With open source to realise funding one has to provide something more. In the Wordpress model the code is open source and they have a commercial arm that manages the development and offers paid for hosting.
Some component of Codidact could be paid for. Perhaps a directory of private sites that is catalogued at the head office but searchable through them and supporting cross links and such.
If these sub licences that use the same code off site that want to be linked to the main site could support the infrastructure costs it would provide a stable base.
Non profit and hobby sites could link for free perhaps.
It’s been suggested (and seems to have been reasonably well accepted) that we’ll ask for donations to help fund things - keep donation links lying around in conspicuous places, or maybe do a annual donation drive, like Wikipedia.
I also thought we could offer paid-for hosting as another funding source; while we are open source, it does still require technical ability to set up a site that many people don’t have. We can offer to set up and run a site for people (as in: we run the code, they run the site itself, i.e. the community and the rules) for a subscription fee.
Those are unlikely to be enough, though, so we do still need to investigate other options too.
The WordPress foundation got its IRS approval in 2009. Since then, the IRS has become much more skeptical about the split for-profit/non-profit model and it probably wouldn’t get 501(c)(3) determination today.
You can still be a non-profit without an IRS determination, but you won’t be tax exempt and donations won’t be tax deductible.
Donations might work initially but have proven tough in the long run for Wikipedia. If the aim is to become something of that scale, then I believe that advertising should at least be considered. Carefully moderated advertising that has to be on-topic for the specific community - not some haywire Google ads or whatever trash SE introduced this summer.
The Wikimedia Foundation’s balance sheet is extremely healthy. They have enough cash and short term investments to keep the servers running at current costs for more than fifty years. They can keep up all their current programs from software development to giving out research grants for a year and half without any income at all. Most foundations would kill for those numbers.
We don’t need to incorporate in the US, necessarily. That said, there is probably a separate discussion to be had about where is best in terms of convenience and attracting sponsorship.
Keeping options open funding-wise is a good idea, and if we can offer some paid-for/enterprise features that’s a potential source. It would move us away from the independent model and more towards an actual corporation, as we’d be more responsible for whatever we sell (SLAs, support, warranty etc) vs “do what you like with it” in the Free software sense.
Rather than incorporating separately, I suggest that the project join one of:
These organizations serve as project umbrellas and can handle donations and some of the legal stuff. Notable members include SPI: Arch Linux, Debian, PostgreSQL, Jenkins; SPC: Busybox, git, Inkscape, Wine — and more.
How much independence do these organizations give us?
Lots! Here’s what SPI has to say:
SPI does not own, govern or control an associated project. SPI does not prohibit the project from having a similar relationship with other fiscal sponsors.
The legal identity of an SPI associated project is not changed through their association with SPI, nor does it become part of SPI. Most SPI associated projects are unincorporated associations of individuals.
The SFC is somewhat more hands-on:
Conservancy assists FLOSS project leaders by handling all matters other than software development and documentation, so the developers can focus on what they do best: improving the software for the public good.
As a personal aside, I’m much more interested in something which is completely open source and which works on a wikipedia-like model rather than an open core product. We kind of made this bargain with … other site: “We provide content and we trust you to be a good steward and support the community we are building.” This is fine until it isn’t, and here we are now.
Another commercial competitor to SE (and Quora and heck, Yahoo Answers, if that’s still a thing) isn’t that exciting. A site or network that’s fundamentally community-owned and governed — now that’s something!
I think that was a clear thing for all the time since we started.