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Founding a MadWifi non-profit organization

This page needs a rework - it's at least partly outdated

About

Since 2005 MadWifi has more and more become a community project. We've increased the number of developers, we have a growing group of people who care about giving support to end-users, we received the first donated goods and we got the first questions about how to donate money to the project. These are good reasons to start thinking of how to give the project a better shape and a proper legal representation - et voila, the idea of founding a non-profit organization for MadWifi is born.

This page is meant as a catalyst - to gather general ideas, hashing them around, drafting a proposal and, finally, getting it all done. For now it's "work in progress", mainly intended for the active developers. Anyway, input from the community is welcome as well.

Mission Statement

The primary goals of the organization are coordinating development of the MadWifi driver and providing support for the end users of the MadWifi driver. The organization should coordinate the driver development by deciding upon a project roadmap, discussing and agreeing on project milestones, announcing and discussing changes to the MadWifi driver and so on.

The organization should manage donated funds and goods such that developers will be supported with equipment and resources (wifi hardware and webserver(s) for example) they need to perform tasks related to acheiving the goals of the project. The MadWifi project is a non-profit organization.

The organization is also responsible for representing the project in the public, and communicates on behalf of it.

Members of the organization are people who support the project, either by contributing code to it, providing support to end users, taking care of administrative jobs, and so on. Details, such as who can become a member and how, still have to be agreed on.

Charter

The charter needs to be drafted. Let's gather some important things that need to be considered for the draft:

  • What are the goals now (pre-nonprofit)?
  • What unmet needs are there?
  • How can a nonprofit entity help deliver the madwifi projects goals?
  • Description of the purpose of the organization (= mission statement)
  • Description of the structure: who can join it and how, what special "positions" exist (Chair, Treasurer, etc) and how are they filled, is there a control body, meetings, quorums, or elections.
  • Who is allowed to vote in decisions, who is not.
  • Categorizing different types of decisions (such as: changes to the charter, ejecting a member, distributing money or hardware) and how they have to be handled (quorum, full majority, redress...)
  • If folks unmake the non-profit entity, what becomes of the 'assets'.
  • to be continued

Discussion

Personally, I think it's worth considering to join the Software Freedom Conservancy. Sounds like a lot of positive aspects, and I can't really see a noteworthy downside. Their board is set up of people well-known to the FOSS scene (Eben Moglen, just to name one of them), they provide legal counsel (which is a very important point IMO, as recent discussions in the mailing lists showed). Being a legal entity allows us to handle donations without forcing a few devs to munge personal and "organizational" bank accounts. As soon as the SFC acquires their non-profit status, we will automatically benefit from that, too - which in turn might give an additional incentive for people and companies to donate money to the project.

I'm aware that forming a legal entity means additional work for a few volunteers. SFC's offer, IMO, is a good trade-off between the benefits of having a proper legal status and the "downside" of added administrative work, since they take care of most of that. I'm quite confident that this is a win for us.

Comments?

-- mrenzmann / otaku42

Resources

  • IRC log - the initial discussion in #madwifi - starting at the timemark of "[11:49:59]"
  • Software Freedom Conservancy - looks like an promising solution to get the legal status of a non-profit organization without the need of caring about all the paper-work that's involved
  • the Wine project already joined the Conservancy; they had some discussions about that step in their -devel mailing list, namely here, here and here
  • NewsForge article about the Conservancy, giving some insights