Non profit idea

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VLM: Willing to go non-profit? WRT business topics might want to think incubator-ish services that will take care of all legal and financial stuff for you. SPI does all the legal-financial stuff for three dozen FOSS-ish projects (most famously Debian) and if its mutually acceptable ( if ! ) then I could see a news service living underneath SPI... they can own the trademarks and cut the checks and all that boring stuff. There are probably other incubator-ish services which could help. If this doesn't work out, well that's OK too, just wanted to throw an interesting idea out there.

I am not speaking for anyone, just mentioning I know of the work of one highly competent and trustworthy FOSS support organization, which might, or might not, be strategically useful.


keplr: I really like the idea of a non-profit. It seems like the only way to guarantee that management won't change and eventually be replaced by people who are willing to make the same changes which ruined Slashdot. I think it fits the overall spirit of the community better, also. Not that making a profit is a bad thing, but it's good to have spaces which aren't explicitly commercial (like Wikipedia, Debian, et al). The sort of people who are drawn by that ethos are the kind of people you'd want on a project like this.


Cactus: Non-profit doesn't mean people can't get paid for their work, just means that anything over operating costs can't be given as bonus to owners or board members, or investors. Excess cash is kept by the organization to feeds it's growth and projects.

- Carl


jkon: We should totally do a DAC. Distributed Autonomous Corporation.


Appalbarry: Non-profits have been my business and/or employer for a few decades. I've started a few, run a few, and have advised a couple of hundred at various times.

(In Canada and the US, but the principles remain the same.)

A non-profit could make good sense for this project, and there are many, many non-profit publications both in dead-tree form and on-line.

A plus to non-profit is that you can (eventually) access many funding sources like foundations and other granting agencies. Downside is that you may find that your ability to make money from other sources might be compromised.

A plus to the non-profit structure is that your Board of Directors (the ultimate power) are elected by membership, and will be representative of that membership. Downside is that because your Board of Directors (the ultimate power) are elected by membership they can also be replaced at the drop of a (well organized) hat. Depending on your membership base you could wind up with a pretty unstable organization.

4. Before there is anything beyond a nominal amount of money involved you really need to pull together a group to discuss some essential points:

[list=]The overall goals - the Mission Statement. You should be able to boil this down to five or ten words. Having this down on paper, and available to all, will help to avoid a lot of confusion and tend to head-off people working at cross purposes. At this moment everyone thinks that they have the same idea, but trust me, they don't. [/list] [list=]Bylaws - you'll need a set of Bylaws to tell you how to run the organization. Usually you can just grab a set of boilerplate Bylaws and tweak them, but you will need them. Warning: bad Bylaws can have far reaching consequences. Here's a nice looking discussion http://www.mondaq.com/unitedstates/x/269068/Charities+Non-Profits/The+15+Most+Common+Nonprofit+Bylaw+Pitfalls+How+To+Avoid+The+Traps.[/list] [list=]Membership - one of the things that your Bylaws will define is who can be a member, how that happens, and what rights and privileges they get. This actually a big question. Who do you want as members? Anyone with ten bucks for a membership? Anyone who actually contributes content?[/list] [list=]MONEY - someone has to be designated to spend the organization's money. Someone has to keep detailed records. Someone has to make decisions, both long and short term. At some point some people will need to get paid for their work. The more of these things you can sort out (develop policy) NOW, the easier it will be. Once there are a few thousand dollars in the bank it will get very hard to be entirely objective.[/list] [list=]Planning - pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is fine, but really careful planning will save you a ton of money and heartache down the road. If this thing is going to grow beyond being a couple of people's pet project you really need to do some planning work that looks years down the road, and lays out at least broad strokes of a plan to get there.[/list]

I hate to say it, but e-mail really sucks for these kinds of discussions.

The people setting up this new venture should think really hard about how much time they can commit to over the coming months. Right now everyone is full of beta-induced enthusiasm. By the time summer rolls around that will have dissipated and it will all be real work.

And of course the internal bickering will have reared its head. Remember that people are coming to this because there's some element of Slashdot that they really dis-like. That negative attitude will tend to permeate things, and can get out of hand very fast.

The core group of (I'm guessing) five to ten people need to be very mindful that they'll need to expand that group fairly fast, and that will change both the functions and the atmosphere of the project. Having doe the homework listed above will go a long way to making sure that new people are thinking the same things as the founders.

It's critical for everyone to understand one thing: No-one is going to be entirely happy with everything that happens. If you can hit 75% you're doing well. Resign yourself to that and don't get hung up on the stuff that someone else chooses.


cge: I also run a non-profit, and would agree that it could be a very good option for the project. It's unclear to me that it would significantly limit funding, at least for options (donations, membership, advertising) that would be reasonable for the site.

As Appalbarry notes, however, a non-profit corporation wouldn't guarantee that management wouldn't change; non-profits are just as susceptible to takeovers as for-profits, they merely have a different form.


CptCrunch: Does Non-Profit allow the use of donations?


mattie_p: As wikipedia that question  ;) .


wbr1: Great points applebarry.

I for one lean towards the non profit model. What I will add, is that since this is a community project, no matter which funding model becomes reality, many of your points still apply. The internal bickering being chief in my mind. Hell that may start with the non vs profit argument. We do need to at some point codify a general structure and means of resolving these issues. Since this project is in its infancy, I do not want to see it split into a bunch of opposing projects and flounder.


Weeds:
Appalbarry wrote:
...The overall goals - the Mission Statement. You should be able to boil this down to five or ten words. Having this down on paper, and available to all, will help to avoid a lot of confusion and tend to head-off people working at cross purposes. At this moment everyone thinks that they have the same idea, but trust me, they don't. ...

This is true be it a for profit or non profit.