Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Almighty Buck Businesses Open Source

Ask Slashdot: How To Get Open Source Projects To Take Our Money? 301

Posted by timothy
from the philip-j-fry-has-a-catchphrase-for-you dept.
New submitter wkaan writes "Last financial year, we had an underspend at work, and it was suggested and agreed that we should give some cash away — $20k to be exact — to open source projects. Four projects were selected. A management catch was that it could not appear to be a donation and it had to be for something we had notionally received in the current financial year. At that time it was early June, our financial year finishes at the end of June. The four projects were emailed using the most relevant looking contact address on their website. Often this was 'Finance' or 'Donations' contact. What do you know, none of the projects that were contacted could work out a way to accept our money. We were unable to give a cent of the twenty grand away, not even a cent. All somebody needed to do was invoice us for something (perhaps 'support' or whatever) and they'd have received $5000. Of the projects contacted, two never replied to our mail — perhaps they thought it a scam? The other two contacted couldn't work out what to invoice and just went away. Is open source too rich to need the money? Have you got a funny donation story? Better still, do you have a way this can be streamlined when we have our next underspend? The goal was not to have a funny (sad) story, but to support the projects that support our business." For those of you with open source projects for which would you would like to take donations but sometimes cannot, what complications get in the way?
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Ask Slashdot: How To Get Open Source Projects To Take Our Money?

Comments Filter:
  • by optikos (1187213) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @12:55PM (#44687733)
    Couldn't you just do it the Department of Defense way and buy a $20,000 hammer from an open-source project?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @12:55PM (#44687749)

    Your company seems to have a problem understanding what 'donate' means.

    • by Nutria (679911)

      Look beyond the obvious. It's hard, I know, but you'll learn how the world really works.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The problem is that being setup to do what the company was asking can take a lot of work. A group of developers working together to push out a project is a simple thing to organize. As soon as you start turning it into a business, you need to incorporate or form some other legal entity and that usually involves lawyers and such. Going through all that hassle for a 1-off contribution is probably not worth it.

        When contacting the organization failed, the company should have contacted the individual developers

      • Income Tax (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Roger W Moore (538166) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @02:55PM (#44689153) Journal

        Look beyond the obvious. It's hard, I know, but you'll learn how the world really works.

        Sound advice because in the real world there is something called "income tax" and if you submit an invoice saying that you provided support and in return someone gives you money for that "support" something called the government may want to have some cut of it. Of course there are ways around this, for example you might set yourself up as a non-profit organization [slashdot.org]...err or perhaps not. One thing is for certain though that invoice is likely to cause a huge pile of paperwork and require the project to spend time reading and understanding obfuscated tax laws at which point they will probably question whether they would rather skip the money and spend the time reading and understanding obfuscated code instead.

        • Re:Income Tax (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Chelloveck (14643) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @07:35PM (#44691913) Homepage

          I posed this question to my wife, who actually worked as the bookkeeper for a non-profit for a number of years. Her answer was, "There are laws against that." So yeah, I don't blame the OSS projects for not taking the money. Besides, it just sounds dodgy. Even if I was convinced it's not a scam, at best it's dishonest. At worst it's criminal fraud that will end up costing a lot more than $20k in lawyer fees.

    • by optikos (1187213) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @01:04PM (#44687855)
      No, this company probably budgeted that $20,000 for expenditure for purchasing 'X', whereas the accounting department would not permit reallocating 1) monies dedicated for purchasing 'X' into 2) an entirely different bucket of monies for donations to section-503 nonprofits. Here X is likely right-to-use software. Perhaps X might be hardware. Either way, acquisition of a durable good gets amortized over multiple years, whereas the entire donation to section-503 nonprofits hits the books immediately.
    • Why was it important to management that the money be earmark for a specific invoice”able” item?

      If you wanted to street the project to something specific, then maybe. But retroactively ? I can’t think of any specific trigger in the tax code that would require that of a donation.

      And I can’t think of any good reasons from a management viewpoint. If you want to make sure the money is spent wisely then you need to review the quality of management (or whomever decides to spend the money)

      • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @01:37PM (#44688273) Homepage

        Why was it important to management that the money be earmark for a specific invoiceâableâ item?

        Likely because of how companies do their accounting.

        You've got your capital budget, your operating budget, approved projects, and who knows what else (not an accountant).

        The company trying to make the 'donation' needed to keep it within the same bucket and needed the potential recipients to give them an invoice.

        In this case, it was "we'd like to 'give' you money, but it needs to look like on your side like you billed us for something". And generally when someone needs you to account for something in a special way, you might need to ask if you can (or should) actually do that without causing yourself problems.

        And if I'm a charity and someone says "we'd like to donate, but can you make it look like you sold us a car instead" -- my first impulse is going to be a little wary of that deal. Because, it's no longer a donation, it's money being disguised as something else, and the recipient potentially gets themselves into legal trouble by trying to do that.

        So, you try calling the Red Cross and say you'd like to donate $1 million, but they need to make it look like they sold you an island you could get the same problem. They didn't sell you an island, and as much as that $1 million might be shiny, needing to stay strictly within the rules means you might just have to say "if you want to donate $1 million, awesome, but we can't do magic accounting to make it look like something else".

      • Why was it important to management that the money be earmark for a specific invoice”able” item?

        If you wanted to street the project to something specific, then maybe. But retroactively ? I can’t think of any specific trigger in the tax code that would require that of a donation.

        And I can’t think of any good reasons from a management viewpoint. If you want to make sure the money is spent wisely then you need to review the quality of management (or whomever decides to spend the money) not on a particular purchase. (example, the management may have done a very good job in choosing which 3D printer to purchase, but if it is a software project and does need a 3D printer it is a waste )

        This just seems weird. If I were working at a charity and received this I am not sure how I would respond.

        Good point.

        I ran into similar problems in the corporate world where I wanted to buy products, but accounting needed an invoice and the vendor wasn't set up to deal with invoices. It was rather awkward.

        More than that, however, you can you be a "non-profit organization" while invoicing? An invoice implies that you are demanding to be paid, not accepting a donation. Once you're demanding payment, you would seem to have dropped one of the primary characteristics of a charitable organization.

        And then, of course,

        • by alexander_686 (957440) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @02:05PM (#44688619)

          Well, the invoice part is not that odd – non-profits do it all of the time. When they buy something they get a invoice. When they sell something they generate a invoice. And it is not odd for non-profits to sell stuff. For example my local botanical garden, which is non-profit, will send invoice you if you hold a wedding on the grounds.

          When you make a donation you should get a receipt – proof for the IRS.

          When you donate you might be able to specify a very specific project. Real life example – “Richard Johnson Memorial Urinal. “ (I hope he had a sense of humor)

          You might be able to demand a review of the accounting for a project. This is generally done for people who have made large donations and will likely make more donations if they know they money is well spent. Heck, sometimes they hire outside auditors.

          However, I have never heard of a donator asking for a specific invoice. In my example, the plumber’s bill.

    • by wiredlogic (135348) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @02:24PM (#44688819)

      Basically they don't want their departmental budget slashed by $20K next year so they have to spend all of this years money.

      Management 101: You look bad if you spend less than you planned.

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      Donate means to give away receiving nothing in return. Many (most?) companies have written policies banning that practice (it's done *only* by the board, and they support the pet projects of each other's wives). But a poor purchase up to a manager's signatory level is easy, and rarely, if ever, audited. $20k for a hammer is fine. It's an invoice. $20k donation? Nope, that triggers all sorts of tax law and accounting issues.

      Your inability to understand business accounting doesn't make the problem tr
  • Seems legit (Score:5, Funny)

    by stewsters (1406737) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @12:57PM (#44687765)
    Deer project owner,

    Our corporation has too much money. Please send details of how give you $500 Dollars US$ without donating.

    -Prince of Nigeria
  • Win a chance to win 20,000$ Send us 500$ by Western Union now!

  • by Narcocide (102829) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @12:58PM (#44687789) Homepage

    Seriously though, the requirement that it can't look like a donation is pretty limiting. Most open source projects are ONLY prepared to accept donations under the exact same US tax laws your company is trying to dodge, and the ones left over (especially the ones that haven't yet attained actual status as a scientific non-profit) are almost certain to look at your proposal for exactly as long as it takes to drag&drop it into the spam/phishing/blacklisted folder.

    • by damacus (827187) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @01:14PM (#44688015) Homepage

      "Dodging" tax laws has a negative connotation. Tax laws related to donations *benefit* companies generally as write-offs. I think your post was unfair and presumptuous as to the original poster's intentions.

      I don't think the original poster's intentions / considerations had anything to do with tax laws and instead are directly relevant to financial budgets, hinted at by the "underspend" part. Budgets are different from a wallet or general corporate account. You don't want to get into dealings with the administration on misappropriation of budgeted funds.

      As far as misappropriations are concerned: if your underspend is on a 'services' or 'software' category, and you use a lot of open source software, it isn't necessarily a misappropriation of funds (and the spirit of the account) to help ensure the projects on which your company depends stay in good health. The groups could've sold a $5,000 consultation or Support Meeting and just talked about how the org. used the software in question and had a chance to present ideas to them. And then at the end of the call or meeting, the project is $5K richer.

      TL;DR large organizations that may have money to spend sometimes need some flexibility.

  • by dirk (87083) <dirk@one.net> on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @12:59PM (#44687801) Homepage

    Part of the issue was you requesting an invoice for something they never provided for you. If they issue you an invoice for $5000 for something, there are legal ramification that go along with that. You could then claim that you never received the item/services and sue. They may have to set up a separate business entity to handle this business and pay a whole different set of taxes on it because they currently are not set up as a business that provides services/items. If you want to donate, just donate. It is silly to try and get them to jump through these hoops for your "donation" so your company can claim it isn't a donation.

    • by Qwertie (797303)
      Wouldn't it be legit if you ask the open-source projects to do something for you? Select some feature(s) or bug fix(es) you'd like in a future version, and pay the lead developers to do it for you. Or, some open source projects have lousy manuals--pay them to improve their documentation.

      It's not illegal to pay in advance, is it? Just write the contract in advance.
      • It would, but if the project is in an early phase they might not even be selling support plans yet. If that's the case they don't have the sales and tax handling infrastructure set up to deal with it.

      • Generally yes - Which is what makes the retroactive thing from management so weird.

        As the specific issue you bring up there are certain exceptions. If the company gets something specific back from the “donation” that part does not count. i.e. If you donated $5,000 and they gave you a tote bag (retail value $5) or custom reports for your firm (retail value $5,000) you would need to reduce the amount tax purposes. (And yes, lots of subjective loophole stuff here.)

  • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @12:59PM (#44687805) Homepage Journal
    So you wanted to give money away, fine. But you then asked the project to lie about it and potentially put themselves at risk for fraud by asking them to make up some sort of invoice for a service that they weren't prepared to provide, like "support".

    Also, the fact that many open source projects are basically volunteer efforts means that they aren't really setup to pay people for their work. They would have to work out the taxes and it could end up being a relatively huge amount of effort for a fairly small payoff ($5,000 covers a developer for maybe a month).

    That said, there are some big projects that should have been able to figure out something. Apache for instance has their own foundation. So does X (although they apparently aren't very good at doing taxes), Mozilla, and some others. However, none of them are likely to want to talk to you once you start prattling on about fake invoices. If you want to donate, just donate. That way you can write it off of your taxes as well. If management doesn't like that, then that's their problem. You shouldn't have to do something shady and possibly illegal to support open source.
    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      Why couldn't they just give the projects the money in exchange for actual future services?
      It's not uncommon for open source projects to recieve money in order to be able to implement a particular feature, write documentation, provide support, etc.

      Perhaps this company could have done a small "{your-company-name-here} Summer Of Code", where summer interns would built code for the open source projects you wanted to support. $20k ought to pay for quite some code. The Open Source project would probably be happie

    • by dj245 (732906)

      So you wanted to give money away, fine. But you then asked the project to lie about it and potentially put themselves at risk for fraud by asking them to make up some sort of invoice for a service that they weren't prepared to provide, like "support". Also, the fact that many open source projects are basically volunteer efforts means that they aren't really setup to pay people for their work. They would have to work out the taxes and it could end up being a relatively huge amount of effort for a fairly small payoff ($5,000 covers a developer for maybe a month). That said, there are some big projects that should have been able to figure out something. Apache for instance has their own foundation. So does X (although they apparently aren't very good at doing taxes), Mozilla, and some others. However, none of them are likely to want to talk to you once you start prattling on about fake invoices. If you want to donate, just donate. That way you can write it off of your taxes as well. If management doesn't like that, then that's their problem. You shouldn't have to do something shady and possibly illegal to support open source.

      Perhaps the company phrased things the wrong way, or didn't think of the project's situation. If they had Function X on their wishlist for Software Y, why can't they write a check for $5000 for a developer of the project to work on that issue? Perhaps the project could estimate that creating such a function and testing it would take approximately 120 man-hours (for example), and invoice accordingly. Isn't that a completely legitimate use of a 1099 contractor? I am not entirely familiar with 1099 employee

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      Also, the fact that many open source projects are basically volunteer efforts means that they aren't really setup to pay people for their work. They would have to work out the taxes and it could end up being a relatively huge amount of effort for a fairly small payoff ($5,000 covers a developer for maybe a month).

      This is probably the biggest problem... taxes and logistics of distributing the money. Someone has to be approved by all of the co-developers to accept the money on their behalf, pay taxes and distribute the proceeds equitably (how? 1099? That's even more paperwork). If there are 10 regular developers, that's $500 each, minus taxes, so around $300. Probably not worth the effort or political problems "Hey, Developer X contributed twice as many lines of code as Developer Y. So X should get more money than Y.

  • Non Profits (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    You can give a non-profit a donation but I don't think you can pay them for services, because then they aren't a non-profit. If there is an umbrella org, ie Apache, become a corporate member instead.

    • Re:Non Profits (Score:4, Informative)

      by omnichad (1198475) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @02:06PM (#44688627) Homepage

      The Girl Scout Cookies I bought disagree with you. Yes, I know those are goods and not services, but a car wash fundraiser would fit. The question of whether you are non-profit has everything to do with what happens to surplus proceeds.

  • by guruevi (827432) <<evi> <at> <smokingcube.be>> on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @01:03PM (#44687843) Homepage

    Open Source projects are often leader-less, don't have a corporation attached or anyone really working for them and (also) often not-for-profits.

    Especially in the US you can't just accept $5k from someone without major tax hurdles. There has to be a service delivered (which is apparently what your company wants) and you can't just give money from your company without getting something of equal value in return (that would be too easy a way to syphon out money) and at the end of the year you have to indicate this on your taxes as well (which costs easy another $300 at the tax-preparer especially if it is out-of-state -- I used to do independent contract work in three states, at the end of the year I spent $1000 at HR-Block to figure out all the paperwork for local/state/federal taxes and the permutations of deductions between the 7 governments)

    Now, you could've gone to one of your favorite open source projects and said: I want feature x - here is $5k for whatever freelance developer wants to take it on, that would've worked. I am always available to work on certain projects...

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Now, you could've gone to one of your favorite open source projects and said: I want feature x - here is $5k for whatever freelance developer wants to take it on, that would've worked. I am always available to work on certain projects...

      Well yes but it'd be silly to make it just random windfall for one developer (unless there is only one main developer, but I'm assuming it's a bit bigger than that), but if they have some sort of organization set up and it can't be a donation (corporate policy, whatever) then I'd suggest that with a twist, basically pick a small feature or one that was going to be in the next release anyway, work is "donated" to the organization and the organization bills them $5000 for custom development. As long as it is

    • Agreed. I just spent the morning finishing up (I hope...) working out a contract between a user (corporation) and an open source project's authors to get some fixes/enhancements done that they need, but are going to go out publicly (no core competency concerns there).

      So, um, yeah, gimme call next time - maybe you just need somebody who will manage the process. It's probably taken me 12 hours so far to get this setup, so it's not simply a matter of shooting off an e-mail and a check. There are concerns ab

  • IRS (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    "For those of you with open source projects for which would you would like to take donations but sometimes cannot, what complications get in the way?"

    Why? Because IRS, that's why.

    • by St.Creed (853824)

      That is, if you have an OS project that is located in the US, mostly.

      Otherwise you potentially have to deal with several foreign tax services. Oh joy. I'm pretty sure that $5000 is not enough to cover the hassle and aggravation you would get from trying to divide it over several contributors in several different countries with different tax laws.

  • tax fraud (Score:4, Informative)

    by duckintheface (710137) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @01:05PM (#44687881)
    These projects were most likely tax exempt 501(c)3 entities. They are set up to receive donations and not to provide for-profit services. In asking them to invoice you for serivces that were not rendered, you were asking them to commit tax fraud. Your management knows this but they wanted to write off the donation as a business expense. Just make the donation and stop trying to game the system. This is how tax exempt organizations lose their tax exempt status. This is also how people go to jail.
    • Re:tax fraud (Score:5, Informative)

      by PatHMV (701344) <post@patrickmartin.com> on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @04:41PM (#44690379) Homepage

      There is an amazing lack of understanding of what being a 501(c)(3) non-profit means. Non-profits most certainly can (and regularly do) invoice for services rendered. They are not "non-revenue" corporations, simply non-profit.

      There is no fraud involved if a non-profit performs services in return for an agreed fee, or contracts to perform those services in the future in return for a fee either paid up front or after the services have been rendered.

      The only thing the non-profit cannot do is take the surplus funds over and above their expenses at the end of the year and distribute those as dividends or ownership distributions to its "shareholders" or board members.

      Now, if the non-profit has what's called "unrelated business income," that is income generated from activities it conducts that are not really connected, other than financially, with its mission, then it may have to pay taxes on those (for example, if a non-profit devoted to supporting a university buys commercial property as an investment, and leases that property out to businesses, that rental income may be "unrelated business income"). But that does not destroy their non-profit status for the rest of the funds they receive.

      This is not, of course, definitive tax advice, but your post is about the 10th in this thread I've seen that has the very, very, very wrong idea that being a 501(c)(3) means you can't charge for services provided. They can, and they do all the time.

  • Hire a developer. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @01:06PM (#44687905)

    Spend the 20k to hire a developer which you pay to contribute code to these projects.

  • Before trying to throw $5000 at someone, you should perhaps try to give them more than a month's advance notice. Then they can or can be prepared to give you some actual service.

    If that still doesn't work for you, then try something like a bounty. Offer them $5000 for a bugfix or a new feature. If it would have to be claimed by the end of June, make it about fixing some typos or some other easy to accomplish task.
  • by beebware (149208) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @01:09PM (#44687937) Homepage
    Did you consider buying a Varnish Moral Licence [freebsd.dk] ?
    • The first useful and informative comment in the thread gets no attention. This makes me think that OP's situation is not as unique or as stupid as most Slashdotters are making it out to be.
  • nt (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shentino (1139071) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @01:10PM (#44687955)

    Not surprised.

    If you have to do something underhanded like "A management catch was that it could not appear to be a donation and it had to be for something we had notionally received in the current financial year" then you're going to run into trouble.

    My guess? Your company wanted some good publicity but couldn't figure out a way to satisfy its own beancounters.

    The fault lies with your company, not the open source projects who refuse to fudge things to make the numbers easier for your beancounters to digest.

  • Most open source projects aren't setup as an actual licensed company, and many aren't legally able to do business as a result. Which is fine because setting up a donation button works well enough for their needs.

    There is also the problem with most of the people running the open source projects being techs, and not business people. For them, the creating and sending out an invoice for "support" and writing up the contract for a "client" to sign (to protect themselves in this situation) is pretty arcane.

    And

  • Tell them you are willing to pay $5K for a fully-licensed copy shipped to your business address. Somebody at the project burns you a DVD or loads a $5 usb flash drive with the latest release and ships it. That way you get something tangible and they get the money with a postal receipt in case the project needs to prove they held up their end.

    I am not a corporate auditor but I don't think that would scenario would create any problems.

    • Maybe the project could treat it for tax purposes as one of those things where donors get something of value in return, which I believe is legal for 501(c)3s (DO NOT TAKE MY WORD FOR IT).

      • by systemeng (998953)
        There a re a lot of 501c3 organizations including universities that do a lot of work for profit.
    • by Krishnoid (984597) *
      Plus, there's precedent [fsf.org] for this. Oddly, I couldn't find links to buy software on CD or DVD, though.
    • by lgw (121541)

      So now they owe sales tax, and business income tax. Are they set up to pay both already?

      The tax situation is straightforward for gifts (which are not donations and thus not tax deductible for the giver). If you aren't set up as a company or a non-profit, that's really the only practical choice.

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @01:12PM (#44687993) Homepage

    All somebody needed to do was invoice us for something (perhaps 'support' or whatever) and they'd have received $5000

    You mean, commit fraud?

    Part of the problem sounds like your company needed it to look a certain way for accounting, and if the projects you contacted found themselves "how do we do that and keep it above board", maybe that was your problem.

    But if someone giving out free software invoiced you for $5k for something they didn't ever actually sell you, that might put them into a questionable situation.

    On the surface, it sounds like your "management catch" might have been worded in such a way as it would require very creative accounting on their end to satisfy your requirements for your gift. And that might have scared them off -- because when someone says "hey, we want to make a donation, but all you need to do it make it look like we bought something" can definitely make people worry if they're not going to get screwed in this deal.

    • by chill (34294)

      That isn't how I read it. I read it like management said "to make it legit, you have to pick one of the FOSS projects that we are using software from this year. How about, say...CloneZilla?" If they downloaded a new revision or patch release (2.1.2 from 2.0, say), then it most certainly could be legitimately labeled "support".

      I see the problems on both ends. It isn't simple to fix.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        That isn't how I read it. I read it like management said "to make it legit, you have to pick one of the FOSS projects that we are using software from this year. How about, say...CloneZilla?"

        It's possible, but their wording made it sounds a little dubious:

        A management catch was that it could not appear to be a donation and it had to be for something we had notionally received in the current financial year. ... All somebody needed to do was invoice us for something (perhaps 'support' or whatever) and they'd h

  • by tiberus (258517) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @01:12PM (#44687995)

    Problem #1: Placebo Corp has funds that you would like to nominally give away but, for some strange reason (e.g. FSO is addicted to counting the wrong kind of beans, CEO thinks donating is a bad word. etc, etc, etc.) you are not able to actually give money away.

    Problem #2: Open Source projects accept actual donations. Sending you an invoice would very likely change their financial and/or legal status, especially, when said invoice is for services they didn't provide or for a product they don't sell.

    While I can't comprehend why Placebo Corp wants to but can't give away money, I do have a vague grasp of why an Open Source project won't invoice you. The Project is unlikely to have anyone who can easily deal with invoicing etc. especially in the time frame you are taking about. The simplest solution would be to solve the problem on your end and figure out a way for you company to actually make a donation.

    Corporate giving, it's been know to happen!

    • by bws111 (1216812)

      I can offer a guess as to #1. Most likely Placebo Corp has a corporate donations policy, and corporate decides when and who to give donations to. However, there is some project manager who begged and pleaded for a budget of $X and didn't spend it all. Now, he wants to get rid of the 'excess' money because he is afraid next years budget will be lowered because he didn't spend all of this years. So, this manager, and apparently his flunkies, are trying to commit fraud against their company by claiming the

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @01:14PM (#44688019)

    ... for being bearded hippies, and then settle out of court

  • You can fund developers individually via Gittip [gittip.com].

    WHAT IS GITTIP?

    Gittip is a way to give small weekly cash gifts to people you love and are inspired by.
    Gifts are weekly. The intention is for people to depend on money received through Gittip in order to pay their bills, and bills are recurring.
    Gifts come with no strings attached. You don't know exactly where your gifts come from, and the maximum gift from one person to another is $100 per week.
    Gifts are public. The total amount you give and the total amount yo

    • Its only a matter of time before the IRS starts nosing around about crowdsourcing money. After about a decade it was decided that aution sites like Ebay and Amazon has to issue 1099-Ks for more than 200 transactions or 20K cash flow during the year. Then it is up to the recipeint to minimize the net income this represents on a tax return. I predict they'll do this for crowdsourcing too.

      Better Gittip should have said "talk to tax accountant".
  • You may pay me to find the open source project that you are looking for. I will invoice you for your books and donate the proceeds to http://www.gofundme.com/help-sherry [gofundme.com] That should clear up the accounting. Thank you.
  • by aflyingcat (2611763) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @01:19PM (#44688083)
    A few years back, I was in a similar situation; our group wanted to give some money to a couple open source projects that we used and wanted to thank. Donation was the first thing that came to my mind, too. Unfortunately, that could not be justified at the company level. The financial types who ran the company at that point would not accept the company doing a donation for no direct return. They also insisted it be buying "something". That part wouldn't have been too bad, I could come up with something that was pretty close (but not exactly) what the open source projects already had (something like a 'golden master' CDROM including the source control archives) that they could charge us for; it seemed like a good solution; they'd get some money, we'd (hopefully) encourage them to keep improving the project. The sticking point turned out to be that our company management (either legal, finance, or both, I don't remember at this point) insisted on doing up a full contract. Based on our standard contract. That eventually killed the deal. The open source project didn't have a staff lawyer to review and revise the contract, our company lawyers really didn't want to spend the time modifying the contract into something that made sense for this situation; so they made a couple half-assed attempts on modifying the contract, but never got something that anyone on the open source projects would (or should) sign. So the donation really went nowhere. (I did what I could on the department level to thank the open source projects; but it was a lot less than it would have been if the company had gotten behind the effort)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @01:20PM (#44688091)

    Where is this BS that a 501(c)(3) cannot bill or send invoices? They are not donation only entities.

    As long as the billed service is for volunteered work/services and the 'profit' goes to furthering the 'cause' its COMPLETELY ACCEPTABLE to send an invoice.

    • by Todd Knarr (15451)

      Yes, but what do they bill for? The project didn't do any work or provide any services, so what do you create an invoice for that isn't completely fictitious? Bear in mind that fabricating an invoice can result in falsified financial records, which can cost you your 501(c)(3) status and get you in trouble with the IRS. That, I think, is the main problem: the business wants a fake invoice that they can "pay" to cover up the fact that they're donating, and the project isn't set up to do that.

      • by damacus (827187)

        Ever been to Kickstarter?

        You can sell a poster for $500.

        Sell a meeting with lead developers (to discuss project direction, feature requests.. whatever) for $2,500.

        Get creative.

    • by damacus (827187)

      Absolutely. Quoting Wikipedia, "While not-for-profit organizations are permitted to generate surplus revenues, they must be retained by the organization for its self-preservation, expansion, or plans." ... "The extent to which an NPO can generate surplus revenues may be constrained or use of surplus revenues may be restricted."

  • As others have mentioned there are a lot of legal and tax reasons they could not accept the "donation".

    However for future reference you could always go down the Corporate Sponsorship route. Many projects accept these and are also a write-off on your companies taxes (eg. advertising).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What a bunch of nerds we are, we're looking up "money laundering" in a dictionary.

  • OS projects are volunteer efforts that man hours more than cash. Cash might help buy man hours but it might not. Choosing 4 Kickstarter projects, on the other hand, is a better bet. Kickstarter projects deliver a product and need cash for development. It's not a donation.
  • Buy a MariaDB support contract. [montyprogram.com] If your business uses databases, this gets you access to the MariaDB developers. It might help you get rid of some expensive Oracle databases.

  • Seriously though, a open source is a loose collection of people who have come together to work on a project/software, no real formal structure.
  • The receiving entity would have to be set up as a non-profit to avoid taxes, which not be feasible or worth the trouble. A small project and donation could be set up as a personal 1099 business. The business could write off a lot of expenses before the rest of the donation became income to the recipient.

    Consultants and small partnerships do this all the time. And there is lots of web and book literature on how to do this.
  • Open Source projects are not looking to scam the government, and lose their non-profit status or whatever credibility they previously had. They are not willing to draw up fake bills of sale, just to save your company a little money.

    Why would you ever admit publicly your underhanded dealings, and tax scams?

  • FOSS should have an org. that acts as a middleman for donations, tax issues, and foundation compliance. Make a donation to the org (hereafter MITM) on behalf of the software project, similar to Kickstarter but without the projects needing to join or setup a page. MITM can let accounts build-up until it's worth dealing with, find and verify the contributors, then help them with taxes or setting-up a foundation. MITM could also have donation clauses that let them change donations from dead projects to other s

  • Walk down a respectable street and stop respectable looking people and try to make them take a $20 bill from you. Most will run the other way.

    Now, if ou did that in a poor neighborhood or a college campus area...results might be different.

  • also (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shentino (1139071) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @02:17PM (#44688725)

    The complications are from your own company.

    Don't blame the open source project for your own beancounters and managers making things difficult to donate.

    You are the one making them jump through hoops, not the other way around.

  • I figure most are hardened to the Internet now, get rich quick schemes, and if if it seems too good....
    all get a quick glance then removed.

    But haven't seen what was sent to the developers, that would of been an important item to of linked to.

  • The open source company I work for has a nice donation page. Problem is, for obvious reasons (obvious for informed Americans, anyway) donations made to us are not tax deductible because we cannot become a 501c3.

  • by Joining Yet Again (2992179) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @02:37PM (#44688959)

    So, some stranger calls you up and tells you that they're happy to give you money, but you must accept it in a very peculiar way. Specifically, you must accept it in a somewhat dishonest way, contrived merely so the money can be passed to you.

    Scam scam scam scam scam. Worse, it sounds like you're being asked to involve yourself in fraud or theft.

    Frankly, I'm not even convinced that you're telling the truth right now.

    If you have stupid processes, fix your damn processes. If you think should pay open source projects, then put things in place so you can cut them a cheque and be done with it. Otherwise, the money doesn't just get burnt - it goes back into the company to be spent on other things. Your choice.

  • by JerryLove (1158461) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @02:47PM (#44689067)

    I will invoce your company for "transaction services" and then donate the bulk of the funds to the open-source projects of your choice. Feel free to contact me to do so :)

  • by geoskd (321194) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @03:22PM (#44689471)

    Your best bet for how to support a FOSS project like that is to hire an intern for 6 months to write code / debug / whatever for the project. Take your favorite OSS project, and think of what features would be useful for it to have, and take on an intern to implement it for you. The resulting patches could then be submitted for mainline inclusion, and thereby benefit everyone. Everyone wins. You get even better software tools, the project gets badly needed programmer resources, and you have managed to spend your budget in a way that doesn't set off every alarm bell from your CFO to the IRS. Plus you have helped to employ one more American in need of work.

  • There are a few opensource companies (collabora, fluendo, yorba) that offer things like consulting, or commissioned work. you might have to pay them to do an actual task though.

    would a hardware or hosting donation work? could you buy a server and ship it to opensource project. could you set up a mirror server for one (or more) linux distros on you network.

    corporate membership. this has been mentioned already by a few folk.

    licensing. got any centos servers, you could swap them to RHEL. maybe put RHEL onto so

  • by timdaly (539918) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @04:58PM (#44690529)
    I have tried for years to find a funding source for Axiom, an open source computer algebra project. I checked with the NSF, DARPA, and several companies.

    If I were at a University there would be no problem. I could submit a grant proposal, they send the money to the Provost, he sends it to me, and HE ACCOUNTS FOR IT. The snag in trying to fund open source appears, in every case, that there needs to be trusted accounting. So, the problem is simple. We need a firm whose job it is to receive, disburse, and ACCOUNT FOR, grants and donations.

    That seems simple enough. Set up a small shop (1 person?) who is paid to manage funds, handle taxes, handle banking, handle receipts and invoices. How hard can this be, right?

    IBM contributes to open source through a Linux foundation. I contacted the Linux foundation about setting up an accountant or two to handle the accounting. They never replied. I contacted several people I know at IBM to "donate accounting services" or fund an open source accounting person. They said it was not possible.

    The money would be useful to pay for things like servers (currently costing me about $3000 per year out of my pocket), or fund a conference, or fund developers to attend the usual conferences. It would not be to pay developers.

    Anyway, I have tried to fund this project for nearly 12 years and have yet to be successful. If you can figure out a way to handle the accounting, I'm all ears. Send your ideas to daly at axiom-developer.org

    Tim Daly

Lisp Users: Due to the holiday next Monday, there will be no garbage collection.

Working...