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FCIG Report

1 byte removed, 16:52, 23 January 2017
more typo fixes
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 constitutes an unacceptable burden, by hindering the long-term sustainability of the conference, and undermining the overall soundness 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.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 the choices presented here, we first outline the requirements for maintaining the status quo, and then the requirements for implementation for each alternative approach. Based on these requirements and/or possible terms for each option, we then analyze of the pros and cons for each scenario..
Broadly categorized, the three options discussed in this report are:
====== 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 an active and significant professional 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 Code4Lib 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. In addition to signing contracts and bearing the financial liability of the contract, the fiscal host has typically done the conference bookkeeping as well.
Code4Lib has so far been fortunate in the successful hosting of conferences, and has benefited from the goodwill of the community by receiving support from institutions willing to voluntarily provide fiscal hosting. However, these fortuitous circumstances are by no means a given in events planning,and the willingness thus far of institutions to act as fiscal hosts does not mean that the risk an institution takes on should be discounted.
Additionally, the need to secure a new fiscal host each year can add substantial complexity to the planning process, in the event of any irregularities in determining a host site. Preparations for the 2017 conference provide an example of the kind of complications that can ensue, and the kind of liability that the fiscal host takes on. The local planning committee for the 2017 conference includes members from southern California and the southeast U.S. from the original Chattanooga 2017 group. However, the fiscal host for the 2017 conference is UCLA, who is the entity that has signed contracts with an event planner, with the venue, with several hotels, and with providers of other services. As such, UCLA is ultimately responsible for paying on those contracts, and some of those liabilities would not disappear even if the 2017 conference were abruptly cancelled. For example, in order to secure sufficient hotel rooms for attendees, UCLA has guaranteed that a certain number of hotel-nights will be purchased by conference attendees; if a threshold is not met, UCLA would be obligated to pay the difference.

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