Fiscal Continuity IG
The fiscal continuity IG is a group of people who are exploring options for setting up something that can act as an ongoing fiscal host for the annual Code4Lib conference. This group stems from a discussion begun in June of 2016 about "formalizing Code4Lib"; in particular, from a call by Coral Sheldon-Hess for folks to "self-nominate, to join a group to investigate making Code4Lib fiscally sustainable"
This page is meant to both be a record of the activities of the IG and a central point for resources and discussions about fiscal continuity.
The initial purpose of the group is to investigate options for establishing an ongoing fiscal host for the annual Code4Lib conference. It will then present recommendations to the Code4Lib community; further action will then depend on general community sentiment and the availability and willingness of people to take action, either to implement an ongoing fiscal arrangement, to maintain the status quo, or to change the form of the Code4Lib conference.
The IG in its current incarnation is intended to be a short-lived task group: investigate, recommend, then either disband or reconstitute depending on the path chosen.
The following people have volunteered to be part of the investigation:
- Galen Charlton
- Cary Gordon
- Tom Johnson
- Kate Lynch
- Eric Lease Morgan
- Chad Nelson
- Beatrice Pulliam
- Coral Sheldon-Hess
Other folks are welcome to join. We are particularly soliciting assistance from folks who have organized past Code4Lib conferences (or events of similar size), who have participated in establishing or negotiating with fiscal hosts, or who have relevant legal experience.
We ask that participants in the group discussions accept as a premise that it is worthwhile to spend time and energy to investigate the question of fiscal continuity; if you completely reject that premise, please consider directing your participation to other areas of Code4Lib.
- c4l-financial-options Google Group This group is publicly viewable but requires an invitation to join; folks who wish to contribute to the investigation are welcome to request an invitation. The IG will operate as transparently as possible, but some discussions and documents may need to be restricted to the core IG members. In particular, budgets from past conferences may contain information that cannot be published (although the IG will try to publish more aggregate budget information for the benefit of future conferences). The IG may also choose to make initial inquiries with potential fiscal hosts; such discussions inherently require discretion.
Ways that Code4Lib could establish — or decline to establish — an ongoing fiscal entity include:
- Maintain the status quo: the annual Code4Lib conference is run by a different local host committee each year. The local committee is chosen by a vote of the Code4Lib community from one or more competing bids. Each committee assumes the entire financial risk of the conference and is responsible for providing (or acting as) a fiscal host. Local committees customarily pass any surplus on to the following year's committee, but are not obligated to.
- As above, but without the assumption that the big international Code4Lib conference will be an annual event.
- Abandon the notion of holding big international conferences, thereby obviating any need for an ongoing fiscal arrangement.
- Find an institution willing to be the permanent host location and fiscal agent for the annual conference.
- Contract with an organization that would act as fiscal host for a set period of time that spans more than one annual conference. Such an agreement could be renewed.
- Become a member project of an umbrella organization that would act as fiscal host indefinitely (and until Code4Lib choose to leave the umbrella).
- Have Code4Lib qua annual conference become a permanent part of some other organization. This is similar to joining an umbrella organization, but with no explicit provision for Code4Lib to leave.
- Have Code4Lib qua annual conference become a track in some other organization's periodic conference.
- As above, but establish Code4Lib tracks in more than one organization's conference.
- Incorporate as a non-profit organization under U.S. law.
- Incorporate as a non-profit organization in a country that is not the U.S.
- Incorporate as a for-profit corporation under U.S. law.
- Incorporate as a for-profit corporation in a country that is not the U.S.
This list is meant to be comprehensive, so some of the options may be fairly judged to be not worth pursuing at all.
Several of the potential financial arrangements would allow Code4Lib to more readily collect donations and accumulate its surpluses into a growing fund — and in fact, as a matter of financial prudence a long-term fiscal arrangement should be expected to grow the fund so that it is at least large enough to cushion the complete financial failure of a conference.
This raises the possibility that a successful long-term fiscal arrangement will ultimately result in a fund that is larger than would ever be required to run the annual conference, which in turns raises the possibility of some of the money being spent on purposes other than the annual conference. Barring a huge donation, this is unlikely to be a practical concern for some time, but some consideration should be given to clearly describing what would be or would not be appropriate expenditures — and who decides.
External resources on the topics of fiscal continuity and financial arrangements for conferences go here.