[OSGeo-Discuss] Report from the Board Meeting in Seattle

Arnulf Christl arnulf at osgeo.org
Tue Feb 7 16:59:31 PST 2012

== Introduction ==
The OSGeo board of directors met during the weekend on the 4th and 5th
February to develop the objectives of the future of the foundation and
take strategic decisions. It is the first time that the board met face
to face separately of the annual FOSS4G conference. It was an effective
meeting with intense conversations about sometimes contentious topics
which needed more talking than can be done effectively on IRC or even
conference calls. Unfortunately Jeff McKenna and Tim Schaub could not
take part but seven of nine directors still were a good turn out given
that they had to travel from five different time zones and up to 8 km
distance. Additionally the board received valuable input from three
OSGeo members who joined us on Sunday plus a number of mails that were
sent in before the meeting (see agenda and notes [1]).

This report is not covering all topics but those which the board feels
are the most relevant. As always the agenda, minutes and vote results
are public and can be seen on the meeting page in the Wiki. Please bear
with our secretary Michael Gerlek, he is currently on the IslandWood
code sprint and will produce the minutes asap after that.

== Changing non-profit status of the Foundation ==
The board has decided to change the fiscal type of the foundation from
501/c3 to 501/c6. This is not a big change but means that OSGeo will not
have a charitable status. The main reason for doing this is that the IRS
(is this name right, add link?) has not been able (or willing) to
process the paperwork for OSGeo in the past six years. OSGeo has
therefore accumulated considerable income, issued information and
advertized sponsorship opportunities with reference to the charitable
non-profit status of a 501/c3 corporation. We are not alone in this
situation, the IRS has not been processing any organizations registered
as non-profit 501/c3 in the USA focused on the promotion, support or
development of Open Source Software. Why this is the case is up for
speculation, my guess is that they don't want to make an organization
charitable which basically just manages development of software for a
large corporation.

The consequences are that we will not be able to directly apply for
certain types of grants in the USA. We did not do this in the past six
years so the need seems to be fairly low. Donations to OSGeo will not be
tax deductible. For companies this is not relevant because they will
file expenses for sponsoring under some other budget. It does affect
individuals in the USA  who want to donate money to OSGeo, they will not
be able to deduce this from their tax. This is not a change because so
far the paperwork has not been finished by the IRS anyway. We take this
step mainly to finally move out of a grey zone that we are not willing
to stay in.

In case we want to be able to apply for grants we still have the option
of setting up a separate organization which is focused on doing exactly
this. But as this is limited to the USA it could make sense to have a
Local Chapter bring this forward if ever required. So if you feel like
this is important please hook up to your Local Chapter.

== FOSS4G ==
Another big topic for discussion is OSGeo's prime event, the FOSS4G
conference. The board decided that the FOSS4G conference is going to be
diversified. It was time to catch up with reality and acknowledge that
we already have more than one single, global FOSS4G event per year and
that there is a need for each of them. Several Local Chapter have
already been putting on conferences under the name FOSS4G, most notably
Japan, South Korea, Portugal, Germany (here named FOSSGIS). This year we
are proud to see regional FOSS4G events happen in North American and
another one in Central Eastern European. These events are a little
different to the existing ones in Japan, German, Korea, Portugual and so
on in that they have a somewhat larger and more international scope and
will happen primarily in English language.

We have seen a lot of good questions asked around FOSS4G in the past
months. This is one of the reasons why we have made it a major topic of
discussion at the board meeting. We have taken a decision and the
result is that OSGeo is having an official North American conference in
April 2012 and that we also support the FOSS4G CEE taking place in Prague.

Without going into all the details there are several arguments that
support this decision. The main reason is that after having thoroughly
analyzed where conference attendance come from we believe that this will
not be a problem for our global event in Beijing, China. It will not be
affected aversely, instead it is the only one, selected global event
that OSGeo will continue to host globally around the world. It will also
host the Annual Global Meeting of the OSGeo members, the regular Board
of Directors meeting and the Sol Katz award. The RFP for FOSS4G 2013 is
in the doing and will be published within weeks. At the same time the
board sees a need to improve the communication with the very active
Chinese conference team (a beta version of the web site is online now).
Frank Warmerdam was appointed Liaison officer which he has kindly
accepted to take on, thank you.

== Marketing ==
We have put together a comprehensive list of activities touching
outreach, marketing, education, open geodata policy and many other
topics under the lead of Peter Batty (Thanks!). We felt this is
necessary to be able to point the the Marketing Committee which is
currently without a chair, into a concrete direction. Please register
with the Marketing mailing list and join the next meeting, there is a
budget in place and interesting things coming up.

== Financial Situation ==
The Finance Committee under the lead of Daniel Morissette (thanks for
your work on this rather dry topic!) is happy to report that we are in a
financially sound state. In a way we can also confirmation that our hard
decision last year to let our ED go was the right thing to do. Had we
not done this step we would not have lasted throughout this year.
Another interesting note is that we (that is the broader community) have
a much larger budget than the one OSGeo just published. It is a virtual
cumulative budget that the community of OSGeo moves. This includes the
Local Chapters, OSGeo/FOSS4G related conferences and even the software
projects. This budget is not what an OSGeo board can "spend" but it is
an interesting measure of what financial assets are being moved in the
Geospatial FOSS world. We came across this when we - again - discussed
how to raise more sponsorship money and had to admit that OSGeo (this
globally active yet lightweight organization) does nto really have a
good sponsorship proposition. A lot more money comes in through FOSS4G
events around the world, is funnelled through software projects (where
the money belongs). Many activities that we could take on globally would
cannibalize local activities and that is exactly what OSGeo does not set
out to do. (I might look into this topic personally in a blog in a few

== Outlook ==
One primary focus of the meeting was to check whether we need permanent
staff to do what we think needs to be done. After the two day meeting we
came to the conclusion that for now we will not hire permanent staff
because the work ahead will be so diverse that it is better distributed
over many shoulders and no single person could do what is needed.
Additionally we are a do-ocrazy and not centrally run and with so many
different cultures joining under the umbrella it feels impractical to
have one or a few selected individuals do work. Having said that it may
still be practical to hire staff or outsource work to professionals
(hinting at marketing, fund raising) on a temporary basis but this will
be a need that has to be formulated in the committees.

All of these decisions are bound to cause discussions and we invite
everybody to take part and collaborate to leading OSGeo in a sustainable
and meaningful way.

Best regards,
Arnulf Christl

[1] http://wiki.osgeo.org/wiki/Face_to_Face_Meeting_Seattle_2012

President, OSGeo

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