December 28, 2005 · Lessig
Ok, these annoying posts will end, hopefully before my readership disappears. But we are extremely close. We’ve got three days left, and are within $25,000 of meeting our goal.
There have been lots of great questions about the goal, about what happens if we miss it, and about why we need money anyway (“aren’t the licenses already written?”). We should have done better explaining all this upfront. My fault for not seeing that more clearly. But from the better-late-than-never department, here is a bit to address some of these questions.
(1) Where’d you get the goal of $225,000?
To understand this, you need to know something about the “public support test” that is part of the IRS review all tax-exempt non-profits suffer after 4 years of life. That test essentially asks, how diverse is your funding support. If most of your support comes from a few foundations, then there’s a risk you’ll lose your tax exempt status. I let this issue remain unresolved for too long. But this is the year the numbers will be calculated, and hence the push right now.
When we saw how much we needed to raise to pass the test, we divided up areas of support. The $225,000 is the amount we absolutely must raise from a general public appeal. If we meet that, and the other goals we’ve also set, then we’re fine.
(2) What happens if we fail this test?
The risk is that we’ll lose our public charity status. That’s critical to us because some foundations are not able to support organizations without a public charity status. And however fantastic the support from the public has been so far, we still absolutely must continue to get foundation support.
(3) What do you need the money for anyway?
This is the core question I should have done lots more to address much earlier in this process. For its clear many people think CC’s just a bunch of servers serving licenses. Indeed, that’s precisely what CC will always be — we’ve built a contingency plan to assure our licenses are served for a “limited time” (in the sense that copyright terms are for “limited times”). But right now, we’re much more than a bunch of servers.
As I explained in the final post to the Lessig Letters, CC has a staff of about 20 people world wide. (I’m technically on the staff as its CEO, but I’m unpaid). Those twenty work in four separate offices. Our Berlin office manages the process of porting licenses internationally. Our London office is building the international community of the iCommons project. Boston runs the Science Commons project. And San Francisco does all the rest. That staff is underpaid (relative to their contemporaries at least), but even at bargain basement wages, it is not cheap to keep the lights on. One fourth of the staff is technical; three are lawyers. All are working extraordinarily hard to spread and build CC.
We’re proud of the fact that a very high percentage of our funds goes directly to “programs and services.” (82% in 2004, with 18% spent on administration, and 8% on fundraising. See our audited statements for 2004 posted here. But that’s 82% of a large number. We expect that to accomplish all we’ve promised in 2006, our budget will be close to $2m.
What have we promised? Well, in addition to growing license adoption, and spreading the tools to integrate CC into critical content creating apps, I’ve signaled four key projects for the year. Two we’ve been quite public about: (1) the cc-commercial project, and (2) the free content license interoperability project. And then there are two more secret projects that I’ve described here. This is the work we have left to do. This is the work that needs your support.
So three more days if this pestering. Or one, if we can get $25,000 in the door by tomorrow.