501c3 Application: Questions from IRS, September 2012

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On September 14, 2012, OSGeo Received a letter with questions from the IRS relating to its 501c3 application.

The letter is available here: http://svn.osgeo.org/osgeo/board/irs_docs/OSGeo-IRS-Letter-20120914.pdf

This page is to work on the response to those questions.


1. On September 11, 2012, Mr David Atkin, your authorized representative, indicated that you are willing to move some of your non-educational activities to a taxable subsidiary. Please indicate which activities you will retain.

  • The board decided on 2012-11-15 to drop the sponsorship program which was the main issue driving the need for a taxable subsidiary. This means that we will NOT create a taxable subsidiary and our plan is to stick with a single 501(c)(3) entity after dropping the Project Sponsorship Program.

Here is our response with the list of activities that we plan to retain (reviewed with David who thinks they should all be acceptable, pending minor adjustments for things like renaming the Marketing committee, see below):

  • OSGeo is a federation of software projects run by communities of volunteers who join their efforts for a common goal, so it act as an umbrella organization for those projects to coordinate collaboration between projects and with educational organizations around the world. OSGeo's main activities include:
    • Education and Curriculum Project: http://www.osgeo.org/education
    • FOSS4G Conference and Workshops: http://foss4g.org/
    • Incubator: http://www.osgeo.org/incubator All software projects go through this thorough review before being admitted, to confirm that they meet OSGeo's standards (too long to list here), including the fact that the project is related to our field, that it has an open and active community of users and developers, and that it is appropriate for use in education and by the geospatial industry in general.
    • Copyright ownership for some projects.
    • System Administration Committee: hosting of the member project's web site, source code repositories, issue trackers, mailing list, forums, etc.
    • Outreach Committee http://wiki.osgeo.org/wiki/Marketing_Committee (currently known as "Marketing committee" but would be better perceived if renamed as "Outreach Committee" in a non-profit context)
    • Collaboration agreements (MoUs) with educational organizations, OSGeo labs, etc: http://wiki.osgeo.org/wiki/Category:MoU


2. The funds from your Project Sponsorships are used to fund specific software projects which will be moved into your taxable subsidiary. Since an exempt organization cannot use its funds to support the activities of its taxable subsidiary, you may wish to move this type of support to your taxable subsidiary.

  • We will drop the project sponsorship program completely.


3. Do you plan to move your trademarks and copyrights to your taxable subsidiary?

  • No.

4. Your website indicates that you provide "financial, organizational and legal support to the broader open source geospatial community... OSGeo serves as an outreach and advocacy organization for the open source geospatial community, and provides a common forum and shared infrastructure for improving cross-project collaboration." Please explain how these activities further a purpose described in section 501(c)(3) of the Code.

  • OSGeo is a federation of software projects run by communities of volunteers who join their efforts for a common goal. The activities listed above help them realize their educational mission by providing a level of confidence in the software which is demonstrated by the recognition of OSGeo in the geomatics industry in general. For instance, this level of confidence and OSGeo's recognition by the industry makes it easier for schools, universities, etc to justify their choice to use OSGeo software in their programs to educate their students. At the end of the day, students want jobs, and they want to know that the software that was used to train them is recognized by the industry that they want to work in.
  • David also said something about there being "no improper private benefit" related to those activities... we'll let him elaborate on that.

5. Your website states that you provide support for the use of OSGeo software in education via curriculum development, outreach and support. Please explain what this entails.

  • TODO
  • Ref to MOUs?

6. Your website refers to both the OSGeo Educational Content Inventory and the OSGeo Education and Curriculum Project. Are these separate programs? Please explain.

  • TODO

7. With respect to the inventory and project referred above, is all of the information contributed by volunteers? Do you monitor the content contributed or take other actions to monitor and maintain the inventory and/or project? Please explain.

  • TODO

8. The OSGeo Educational Content Inventory contains educational material. Is the content of the inventory limited to materials related to the software you sponsor or is it pertinent to other geospatial software? Please explain.

  • TODO

9. You state that you have an online training material database that students can use to find material for self-study. Is this the material that has been contributed to the OSGeo Educational Content inventory? If not, please explain.

  • TODO

10. Please provide a description of your last FOSS4G conference. This should include the length of the conference, the number of lectures, workshops, etc, the topics covered and the number of individuals attending.

  • TODO

11. How do you make upcoming conferences known to the public?

  • The location of the yearly FOSS4G conference is decided through an open call for proposals and selection process where bids by local groups around the world are submitted and evaluated by the Conference Committee. The bids are public and the decision is usually made and announced by the committee between 1 and 2 years before the conference date.
  • A website is created for each year's conference under the foss4g.org domain, e.g. http://2011.foss4g.org/
  • Announcements about the conference dates, location, and various deadlines (call for proposals, registration period, etc.) are sent from time to time on the general "OSGeo-Discuss" mailing list and on several project discussion forums or mailing lists.
  • Links to the conference website are placed on the main osgeo.org website and on OSGeo software project websites.
  • Community members and partner organizations are encouraged to spread the word through their own website, blogs, network of contacts, social networks, etc.
  • Advertizement through targeted publications (magazines, journals, website ads) may also be published if appropriate (this item is part of the strategy decided by the local organizing committee and may change from year to year)

12. Please provide a copy of your most recent OSGeo Journal.

  • TODO

13. Is your journal published semi-annually or annually?

  • On average semi-annually but no less frequently than annually.

14. Are your annual report and your OSGeo Journal the same publication? If not, please provide a copy of your annual report.

  • Yes. Some volumes of the OSGeo Journal are the annual report (Volume 4, 5, 7, 9, and 11 are annual reports). Not all Journal volumes are annual reports.

15. Are you willing to accept exemption under section 501(c)(3) effective the day you move certain of your activities into your taxable subsidiary? If so, please provide a statement to this effect.

  • David recommended that we do not seek retroactive exemption for past years as this would be harder to get, unless we have a very good reason to do so (and we don't). So here comes our statement:
  • OSGeo is willing to accept exemption under section 501(c)(3) effective the day that we will officially cancel our Project Sponsorship program.

16. If you plan to accept prospective exemption from the time you move certain of your activities into a taxable subsidiary, please furnish financial statements for 2011 and projected financial statements for 2012. If you are seeking exemption from the date you filed your application, please submit financial statements for 2008-2011 and projected financial statements for 2012.

  • TODO: 2011 financial statement
  • TODO: 2012 projected financial statement