at ReliaQuest, I had my co-organizer tell the story about how Tampa Devs was founded. Hearing it from someone other than myself encourages others to participate as well

Finding someone who is capable of being part of it

The core-group of co-organizers that we have wants to be a part of the group, and believe in the mission statement.

The last clause is finding someone who is actually capable of growing it further. Because we're a nonprofit, we don't raise funding on our own accords and mostly use it to offset costs of events / tools needed to run the org

One way of finding someone who is capable is have them do an active talk for the group. This does a few different things:

  • it shows that they are ok with being on stage
  • it creates an origin story for the co-organizer, providing a stronger sense of community / culture
  • it shows that they can do due diligence in crafting a talk, which are all necessary skills for running a nonprofit

Other ways include help in assisting tasks like video editing, or having previously been a part of a similar organization in running the ReactJS chapter in Tampa for instance

Summary

In summary, to find a good co-organizer, they should have the following 3 things:

  1. Do they believe in the group?
  2. Do they want to be a part of the group?
  3. Are they capable of running the group?

Sometimes we had volunteers that met all these criteria, but lived in a different city. So that made things more complex.

Sometimes we had volunteers that met 2/3 criteria, but not all 3. In those cases just keep vetting / grooming candidates until someone meets all 3, etc

I've made mistakes in the past in just "giving" people co-organizer status in past organizations. Because they didn't work for it, they didn't feel attached to the effort to get to that goal line

The best way is having someone prove they meet all 3 criteria on their own, by first inspiring and motivating them to get their on their own.

Usually what happens is they'll come up to you on their own, and ask to be a part of your group

We also aren't motivated by financial means either, so this makes it even more important in finding the right person.

Smaller teams are generally more impactful than bigger teams IMO as well

After you find you're co-organizers, you'd want to read this afterwards retaining talent through creating ownership

Hi 👋

I'm Vincent Tang, a web developer specializing in modern Javascript. This website is my digital garden of notes on backend, frontend, and devops! I'm the founder of Tampa Devs and I also run a coding podcast called Code Chefs

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