RFC: Adding some management structure, particularly for decisions about our donation account

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RFC: Adding some management structure, particularly for decisions about our donation account

Christian Stimming-4
Dear developers,

I have a proposal for adding some management structure to our project,
particularly for the handling of our project money. Currently there is a
"donation account", to which money from the "Donate!" button of the
sourceforge website is directed. This account - in case you didn't know - is a
paypal account which is managed by Derek Atkins. The account receives approx.
1000-2000 USD income donations per year. This money is used occasionally for
some hardware expenses of the gnucash.org server, and last year a holiday gift
to the core developers was paid from there. There are no further expenses
right now, especially no regular expenses.

I've discussed this privately with Derek before and I'll summarize below.. My
main request is to find a better decision and information structure of the
project. One possibility would be to create our own non-profit association, or
join an existing one such as the Software Freedom Conservancy [1] in the U.S.
or Freies Office Deutschland e.V. [2] in Germany. Going into the direction of
a non-profit will immediately give us a better decision structure, because any
non-profit has a charter which states exactly those rules.

On the other hand, the managing of the bank or paypal account itself does not
necessarily have to be linked to the existence of a non-profit organization.
Nevertheless, we might as well see that even here we don't have to reinvent
the wheel and instead accept that those questions are handled well by having a
non-profit with a charter and certain appointed posts. But this is just one
out of several potential ways for the future.

Derek replied:

> I agree with this.  I think we definitely should have a better decision
> structure.  As for information, I agree that I've been lax about taking
> the donation information and publishing it.  I'd certainly be willing to
> publish more information more often if we decided that was desired, and
> if someone (preferably not me) came up with the format and location for
> the desired information.
>
> Managing a bank account does require having someone to back it up,
> because it requires a Tax ID.  Admittedly, all the GnuCash money is in
> the PayPal account.  The bank account was only used to validate the
> paypal account.  I've tried very hard to keep them as separate as
> possible.
>
> cstimming wrote:
> > I would like to see some improvements in that situation, especially as
> > we had the committment from the PackPub publisher to donate some more
> > money to the gnucash project. So there will actually be some money
> > flow that is non- negligible, and on our side I would kindly ask to
> > find some structure that is actually able to handle this with
> > responsibility.
>
> I agree completely that we need more structure in how to handle money
> flowing into the project.
>
> I'm still willing to maintain the paypal account, and I promise to be
> more responsive if we decide to stick with what we have.

IMHO this means we can probably leave the account as-is, but start to work out
a new and durable decision structure for the management of the gnucash
donation account. I am thinking of something like a charter with a similar
structure as a usual non-profit organization: We should appoint a board (or
committee, or similarly named group of people) of 2-5 people who will then
have the mandate to decide and take action.

That board should IMHO be elected by votes from all the project members, and
it should have a defined length of a term such as 1 or 2 years. We would then
need a definition of "project member" to see who is asked to vote and who
isn't. Based on the charter of the GNOME Doundation, I've created an initial
draft for such a charter for gnucash at http://wiki.gnucash.org/wiki/Charter .
Everyone, please feel free to edit that proposal heavily.

The goal is clearly that the board will be the decision-making body about the
usage of the donation account money. This was my motivation for starting this
discussion. In the long run, such a board will of course have a number of
different tasks, where handling of the money is only one out of many, but
that's just the situation we try to improve right now.

Feel free to edit the text and to continue the discussion here. Comments?
Questions? More Ideas?

Best Regards,

Christian


[1] http://sfconservancy.org/members/services/
[2] http://www.frodev.org/
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Re: RFC: Adding some management structure, particularly for decisions about our donation account

Geert Janssens
On maandag 30 mei 2011, Christian Stimming wrote:
> IMHO this means we can probably leave the account as-is, but start to work
> out a new and durable decision structure for the management of the gnucash
> donation account. I am thinking of something like a charter with a similar
> structure as a usual non-profit organization: We should appoint a board
> (or committee, or similarly named group of people) of 2-5 people who will
> then have the mandate to decide and take action.
>
I am generally in favor of this proposal, but I do have a practical question:

You propose a charter and a committee. Would this also have legal implications
for the GnuCash project ? As far as I know a non-profit is required to keep
books and report income and pay taxes. If we form a committee will that also
imply we'll need to start keeping books and all that follows ?

> That board should IMHO be elected by votes from all the project members,
> and it should have a defined length of a term such as 1 or 2 years. We
> would then need a definition of "project member" to see who is asked to
> vote and who isn't. Based on the charter of the GNOME Foundation, I've
> created an initial draft for such a charter for gnucash at
> http://wiki.gnucash.org/wiki/Charter . Everyone, please feel free to edit
> that proposal heavily.
>
I have read the initial draft. Thanks for doing the initial effort.

The first thing that struck me is the lack of a project goal. I have inserted
a first proposal:
to provide easy to use, yet powerful and flexible tool to track bank accounts,
stocks, income and expenses for personal and small business accounting
In my opinion this definition may be way too narrow though. Items that are IMO
still missing are for example "fostering a community", "promoting the project"
and so on. But perhaps these are more related to "how to achieve the goal"
then to "what's the goal".

Other than that, I don't have much to add so far. Most of the charter appears
to be fairly balanced.

I note that there are several "edit me" markers though, some of which I don't
know why they are there. Did you leave some of them around because you had
particular questions or uncertainties in mind ? Perhaps you could add those as
well.

Geert
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Re: RFC: Adding some management structure, particularly for decisions about our donation account

Christian Stimming-4
Am Samstag, 4. Juni 2011 schrieb Geert Janssens:

> On maandag 30 mei 2011, Christian Stimming wrote:
> > IMHO this means we can probably leave the account as-is, but start to
> > work out a new and durable decision structure for the management of the
> > gnucash donation account. I am thinking of something like a charter with
> > a similar structure as a usual non-profit organization: We should
> > appoint a board (or committee, or similarly named group of people) of
> > 2-5 people who will then have the mandate to decide and take action.
>
> I am generally in favor of this proposal, but I do have a practical
> question:
>
> You propose a charter and a committee. Would this also have legal
> implications for the GnuCash project ? As far as I know a non-profit is
> required to keep books and report income and pay taxes. If we form a
> committee will that also imply we'll need to start keeping books and all
> that follows ?

No, those are two different decisions.

* If we decide on establishing some legal entity (i.e. a non-profit or a
foundation or similar), this entity will be set up in order to be able to 1.
collect tax-deductible donations; 2. buy and own things; 3. employ people.
Establishing any legal entity will require to set up a charter which in turn
will require a board (or committee) structure of some sorts. The decision
process for electing such a board and in the board itself will be laid out in
the charter.

* However, my main criticism about the current handling is that there isn't
any decision process at all. Hence, in my opinion we can already improve our
situation by *only* deciding on a decision process, but *not* (yet)
establishing a legal entity because that isn't needed. What *is* needed is
some decision structure, which will look similar to a committee structure of a
comparable legal entity, but we don't have to go all the way towards a legal
entity just to get the decision structure.

If we wanted to form a non-profit entity then indeed it will require to do
book-keeping and all this things, and this is better done by joining an
existing non-profit such as SF conservancy or Freies Office e.V.. But IMHO
this isn't needed for us.

> > That board should IMHO be elected by votes from all the project members,
> > and it should have a defined length of a term such as 1 or 2 years. We
> > would then need a definition of "project member" to see who is asked to
> > vote and who isn't. Based on the charter of the GNOME Foundation, I've
> > created an initial draft for such a charter for gnucash at
> > http://wiki.gnucash.org/wiki/Charter . Everyone, please feel free to edit
> > that proposal heavily.
>
> I have read the initial draft. Thanks for doing the initial effort.
>
> The first thing that struck me is the lack of a project goal. I have
> inserted a first proposal:
> to provide easy to use, yet powerful and flexible tool to track bank
> accounts, stocks, income and expenses for personal and small business
> accounting In my opinion this definition may be way too narrow though.
> Items that are IMO still missing are for example "fostering a community",
> "promoting the project" and so on. But perhaps these are more related to
> "how to achieve the goal" then to "what's the goal".

Right, there isn't a project goal. I agree this is a drawback. However, I
don't really see one single commonly agreed-upon goal in the activities around
this project so far, except that they all work with the same codebase. In the
community here, there are a bunch of different goals and the developers even
seem to have diverging goals at times, though this doesn't seem much of a
problem. On the other hand, maybe it is indeed possible to find a wording for
a goal which represents the majority of our individual goals. I just didn't
come up with a good solution myself so far, and this point should maybe
discussed a bit more.

> I note that there are several "edit me" markers though, some of which I
> don't know why they are there. Did you leave some of them around because
> you had particular questions or uncertainties in mind ? Perhaps you could
> add those as well.

Yes. Thanks.

Regards,

Christian
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Re: RFC: Adding some management structure, particularly for decisions about our donation account

Christian Stimming-4
In reply to this post by Christian Stimming-4
Am Montag, 30. Mai 2011 schrieb Christian Stimming:

> Derek replied:
> > I agree completely that we need more structure in how to handle money
> > flowing into the project.
> >
> > I'm still willing to maintain the paypal account, and I promise to be
> > more responsive if we decide to stick with what we have.
>
> IMHO this means we can probably leave the account as-is, but start to work
> out a new and durable decision structure for the management of the gnucash
> donation account. I am thinking of something like a charter with a similar
> structure as a usual non-profit organization: We should appoint a board
> (or committee, or similarly named group of people) of 2-5 people who will
> then have the mandate to decide and take action.

Judging from the very little reaction on this message here, it seems that
almost nobody really cares about the existence of the donation money and/or
what is being done with it. In that case we have to continue to live with the
unclear decision process about the donation account.

In particular, if I have some idea about a potential use of the account money
(such as starting our own bounty program), I guess I'll just discuss possible
uses of this money privately with Derek, then announce those here and go ahead
with the proposals unless there are strong objections from core developers.
Does that sound reasonable? Other proposals? Comments?

Best Regards,

Christian
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Re: RFC: Adding some management structure, particularly for decisions about our donation account

Geert Janssens
In reply to this post by Christian Stimming-4
On donderdag 9 juni 2011, Christian Stimming wrote:

> > You propose a charter and a committee. Would this also have legal
> > implications for the GnuCash project ? As far as I know a non-profit is
> > required to keep books and report income and pay taxes. If we form a
> > committee will that also imply we'll need to start keeping books and all
> > that follows ?
>
> No, those are two different decisions.
>
> ...
>
Ok, thanks for clearing that up. I'm all for a charter and committee with the
current state of GnuCash. And I had come to the same conclusion myself that if
we would require a legal entity it would be better to join one of the non-
profits that already exist for that purpose.

>
> Right, there isn't a project goal. I agree this is a drawback. However, I
> don't really see one single commonly agreed-upon goal in the activities
> around this project so far, except that they all work with the same
> codebase. In the community here, there are a bunch of different goals and
> the developers even seem to have diverging goals at times, though this
> doesn't seem much of a problem. On the other hand, maybe it is indeed
> possible to find a wording for a goal which represents the majority of our
> individual goals. I just didn't come up with a good solution myself so
> far, and this point should maybe discussed a bit more.
>
Seems like a good idea to me. Perhaps a first step in that direction would be
for the developers to describe why they participate in GnuCash, what their
personal vision on the project is, what their itches and passions are that
drive them to contribute,... It doesn't matter if these visions are aligned
(yet) in my opinion, what matters is that these visions are brought out,
talked about, considered,... Perhaps a wiki page would be best for that. I'll
see if I can start one in the next few days.

Geert
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Re: RFC: Adding some management structure, particularly for decisions about our donation account

Geert Janssens
In reply to this post by Christian Stimming-4
On donderdag 9 juni 2011, Christian Stimming wrote:

> Am Montag, 30. Mai 2011 schrieb Christian Stimming:
> > Derek replied:
> > > I agree completely that we need more structure in how to handle money
> > > flowing into the project.
> > >
> > > I'm still willing to maintain the paypal account, and I promise to be
> > > more responsive if we decide to stick with what we have.
> >
> > IMHO this means we can probably leave the account as-is, but start to
> > work out a new and durable decision structure for the management of the
> > gnucash donation account. I am thinking of something like a charter with
> > a similar structure as a usual non-profit organization: We should
> > appoint a board (or committee, or similarly named group of people) of
> > 2-5 people who will then have the mandate to decide and take action.
>
> Judging from the very little reaction on this message here, it seems that
> almost nobody really cares about the existence of the donation money and/or
> what is being done with it. In that case we have to continue to live with
> the unclear decision process about the donation account.
>
> In particular, if I have some idea about a potential use of the account
> money (such as starting our own bounty program), I guess I'll just discuss
> possible uses of this money privately with Derek, then announce those here
> and go ahead with the proposals unless there are strong objections from
> core developers. Does that sound reasonable? Other proposals? Comments?
>
I may not have yelled loud enough, but I'm for a more formal decision
structure ;)

So far 3 people spoke in favor of it (Derek, Christian and me) and one stated
no interest (John) via a private conversation.

I count the silent voices to agree with whatever gets decided, otherwise they
could have spoken up.

Do you think 3 people is too few to get a decision structure set up ?

Also, perhaps many people have no interest in helping to create a decision
structure, but don't oppose to having one.

Geert
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Re: RFC: Adding some management structure, particularly for decisions about our donation account

Tim M-6
I haven't been around here long, but I'll throw in a couple thoughts
since there hasn't been much commentary:

First, I like the mission statement as Geert suggested and is
currently written on the Charter page.  It isn't too long or too
short, I think if you start discussing all of the goals (community,
promotions, etc) then you are confusing Mission Statement with Goals
which are similar but not quite the same.  It is OK to have a separate
list of primary goals, IMO, but the Mission Statement should remain
short, sweet, and to the point.  Hence I think that GnuCash was well
summarized in the proposed statement.

On Thu, Jun 9, 2011 at 4:24 PM, Geert Janssens
<[hidden email]> wrote:

> On donderdag 9 juni 2011, Christian Stimming wrote:
>> Am Montag, 30. Mai 2011 schrieb Christian Stimming:
>> > Derek replied:
>> > > I agree completely that we need more structure in how to handle money
>> > > flowing into the project.
>> > >
>> > > I'm still willing to maintain the paypal account, and I promise to be
>> > > more responsive if we decide to stick with what we have.
>> >
>> > IMHO this means we can probably leave the account as-is, but start to
>> > work out a new and durable decision structure for the management of the
>> > gnucash donation account. I am thinking of something like a charter with
>> > a similar structure as a usual non-profit organization: We should
>> > appoint a board (or committee, or similarly named group of people) of
>> > 2-5 people who will then have the mandate to decide and take action.
>>
>> Judging from the very little reaction on this message here, it seems that
>> almost nobody really cares about the existence of the donation money and/or
>> what is being done with it. In that case we have to continue to live with
>> the unclear decision process about the donation account.
>>
>> In particular, if I have some idea about a potential use of the account
>> money (such as starting our own bounty program), I guess I'll just discuss
>> possible uses of this money privately with Derek, then announce those here
>> and go ahead with the proposals unless there are strong objections from
>> core developers. Does that sound reasonable? Other proposals? Comments?
>>
> I may not have yelled loud enough, but I'm for a more formal decision
> structure ;)
>
> So far 3 people spoke in favor of it (Derek, Christian and me) and one stated
> no interest (John) via a private conversation.
>
> I count the silent voices to agree with whatever gets decided, otherwise they
> could have spoken up.
>
> Do you think 3 people is too few to get a decision structure set up ?
>

I live in a condominium building of 13 units and have been a board
member for 2 1/2 years now and I have found it is very important to
have at _least_ 3 people involved in any decision structure to ensure
multiple different viewpoints are represented and that there is always
at least 1 person to break a tie where people disagree.  Given the
size and nature of the GnuCash project, 3 people is probably
appropriate and more are not needed unless it suddenly becomes a
hugely popular, widely used application with significant income being
received by the project.

> Also, perhaps many people have no interest in helping to create a decision
> structure, but don't oppose to having one.
>
> Geert
> _______________________________________________
> gnucash-devel mailing list
> [hidden email]
> https://lists.gnucash.org/mailman/listinfo/gnucash-devel
>
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Re: RFC: Adding some management structure, particularly for decisions about our donation account

Bob Brush
In reply to this post by Christian Stimming-4
> Judging from the very little reaction on this message here, it seems that
> almost nobody really cares about the existence of the donation money and/or
> what is being done with it. In that case we have to continue to live with
> the unclear decision process about the donation account.
I think the quiet response is a combination of approval for the way things are
now (fine, I'm quite sure) and avoidance of more things to do.  I feel very
strongly that things should be clarified and a strong structure should be
developed.  

I would like to see growth in the user community and a strong push for
financial support.  With Red Hat pushing the billion dollar revenue/year mark,
we have to be ready.  If the stream we are in, is growing that fast, we simply
cannot ignore the potential.  That's not the only game, and definately not the
only growth.

> In particular, if I have some idea about a potential use of the account
> money (such as starting our own bounty program), I guess I'll just discuss
> possible uses of this money privately with Derek, then announce those here
> and go ahead with the proposals unless there are strong objections from
> core developers. Does that sound reasonable? Other proposals? Comments?

I would value transparency, but understand the risk of becoming a target.

The value of a gnucash entity would be in asking for donations, if you present
the the need, the shortest path to a workable solution is to donate ... to the
gnucash organization.. this is safe,  others have done this in the past,
see... the results are of the highest quality, I know we will find support!

Please further the discussion and lay the ground work, it's time.


Bob Brush
--

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Re: RFC: Adding some management structure, particularly for decisions about our donation account

John Ralls-2
In reply to this post by Christian Stimming-4

On Jun 9, 2011, at 1:44 PM, Christian Stimming wrote:

> Am Montag, 30. Mai 2011 schrieb Christian Stimming:
>> Derek replied:
>>> I agree completely that we need more structure in how to handle money
>>> flowing into the project.
>>>
>>> I'm still willing to maintain the paypal account, and I promise to be
>>> more responsive if we decide to stick with what we have.
>>
>> IMHO this means we can probably leave the account as-is, but start to work
>> out a new and durable decision structure for the management of the gnucash
>> donation account. I am thinking of something like a charter with a similar
>> structure as a usual non-profit organization: We should appoint a board
>> (or committee, or similarly named group of people) of 2-5 people who will
>> then have the mandate to decide and take action.
>
> Judging from the very little reaction on this message here, it seems that
> almost nobody really cares about the existence of the donation money and/or
> what is being done with it. In that case we have to continue to live with the
> unclear decision process about the donation account.
>
> In particular, if I have some idea about a potential use of the account money
> (such as starting our own bounty program), I guess I'll just discuss possible
> uses of this money privately with Derek, then announce those here and go ahead
> with the proposals unless there are strong objections from core developers.
> Does that sound reasonable? Other proposals? Comments?

A bounty program isn't necessarily easy. Unless it's well defined, we run the risk of getting in a fight because we rejected somebody's submission -- or we're saddled with crappy code because we didn't.

Are there really very many experienced and proficient developers waiting in the shadows to help a FOSS project because there's a €100 bounty for implementing some new feature? Seems unlikely, somehow. There are also undoubtedly tax implications for a transaction like that: Its a tangible fee for a defined service. In the US, it depends upon who is doing the paying: If it's an individual (e.g., Derek), the payments aren't reportable. If it's an organization (whether for-profit or not, and whether incorporated or not), payments of more than $600/year to any one person must be reported, meaning that the organization would have to have a tax id... and getting a tax id might trigger the state to come looking for a business license fee... and so it goes. Makes sheltering under the wing of something like the Software Freedom Conservancy [1] look pretty attractive.

Regards,
John Ralls

[1] http://sfconservancy.org/
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Re: RFC: Adding some management structure, particularly for decisions about our donation account

Herbert Thoma-2
In reply to this post by Geert Janssens
On 09.06.2011 23:24, Geert Janssens wrote:
<...>
>> Judging from the very little reaction on this message here, it seems that
>> almost nobody really cares about the existence of the donation money and/or
>> what is being done with it. In that case we have to continue to live with
>> the unclear decision process about the donation account.
<...>

> I may not have yelled loud enough, but I'm for a more formal decision
> structure ;)
>
> So far 3 people spoke in favor of it (Derek, Christian and me) and one stated
> no interest (John) via a private conversation.
>
> I count the silent voices to agree with whatever gets decided, otherwise they
> could have spoken up.
>
> Do you think 3 people is too few to get a decision structure set up ?
>
> Also, perhaps many people have no interest in helping to create a decision
> structure, but don't oppose to having one.

Well, I did respond to Christian's message to the German list, so we are 4 people.

I am a bit hesitant to play a larger role in a potential GnuCash organization because
as Christian stated in his draft charter "GnuCash is a Meritocracy". Although I have
some merits (I have been using GnuCash since 1999 (it was called X Accountant back then)
and my first patch was accepted more than 10 years ago.), I am not, and never was, a
"core developer". I just feel that those who contribute most should have the most
influence. That group of people would obviously include Christian and Derek.

That said, and given the not too large amount of donations up to now, it would be
OK for me if Christian and Derek just decide about the money and announce it on
the list. If they feel that we need a more formal structure, I would be happy to help,
but I won't be the chairman/president/leader.

Best,
  Herbert.
--
Herbert Thoma
Dipl.-Ing., MBA
Head of Video Group
Multimedia Realtime Systems Department
Fraunhofer IIS
Am Wolfsmantel 33, 91058 Erlangen, Germany
Phone: +49-9131-776-6130
Fax:   +49-9131-776-6099
email: [hidden email]
www: http://www.iis.fhg.de/
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