Published in the president's column of the Winter 2004 edition of RMOUG SQL>Update. As there is no electronic copies available online prior to 2009, I have pulled this from my email records.
In life, two things are inevitable:
- People who cannot count
While death and people who cannot count are surely inevitable, taxes may be optional, if you are a non-profit organization.
Currently, RMOUG is a “not-for-profit” Colorado corporation, which is essentially a regular corporation from a taxation perspective. It is not a non-profit corporation. In other words, at the end of each fiscal year (i.e. 31-May), RMOUG pays taxes on any money that it holds that it didn’t hold the previous 31-May, much like the rest of us.
Most people are surprised that RMOUG is not a non-profit organization. Back in the mid-1990s, RMOUG looked into applying for non-profit status, but the verdict at that time was that it could not be considered a “non-profit” or “charitable” organization, mainly because of the affiliation to Oracle Corporation, in addition to other activities which tended to generate profit, such as the Training Days conference. And so, RMOUG was incorporated as a “not-for-profit” corporation.
This is a shame. RMOUG is actually run as a non-profit organization. We have an educational mission, to maximize knowledge and use of Oracle and related technology (online at “http://www.rmoug.org/about”). None of the officers of the organization takes any compensation whatsoever. Following our recent hiring of a new accountant, our accounting books are organized to segregate “direct” or value-added activities (i.e. Training Days, etc) from “indirect” or “organizational overhead” activities (i.e. general meetings, newsletter, board meetings, etc), so that the overall effectiveness of the organization can be measured. None of RMOUG’s contractors makes more than $50,000/year in compensation (a threshold specified on IRS forms for non-profits).
But the implications of our current lack of “non-profit” status goes further. RMOUG is paying taxes on membership dues, Training Days registration fees, and money provided by sponsoring companies. Obviously, this is all money that has already been taxed several times; taxing that money again when RMOUG has not generated any profit for anybody is unfortunate. But the biggest problem with our current “not-for-profit” (but taxable) status is that we are in approximately the same taxation category at government entities like the US government. As a result, vendors are not permitted to donate products to RMOUG, because according to GAO rules, doing so would require them to donate products to equivalent entities, like the US government. And I haven’t yet found a vendor who is willing to donate their product to the US government.
RMOUG has an educational mission that would be greatly enhanced with access to donated software from Oracle. In the past 3 years, RMOUG has created a formal information-systems (IS) department, currently headed by Ron Bich (email: ISDir@RMOUG.org). Currently, RMOUG owns two Dell servers running Red Hat Linux, hosted at Mincom in Englewood, CO. One of these servers runs our website (http://www.rmoug.org) and the other is used for development and UAT, and RMOUG has purchased a minimum 5-user license for Oracle Standard Edition for use on one of those servers. In addition to expanding the scope of the RMOUG website (to include such features as a members-only area) and hosting that website, these servers could be used for so much more. In addition to supporting the website, the ultimate intention of RMOUG’s IS organization is to provide an educational “scratch area” for all RMOUG members to have available for using Oracle products along with related products. These servers and resources could be used for online training, for learning about Linux, for learning about Oracle, and whatever else our members can dream up.
Right now, that is not possible. As a not-for-profit corporation, RMOUG has to purchase these products like everyone else. And RMOUG pays taxes.
But, things may be changing…quite soon, as a matter of fact…
The current board of directors is determined to obtain this crucial “non-profit” 501( c)(3) status for RMOUG, and we are working with our new accountant, Kirit Merchant of Eminance Management Services in Lakewood (http://www.drdac.com), to apply for charitable non-profit status. If we can submit the application forms to the IRS before 31-Dec 2004, then there is an excellent chance that RMOUG will start its fiscal year next June as a newly-minted “non-profit” charitable organization.
Undoubtedly, RMOUG will have to refine its stated mission, to become more in line with “charitable” organizations. For example, instead of our mission being only to maximize the skills of its members, we may also have to include charitable activities in a specified community. One charitable activity that RMOUG already performs is scholarships to students at area universities. That activity is not currently stated in our mission, but perhaps it ought to be. There may be other charitable activities that you think that RMOUG should perform. Likewise, we may need to identify the community we are serving more specifically than just our membership. For example, RMOUG might need to identify itself as serving the community of database technologists, particularly those using Oracle, in Colorado or the entire Rocky Mountain region.
I’d like to hear from you. Do you think that this push to secure non-profit charitable status is a move in the right direction? Do you have reservations? Looking at the RMOUG mission statement online at “http://www.rmoug.org/about”, what changes do you think should be made? What current items do you prefer leaving as is? Please email me at “President@RMOUG.org” if you have any comments or feedback.
Most importantly, assuming that RMOUG is able to acquire state-of-the-art, commercially-available software and hardware from donating vendors, what types of uses would you like to see that technology put? The IS department of RMOUG has already started the project of creating a “members-only” area of the website. If you are interested in helping with these projects or any similar projects, please subscribe to the “IS Volunteer Projects” email list at “http://www.rmoug.org/list_instr.htm”. Or just contact Ron Bich at “ISDir@RMOUG.org” if you have any questions or comments at all.
As always, we need active and imaginative people to work with the board of RMOUG or serve on the board of RMOUG. The board of directors is elected annually every May, so election information will be distributed beginning in March 2005. There are very few qualifications for serving as a “member at-large”, and a track record of involvement is the main requirement for serving as a member of the board of directors. If you are interested, please contact Chris Ostrowsky, our membership director, at “MembershipDir@RMOUG.org” or Bill Schwartzkopf, our vice president, at “VicePresident@RMOUG.org”.