Position statement for Jimmy Kaplowitz

I'm running to retain my seat on the SPI board of directors. I've been paying attention to SPI affairs since 2001, not long after I became a member of the Debian project. In addition to remaining a Debian developer I am also a member of a second SPI associated project, namely the IRC network OFTC.

Early in my time working with SPI I participated in the bylaws committee, which made an initial attempt to revise our bylaws to better match the way SPI operates. Although this did not succeed due to the infeasibly high amendment threshold and the relative unavailability of our legal counsel at the time, the efforts then will still be of use when we return our collective attention to this task.

Subsequently, I have served on the board for most of the time since 2004, including periods as Treasurer and as Secretary. During this time I transitioned our recordkeeping from a previous state where we couldn't even keep track of donations received to a mostly-monthly set of periodic reports in substantially the format used today by our current Treasurer. Treasurers after me, of course, made many further enhancements to all aspects of our finances.

I have also kept close track of certain regulatory requirements, recently working with current Treasurer Michael Schultheiss and current President Bdale Garbee in a successful effort to get SPI properly registered with the New York Attorney General's Charities Bureau. Besides being a legal requirement, this will make donors and sponsors who engage in due diligence more willing to support our projects and our mission.

Today, SPI effectively provides many valuable services to an increasing number of projects, and therefore this edition of my position statement has fewer things which I want to fix.

Other than finally reforming our bylaws, the biggest priority I can think of is familiarizing SPI associated projects other than Debian with what we do for them, and involving them in expanding our manpower and our services. One good step toward this would be to have an SPI presentation and Q&A session (aka BoF) at conferences other than DebConf, where this is already an annual tradition.

Another worthwhile improvement would be to involve more volunteers than simply the nine members of the SPI board of directors. This requires expanding awareness of, and interest in, SPI, of course.

We are also rapidly approaching the level of competence where it may be worth considering if there are ways within our corporate purposes that we can expand our operational mission. None of these expansions are required for SPI to be successful in my opinion, and all of them would require significantly more manpower from the board and the member community, and possibly fundraising and/or paid staff. If we do want to scale up for the good of our projects and the free software world, some ways in which we could make even more of an impact include:

  • Creating one or more affiliated entity/ies (but separate for tax purposes) that can do more explicit political, lobbying, or legislative work without getting SPI into tax trouble;
  • Creating SPI branches, subsidiaries, or sister organizations based in countries other than the United States;
  • Creating a wholly-owned taxable subsidiary through which associated projects who desire this can sell merchandise to the general public, or doing this via SPI directly (still taxably) if the law so allows;
  • Founding a nonprofit financial institution (such as a US credit union) to SPI contributing members, including members of associated projects, where some of the retained earnings could support the activities of SPI and its projects;
  • Figuring out some way within the law (with or without a new legal entity) to assist better in funding individual developers' time to work on free software, especially that of our associated projects;
  • Hiring a part-time executive director as an employee of SPI to handle some of the administrative work that currently is either disproportionally forced onto the Treasurer's busy schedule or deferred until it is urgent; and
  • _. I'm sure I haven't thought of everything. What are your ideas?

I would love to pursue some of these goals, your goals, or simply the goal of helping SPI continue to provide its current excellent services well. To facilitate that, please re-elect me to the SPI board.

And, whether I continue as an SPI director or not, please pay attention and get involved! To my knowledge, there is no comparable democratic, transparent, high-efficiency umbrella nonprofit in the free software world. While the other organizations perform useful services in their own styles, your attention will help keep SPI's unique offering healthy and relevant.

Thank you for your consideration,

Jimmy Kaplowitz jimmy@spi-inc.org