Adding More Support


#1

So I really want Mail-in-a-box to become the kind of thing that is “business smart” to do, because every business mentor I have tells me that I should not run my own mail server.

I know the maintainer of this project does this on his free time, but I’ve seen a United States federal grants that could help pay to have this project run and have people get paid actual money to have this run.

Now, I know that this grant is now closed, but I am thinking that it could be possible that something like this would come around again (maybe the same grant in a year from now?), so I wanted to know if any of you would be willing to get some paperwork together to form a legal entity, and look out for some grants so that this project could get even more pull than it already does.

Here is the grant if you want to look at grants.gov:

SFOP0003638

FY18 DRL Internet Freedom APS
Department of State
Bureau of Democracy Human Rights and Labor


#2

Hey, I wanted to bump this post. Did anyone look into it?

One of the things about grants is that you have to show to the grant people that you are already working on something as a company and producing progress before they’ll give you the grant.

I would suggest people write up a company and “work” for it (in reality, you can keep doing what you’re doing as a volunteer, just do it for the company) and pay people who are doing work $1/year. That way, when the grant roles around again, you can say you have employees working on the project and are producing a product the grant wants as a company.


#3

Since @JoshData is the maintainer of this project, let’s bring him in to this conversation.


#4

(please note I am not a business person, financial person, or legal/lawyer person. Please consider this informal advice from a non-expert in any/all field(s). Take the advice at your own risk)

I figured I would mention a couple of things as well. I’ve been doing a little research about starting my own business (I am from Arizona, United States, by the way), and one thing to note is that you need to come up with a legal entity.

In the United States, most states can provide you with a Limited Liability Company. From my understanding, it is the easiest/cheapest legal entity to start. Only downside is that you (practically) cannot get that gold non-profit 501(c)3 status. You need to form a corporation with multiple board members, spend a lot more money on paperwork and lawyers, and have to spend time to write up your by-laws.

However, being a for-profit organization means that things like Small Business Association/your local Small Business Development Center (we have some in Arizona, not sure if it’s state-specific) and I have a contact with a guy who works with government grants I can talk to. However, I cannot talk to these people if it is in regards for a non-profit, they are barred from helping non-profits.

If you do decide to become a non-profit, you can get help from SCORE ( https://www.score.org/ ) and get a mentor that is a retired executive business person.

From what I understand is that you can form an LLC in Arizona for $50 (I think it is less though) and startup a single-member company, so you don’t have to worry too much about paperwork and votes and rules and stuff.

What I recommend is (assuming you live in the United States, in a state that provides LLC’s):

  1. starting up an LLC
  2. legally transfer the Mail-in-a-box intellectual property to the LLC (or not, I could talk to my government grant guy for advice)
  3. Employ people
    a. Pay your more loyal contributors $1/year
    b. Have an informal and very lenient employment agreement
  4. Do something over (say) a year that you can prove to a grant person that you are accomplishing something they want
  5. Wait for a grant to roll around

Once things get serious:

  1. determine if you need to be a non-profit for the grant
    a. if so:
    b. create another legal entity to become a non-profit
    c. replace the current members of the LLC with non-profit legal entities as members
  2. Type up fancy stuff, come up with a mission statement to impress the grant person
  3. Submit the grant paperwork

#5

Hey,

Thanks for your energy on this. :slight_smile:

I have some experience with this and tried a few times to get grant support for Mail-in-a-Box, and failed.

Forming a company or nonprofit is really one of the last things to worry about.

The first is to find the grant-making organization and get them interested. This isn’t easy. It takes years. Grant makers aren’t going to be interested in subsidizing the development of Mail-in-a-Box for the sake of individuals and businesses. There are big-picture issues, like human rights as @Eliter found, that are related to our mission that grant makers might be interested in. But a successful human rights project is only a small part a technology project, and it’s something that one should have some experience in — meaning, experience in addressing global human rights issues — before diving into it.

You both and anyone else reading is welcome to try to get funding for Mail-in-a-Box, and I’d be happy to talk more about it and help in the process to the extent I have time.


#6

That is what I was told with my government grants guy. I was hoping that you guys would have people with experience, professional background or education in mail/spam/security that could show that we have experts working on the project. Maybe I wasn’t clear when I posted this message, or didn’t understand what you said, @JoshData .

I was hoping while we don’t get funding, we could keep them on the payroll at $1/year so we can show that we technically have employees (experts/professionals) working the on the project.

Unless of course you are looking at people who have political science degrees and get into the study purely for human rights and experts specifically in human rights, maybe that is what you’re saying.

I understand the grant writing is a rigorous and long process. I’ve got a charity I got volunteer work for whose sole purpose is to help other charities. Sometimes they help people who do wonderful things (like this), even if they don’t have 501(c)3 status. They have written a grant before, and I’m sure if they know you guys aren’t scammers but are legitimate people, I’m sure I could convince them to help you guys out with grant writing.

I am hoping this grant rolls around next year, so that’s why I’m mentioning it.


#7

I don’t know about grants, but what about something like go fund me or a donation account on paypal or something?

I think this is an important project as I am sure a lot of people do that install and use it. I don’t necessarily have time to assist or the knowledge, but I would give to help out development.


#8

I think it depends on how much money can be raised and whether there are folks in the community with both the expertise and the interest in working more on the project if they could get paid what can be raised.


#9

I would be interested in raising money for this project, I’m just not sure if that would take over your project, @JoshData .

I am a rather honest person, but anyone can say that. If I were to start up an LLC in my state for Mail-in-a-box, I would want some sort of accountability to the funds, to the people, to the project, and some sort of due process for handling operations and decisions. It doesn’t have to be me, it probably should be someone else.

Would there happen to be anyone who is willing to step forward and be on some sort of “committee” or “council” or something?

If just anyone were to setup a funding/donation mechanism, even if they were honest people, would it be up to a single person to decide where the money goes? If they make the wrong decisions, even in good faith, the money wouldn’t go to good use, and the PR of the project would get bad, I would imagine. I just don’t think accepting donations half-cocked is a good idea. Would anyone be willing to either be a part of a “voting/advising” group and/or write up ideas on rules/procedures for handling money?

EDIT: I felt like I should add:
Even if we can’t find professionals to do work for the project, or get existing contributors to increase contributions on a paid basis, I think money could still be put to good use. For example, it could pay for advertisements for more people to come and use this project (or privacy awareness, or general awareness that this project exists), or to make the website sexier.

With the right script/scene/scenario/props thought out, a person could easily make an effective YouTube advertisement in a few hours and make a large impact on people. Google’s display network doesn’t have a minimum spending limit either, so you don’t have to spend a lot of money. YouTube’s cost per full 30 second view of an advertisement is $0.02. Of course, anyone can spend crazy money on Google. There’s also keeping up Facebook and stuff to upkeep general awareness of what we want.

What I’m trying to say here is that there are ways to spend money in beneficial areas if we cannot get what we want in the beginning, which then could lead into more money to then pay people, or more people interested in giving to the project because more people recognize it exists.


#10

For what it’s worth, I would be glad to hand over the keys to this project to another lead maintainer or a community. (I wouldn’t do it lightly, given the security considerations, but I would love to do it.)


#11

@JoshData , back to my mention of a “council”, because I think it would be a good idea, do you have anyone you would recommend be on the potential council?