updated to reflect latest version
This report presents the findings and recommendations of the Code4Lib Fiscal Continuity Interest Group (FCIG) to the Code4Lib community, to assist the community in collectively deciding how we may best achieve ongoing, sustainable fiscal responsibility for the Code4Lib annual meeting/conference.
The challenge addressed in this report is that the current process of recruiting each year an external "fiscal host" to bear the burden of financial responsibility for the Code4Lib Conference imposes a very high cost in terms of work, time, and financial risk for those who make the conference possible for the community: the local planning committees and the host institutions. Many community members have expressed significant concern about whether this cost
poses an unacceptable threat to the long-term sustainability of the conference, and undermines the health of the Code4Lib community.
From June-Dec 2016, the Fiscal Continuity Interest Group of Code4Lib explored a wide range of options for alternative approaches/ways to make running the annual meeting/conference more fiscally sustainable
, and compared these options to current practice. In this report we present an overview of our investigation, summarizing current practice as well as the strongest options for alternative approaches that we identified. To inform the community’s evaluation of these choices, we outline the requirements for maintaining the status quo or implementing a new approach, and we analyze of the pros and cons for each option.
Broadly categorized, the options discussed in this report are:
* Option 1: maintain the existing practice of local conference planning committees seeking a new "fiscal host" each year
====== Structure of the Report ======
Section B, "Introduction" provides background to the report, by describing the problem of fiscal hosts for Code4Lib conference, and the formation, objectives, and working process of the FCIG.
Section C, "Findings" outlines
as objectively as possible the requirements for implementation of each of three options, providing descriptions of:
# current practice ("fiscal hosting" for the annual Code4Lib meeting),
Section D, "Analysis", presents summaries of the strongest arguments for and against each of these options.
Section E concludes the report with our recommendation to the community for a process and timetable to collectively discuss this issue online and in person during January-March 2017, to evaluate the options we have presented, in addition to any other serious proposals that community members may make.
Following that discussion, we recommend that the community hold a vote in order to select one of those options and identify volunteers to implement it.
== B. Introduction ==
====== Statement of Problem: Need for Financial Responsibility for Code4Lib Conference ======
Code4Lib is has no legal status as organization incorporated or registered with a government entity, but is instead a volunteer-driven collective. Since Code4Lib is not an official organization, it is not possible for Code4Lib to assume legal responsibility for its own expenses incurred to hold the community’s annual meeting, which began in 2006. Over the eleven years since the first Code4Lib meeting, what has become "[https://code4lib.org/conference the annual Code4Lib Conference]" has been hosted by a succession of libraries, each of which has signed contracts to secure venues, hotel accommodations, and services. This means that as a consequence of hosting the event, each host institution has also played the role of “fiscal host”, and has assumed liability for those contracts.
During this time, the annual meeting as an event has grown steadily in size and complexity, into a significant financial undertaking for these fiscal hosts. In the most recent years, the conference has regularly attracted over 400 attendees and has had a budget in the low six figures. This growth of budgets has a direct effect on the amount of risk that the fiscal host takes on in assuming financial responsibility for contracts: in the event of an unexpected cancellation of the event, it is common for hotel and venue contracts to have significant cancellation penalties.
unwieldy situation has prompted engaged discussion among community members about how our community’s approach to organizing and funding the annual meeting, as well as the increasing expense associated with the conference as it grows, reflects our purpose and values as a community.
The purpose of this report is to provide concrete options for our community to consider as we assess the practical realities and trade-offs between the advantages of taking on increased financial responsibility and "overhead", and the imperative to maintain the core purpose and values of Code4Lib as an independent, open, and responsive community.
== C. Findings ==
This section outlines the practical requirements for each of
the three options:
# maintaining the status quo of fiscal hosting
====== Description of Current Practice ======
At present, Code4Lib has no legal status and is not an official organization. In one sense, "Code4Lib" does not exist; there is no governance structure nor even any guidelines for membership. The Code4Lib Conference does have a Code of Conduct that applies to individuals who pay a registration fee to attend this event, but otherwise there are no rules for what Code4Lib is or what its members do. In another sense, Code4Lib is
one of the most important professional group; s and sources of progress within the cultural heritage sector. Code4Lib is certainly an active group: in addition to the annual conference, there are a number of regional meetings each year, the publication of the Code4Lib journal, and the maintenance of a variety of communications forums.
The fundraising process employed for the annual Code4Lib meeting reflects the community’s DIY traditions. Recent total budgets for the annual Code4Lib conference have exceeded $250,000, with roughly half of the cost covered by sponsor donations and half by registration fees. These contributions are secured through the work of a Code4Lib Sponsorship Committee, which self-nominates, forming each year as a group of volunteers who spontaneously reply to a call on the listserv. The Sponsorship Committee follows the successful precedents established by the actions of previous years/committees, but has no official guidelines or instructions. However, the LPC will typically pay close attention to the actions of the Sponsorship Committee, as it is ultimately the responsibility of the institution that is hosting Code4Lib to cover any shortfalls. Members of the Sponsorship Committee sign up to take individual responsibility for contacting potential donors, who are chosen from lists of previous years’ donors, as well as brainstormed by the Sponsorship Committee each year based on the committee members’ own contacts, or the geographic location of the conference that year. Perhaps the only limitation on donors is that they must be institutions that do not have requirements for donating only to 501(c)(3) status organizations, because Code4Lib does not have this status.
Since Code4Lib is not an official organization, and therefore does not have any legal capacity to hold funds or to assume responsibility for contracts, it has been necessary each year to secure an agreement from another legal entity willing to take fiscal responsibility for conference expenses (the "fiscal host"). The fiscal host has often been the library or organization that is supplying space for the conference, but that need not be the case. Every year the work of finding and recruiting the fiscal host has been done by local planning committees, who have usually turned to institutions in their own geographic area willing to perform this service.
=== Option 2: Obtain Ongoing Fiscal Sponsorship from an External Organization ===
In essence, fiscal sponsorship would secure for Code4Lib a similar relationship to the annual fiscal hosts, except for an ongoing duration, and in exchange for a fee paid by Code4Lib to the sponsor organization.
[http://grantspace.org/tools/knowledge-base/Individual-Grantseekers/Fiscal-Sponsorship/fiscal-sponsorship Fiscal sponsorship] is a formal arrangement between a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and a project, organization, group, or program that may lack tax-exempt status. Common functions provided by fiscal sponsors include assisting with fundraising, receiving charitable contributions on behalf of the sponsored project, and performing financial/administrative tasks such as handling contracts and disbursing funds. The website of the[https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/tools-resources/fiscal-sponsorship-nonprofits National Council of Nonprofits] provides a comprehensive overview of considerations for these arrangements, and links to many
excellent resources for more information on fiscal sponsorship. A specific example of a fiscal sponsorship agreement is the one [http://evergreen-ils.org/wp-content/uploads/gov/2012-07-01_evergreen-sponsorship-agreement_signed-by-all_scanned-by-bkuhn.pdf between the Software Freedom Conservancy and the Evergreen Project].
For the purposes of this report, fiscal sponsorship would be a formal arrangement between the Code4Lib community, as defined for our purposes on the Code4Lib website [https://code4lib.org/about about page], and a sponsor organization, to provide the following minimum services:
Fiscal Sponsor Directory* http://www.fiscalsponsordirectory.org/
====== Summary of Findings from Each Organization ======
==== January and February 2017 ====
* Discuss this report and the various options it explores via the Code4Lib mailing list, Slack, and IRC. Representatives from LITA and the DLF will be available to answer questions and participate in the discussion.
==== March 2017 (During the 2017 Code4Lib conference) ====
* Continue the discussions in person and via streaming. The FCIG has made arrangements to hold breakout sessions as well as a Birds of a Feather meeting on Thursday, March 9, and is working with the 2017 LPC to ensure that the Birds of a Feather meeting is live-streamed.
==== Shortly after the conference ====
* Hold a community vote via the Diebold-o-tron to decide among the following options:
** Maintain the status quo
** Enter into negotiations with LITA or CLIR.
** Do something else as per any serious proposals made during the discussions in January, February, and March 2017
Implementation/Moving Forward ====
* If the outcome of the Diebold-o-tron community vote indicates a consensus to do something other than maintain the status quo, implementing the community's choice would require action on the part of one or more people. Consequently, the FCIG recommends that prior to the vote that people put themselves forward as volunteers for an implementation group for one or more of the options.
= Appendix A — Questions posed to potential fiscal sponsors =