It’s been a busy year for us, and as it draws to a close we’ve been looking back on 2012 and planning for 2013. I guess this post is a bit of a year-in-review kind of thing, a bit of news, and a bit of a look ahead.
Most people following our growth see platform updates or speaking engagements, but the work we do to establish, build, and fund the underlying organization is less obvious even though it eats a lot of our time. So I’ll start there.
The big news: the IRS has denied our application for 501(c)(3) status. The review process lasted over four years, and like many other organizations dealing with open source software it was an unexpectedly complex process. We talked about it before and got a lot of feedback from other organizations facing similar issues. (The comments were eaten when we migrated the blog to Tumblr — sorry! Short version: open source appears to be a contested issue inside the IRS and decisions are both lengthy and a little inconsistent right now.)
We see the denial as another step in the process, not an endpoint. The most important aspects of a nonprofit organization have less to do with tax status and everything to do with being a mission-driven entity that cannot be acquired or owned by individuals or a corporation. These things still apply to us as a state-level nonprofit. The lack of 501(c)(3) status makes fundraising a lot more difficult for us (as a nonprofit we cannot take traditional investment — no ownership to give away — and grants and major gifts are much harder to find without the federal status that allows donations to become tax write-offs.)
We plan on trying to re-apply. The first application was prepared by me, very much not a lawyer, and now we have a wonderful team of pro-bono lawyers helping us with legal issues. We’re figuring out our options, but have decided firmly that we’re moving forward as a nonprofit even if that means funding is far more difficult. We’re probably facing a long process, but we’re doing so with our mission of artist sustainability firmly intact, with stewardship of the platform in the hands of an organization that cannot be bought or sold, and with the guidance of a great board.
A look back at 2012
This year started with our Kickstarter campaign, saw us graduate from the Mozilla WebFwd program, and has brought the platform from infancy to the point where we’re now in early testing of the hosted version. It’s been an exciting year, so here are some highlights:
- The Kickstarter was an amazing success, with the support of over 1300 people
- CASH was written about in the New York Times, GOOD, ReadWriteWeb, and others
- We got to speak at the first XOXO conference here in Portland
- We released three new versions of the platform, downloaded over 3200 times
- We finally wrote developer docs, with more to come
- Pascal Finette, Molly Neuman, and Andy Weissman joined our board
- The hosted multi-user version of our platform is here and in testing
- The WordPress plugin is available for all single-user installs
- New website, now with 100% more t-shirts for sale
- I grew a mustache (Okay that was gross and it’s gone now, but still)
What’s next in 2013
As much as we got done in 2012, we’re trying to up the pace for 2013. We’ve been working on an educational component to complement the platform and details about that will start to surface in the first few months of next year.
In January we’ll expand the current test of the platform to more people, with the goal of getting the free hosted version of things live soon after. We’ve been pushing on infrastructure for a long time, but now we’ve got the single-user/multi-user versions on a single release cycle we’re entirely focused on improving the user experience and solidifying performance in the multi-user version. This means we’ll be rapidly iterating and getting to new features and new integrations.
So by mid-2013 we’re hoping to be at a place where we’re seeing more adoption of the platform — on our servers and downloaded. We’ll tie that all in with an educational program that will address online strategy, policy, and best practices. We’ll be talking organizational membership and doing everything we can to solidify the nonprofit and move this forward towards long-term sustainability.
The time to make real change is now. We’re going for it.