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Ask Slashdot: How To Get Open Source Projects To Take Our Money?

timothy posted about 8 months ago | from the philip-j-fry-has-a-catchphrase-for-you dept.

The Almighty Buck 301

New submitter wkaan writes "Last financial year, we had an underspend at work, and it was suggested and agreed that we should give some cash away — $20k to be exact — to open source projects. Four projects were selected. A management catch was that it could not appear to be a donation and it had to be for something we had notionally received in the current financial year. At that time it was early June, our financial year finishes at the end of June. The four projects were emailed using the most relevant looking contact address on their website. Often this was 'Finance' or 'Donations' contact. What do you know, none of the projects that were contacted could work out a way to accept our money. We were unable to give a cent of the twenty grand away, not even a cent. All somebody needed to do was invoice us for something (perhaps 'support' or whatever) and they'd have received $5000. Of the projects contacted, two never replied to our mail — perhaps they thought it a scam? The other two contacted couldn't work out what to invoice and just went away. Is open source too rich to need the money? Have you got a funny donation story? Better still, do you have a way this can be streamlined when we have our next underspend? The goal was not to have a funny (sad) story, but to support the projects that support our business." For those of you with open source projects for which would you would like to take donations but sometimes cannot, what complications get in the way?

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301 comments

$20,000 hammer (4, Funny)

optikos (1187213) | about 8 months ago | (#44687733)

Couldn't you just do it the Department of Defense way and buy a $20,000 hammer from an open-source project?

Re:$20,000 hammer (1)

AvitarX (172628) | about 8 months ago | (#44687973)

Sounds like that's all they needed.

An invoice for support.

There's even a template for one in one of the FOSS spreadsheet programs.

Re:$20,000 hammer (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44688063)

This stupid crap gets repeated everywhere, by people who don't understand the actual point of the joke.

The joke pokes fun at the accounting practices that created the illusion of a ridiculous expensive hammer when the actual purchase price of the hammer wasn't anywhere near the actual ammount invoiced.

It's just not funny anymore.

Here's some information:

http://www.govexec.com/federal-news/1998/12/the-myth-of-the-600-hammer/5271/

Re:$20,000 hammer (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44688613)

The joke pokes fun at the accounting practices that created the illusion of a ridiculous expensive hammer

Imagine if you receipt at the grocery store listed the total of all 20 things you bought, then divided them evenly between all 20 items so your milk is $2.94, your bread is $2.94, your lettuce is $2.94, your apples are $2.94, and so on, I'm sure that a lot of people wouldn't even look. A few might raise hell over the numbers.

My mother would whip out her calculator and the sales flyer, and prove that the 20 items should have run up for a total of $57.28 and start shouting that she's calling the DA.

With "accounting practices" there are no "illusions" there is only truth and fraud.

Re:$20,000 hammer (1, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 8 months ago | (#44688117)

Couldn't you just do it the Department of Defense way and buy a $20,000 hammer from an open-source project?

That $20,000 hammer is made to very exacting specifications!

But I digress...

It really annoys me to see articles like this about money. We've been over this so often here it's Slashdot's version of "Summer is coming! What are the latest dieting fads? Find out more on our regurgitated-from-last-year news segment at nine!" I won't even bother digging back through years and years of older postings; the answer is always the same ... SUPPORT. They pay you to support your program. You know, with technicians, and bug fixes, and the expertise to solve break/fix issues. Redhat, the first open source project to have an IPO, still lives... it doesn't sell linux, it sells support for Linux.

It's depressing how Slashdot has rapidly descended into the Huffington Post of tech news sites... it's repost after repost, no real editorial control (or even understanding of content). Somewhere in the old offices where Malda lived is now a giant spinning turbine connected to fiber optic lines... and data spews out the top and into this mulching machine, compressing and distorting news from all other sites and then aggregating it into hipster-approved bite-sized pieces of 'content'. Earlier this year one of the maintenance engineers fell in. They didn't stop the machine... they just had to deal with a few weeks of obsessing about the latest gadgets posted to ThinkGeek... until the gunk that was that engineer worked its way out of the system... -_-

--
Go ahead now, mod me overrated... we all know there are dozens of paid shills now on Slashdot, and they hate me because I bring down their advertising revenue. Commencing -1 land in 5...4...3... (post)

Re:$20,000 hammer (4, Informative)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 8 months ago | (#44688293)

From you:

!" I won't even bother digging back through years and years of older postings; the answer is always the same ... SUPPORT. They pay you to support your program. You know, with technicians, and bug fixes, and the expertise to solve break/fix issues.

From TFS:

All somebody needed to do was invoice us for something (perhaps 'support' or whatever) and they'd have received $5000.

So, I shall leave the last quote from you:

It's depressing how Slashdot has rapidly descended...

Re:$20,000 hammer (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44688513)

No you routinely get modded because you overestimate your own understanding of things. I am one of the people who mod you down from time to time, but I have also modded you up. I do not work for Slashdot or Dice in any way.

Re:$20,000 hammer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44688397)

That was merely a way to make payments on a contract and by that logic they underpaid for the circuit boards.

Try actually donating? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44687749)

Your company seems to have a problem understanding what 'donate' means.

Re:Try actually donating? (2)

Nutria (679911) | about 8 months ago | (#44687809)

Look beyond the obvious. It's hard, I know, but you'll learn how the world really works.

Re:Try actually donating? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44688079)

The problem is that being setup to do what the company was asking can take a lot of work. A group of developers working together to push out a project is a simple thing to organize. As soon as you start turning it into a business, you need to incorporate or form some other legal entity and that usually involves lawyers and such. Going through all that hassle for a 1-off contribution is probably not worth it.

When contacting the organization failed, the company should have contacted the individual developers and offered to pay them as a 1099. There's money lost to taxes that way, but it's a much easier setup for part-time developers to deal with.

Re:Try actually donating? (4, Insightful)

optikos (1187213) | about 8 months ago | (#44687855)

No, this company probably budgeted that $20,000 for expenditure for purchasing 'X', whereas the accounting department would not permit reallocating 1) monies dedicated for purchasing 'X' into 2) an entirely different bucket of monies for donations to section-503 nonprofits. Here X is likely right-to-use software. Perhaps X might be hardware. Either way, acquisition of a durable good gets amortized over multiple years, whereas the entire donation to section-503 nonprofits hits the books immediately.

Coporate Bureaucracy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44688161)

Everything you said is spot on for a typical American corporation stuck in their bureaucracy.

There are ways around it.

Find the person who can change policy.

The problem here is that the OP thinks he's stuck with what some other underling told him.

It's time to leave footprints on the accounting department's foreheads - IF and ONLY IF it is politically feasible (meaning, it won't get the kid fired or worse, a bad review and shitty raise.)

Frame it as PR - Marketing - anything.

Re:Try actually donating? (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 8 months ago | (#44688109)

Why was it important to management that the money be earmark for a specific invoice”able” item?

If you wanted to street the project to something specific, then maybe. But retroactively ? I can’t think of any specific trigger in the tax code that would require that of a donation.

And I can’t think of any good reasons from a management viewpoint. If you want to make sure the money is spent wisely then you need to review the quality of management (or whomever decides to spend the money) not on a particular purchase. (example, the management may have done a very good job in choosing which 3D printer to purchase, but if it is a software project and does need a 3D printer it is a waste )

This just seems weird. If I were working at a charity and received this I am not sure how I would respond.

Re:Try actually donating? (5, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 8 months ago | (#44688273)

Why was it important to management that the money be earmark for a specific invoiceâableâ item?

Likely because of how companies do their accounting.

You've got your capital budget, your operating budget, approved projects, and who knows what else (not an accountant).

The company trying to make the 'donation' needed to keep it within the same bucket and needed the potential recipients to give them an invoice.

In this case, it was "we'd like to 'give' you money, but it needs to look like on your side like you billed us for something". And generally when someone needs you to account for something in a special way, you might need to ask if you can (or should) actually do that without causing yourself problems.

And if I'm a charity and someone says "we'd like to donate, but can you make it look like you sold us a car instead" -- my first impulse is going to be a little wary of that deal. Because, it's no longer a donation, it's money being disguised as something else, and the recipient potentially gets themselves into legal trouble by trying to do that.

So, you try calling the Red Cross and say you'd like to donate $1 million, but they need to make it look like they sold you an island you could get the same problem. They didn't sell you an island, and as much as that $1 million might be shiny, needing to stay strictly within the rules means you might just have to say "if you want to donate $1 million, awesome, but we can't do magic accounting to make it look like something else".

Re:Try actually donating? (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 8 months ago | (#44688377)

Why was it important to management that the money be earmark for a specific invoice”able” item?

If you wanted to street the project to something specific, then maybe. But retroactively ? I can’t think of any specific trigger in the tax code that would require that of a donation.

And I can’t think of any good reasons from a management viewpoint. If you want to make sure the money is spent wisely then you need to review the quality of management (or whomever decides to spend the money) not on a particular purchase. (example, the management may have done a very good job in choosing which 3D printer to purchase, but if it is a software project and does need a 3D printer it is a waste )

This just seems weird. If I were working at a charity and received this I am not sure how I would respond.

Good point.

I ran into similar problems in the corporate world where I wanted to buy products, but accounting needed an invoice and the vendor wasn't set up to deal with invoices. It was rather awkward.

More than that, however, you can you be a "non-profit organization" while invoicing? An invoice implies that you are demanding to be paid, not accepting a donation. Once you're demanding payment, you would seem to have dropped one of the primary characteristics of a charitable organization.

And then, of course, there's the final catch. Not all open-source projects are operating as legal corporations. They may not have a corporate bank account to deposit the check into. They often won't have a treasurer, much less one who can deal with large amounts of money - where not only do you have to deal with tax implications, but other things like money-laundering laws. And international finance, since open-source is often not geographically localized.

In short, there's no easy answer. It depends on who you want to give it to and how well they're set up to receive it.

Re:Try actually donating? (3, Informative)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 8 months ago | (#44688619)

Well, the invoice part is not that odd – non-profits do it all of the time. When they buy something they get a invoice. When they sell something they generate a invoice. And it is not odd for non-profits to sell stuff. For example my local botanical garden, which is non-profit, will send invoice you if you hold a wedding on the grounds.

When you make a donation you should get a receipt – proof for the IRS.

When you donate you might be able to specify a very specific project. Real life example – “Richard Johnson Memorial Urinal. “ (I hope he had a sense of humor)

You might be able to demand a review of the accounting for a project. This is generally done for people who have made large donations and will likely make more donations if they know they money is well spent. Heck, sometimes they hire outside auditors.

However, I have never heard of a donator asking for a specific invoice. In my example, the plumber’s bill.

Seems legit (5, Funny)

stewsters (1406737) | about 8 months ago | (#44687765)

Deer project owner,

Our corporation has too much money. Please send details of how give you $500 Dollars US$ without donating.

-Prince of Nigeria

Try a pitch that looks less like a 419 scam. (4, Insightful)

Narcocide (102829) | about 8 months ago | (#44687789)

Seriously though, the requirement that it can't look like a donation is pretty limiting. Most open source projects are ONLY prepared to accept donations under the exact same US tax laws your company is trying to dodge, and the ones left over (especially the ones that haven't yet attained actual status as a scientific non-profit) are almost certain to look at your proposal for exactly as long as it takes to drag&drop it into the spam/phishing/blacklisted folder.

Budgets, not tax. Jeez. (5, Insightful)

damacus (827187) | about 8 months ago | (#44688015)

"Dodging" tax laws has a negative connotation. Tax laws related to donations *benefit* companies generally as write-offs. I think your post was unfair and presumptuous as to the original poster's intentions.

I don't think the original poster's intentions / considerations had anything to do with tax laws and instead are directly relevant to financial budgets, hinted at by the "underspend" part. Budgets are different from a wallet or general corporate account. You don't want to get into dealings with the administration on misappropriation of budgeted funds.

As far as misappropriations are concerned: if your underspend is on a 'services' or 'software' category, and you use a lot of open source software, it isn't necessarily a misappropriation of funds (and the spirit of the account) to help ensure the projects on which your company depends stay in good health. The groups could've sold a $5,000 consultation or Support Meeting and just talked about how the org. used the software in question and had a chance to present ideas to them. And then at the end of the call or meeting, the project is $5K richer.

TL;DR large organizations that may have money to spend sometimes need some flexibility.

Re:Budgets, not tax. Jeez. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44688295)

Selling services has different tax rules than accepting donations. Most projects are not set up for this and don't want to deal with this.

Re:Try a pitch that looks less like a 419 scam. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44688313)

Associate Member Benefits for Free Software Foundation:
https://my.fsf.org/associate/support_freedom/join_fsf [fsf.org]
This depends upon how much you want it to look like a donation.
http://www.fsf.org/associate/benefits [fsf.org]

EFF has similar things:
https://supporters.eff.org/shop/eff-gift-membership-certificate [eff.org]
Several of the larger open source organizations also have shops with hats and T-shirts and the like.

If you want to donate, just donate (4, Insightful)

dirk (87083) | about 8 months ago | (#44687801)

Part of the issue was you requesting an invoice for something they never provided for you. If they issue you an invoice for $5000 for something, there are legal ramification that go along with that. You could then claim that you never received the item/services and sue. They may have to set up a separate business entity to handle this business and pay a whole different set of taxes on it because they currently are not set up as a business that provides services/items. If you want to donate, just donate. It is silly to try and get them to jump through these hoops for your "donation" so your company can claim it isn't a donation.

Re:If you want to donate, just donate (2)

Qwertie (797303) | about 8 months ago | (#44687965)

Wouldn't it be legit if you ask the open-source projects to do something for you? Select some feature(s) or bug fix(es) you'd like in a future version, and pay the lead developers to do it for you. Or, some open source projects have lousy manuals--pay them to improve their documentation.

It's not illegal to pay in advance, is it? Just write the contract in advance.

Re:If you want to donate, just donate (1)

notanalien_justgreen (2596219) | about 8 months ago | (#44688275)

It would, but if the project is in an early phase they might not even be selling support plans yet. If that's the case they don't have the sales and tax handling infrastructure set up to deal with it.

Re:If you want to donate, just donate (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 8 months ago | (#44688351)

Generally yes - Which is what makes the retroactive thing from management so weird.

As the specific issue you bring up there are certain exceptions. If the company gets something specific back from the “donation” that part does not count. i.e. If you donated $5,000 and they gave you a tote bag (retail value $5) or custom reports for your firm (retail value $5,000) you would need to reduce the amount tax purposes. (And yes, lots of subjective loophole stuff here.)

You asked for something sketchy, and nobody bit? (4, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | about 8 months ago | (#44687805)

So you wanted to give money away, fine. But you then asked the project to lie about it and potentially put themselves at risk for fraud by asking them to make up some sort of invoice for a service that they weren't prepared to provide, like "support".

Also, the fact that many open source projects are basically volunteer efforts means that they aren't really setup to pay people for their work. They would have to work out the taxes and it could end up being a relatively huge amount of effort for a fairly small payoff ($5,000 covers a developer for maybe a month).

That said, there are some big projects that should have been able to figure out something. Apache for instance has their own foundation. So does X (although they apparently aren't very good at doing taxes), Mozilla, and some others. However, none of them are likely to want to talk to you once you start prattling on about fake invoices. If you want to donate, just donate. That way you can write it off of your taxes as well. If management doesn't like that, then that's their problem. You shouldn't have to do something shady and possibly illegal to support open source.

Re:You asked for something sketchy, and nobody bit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44687849)

It doesn't have to be a lie. They could write an invoice for 1 year of priority support for the next year. Problem solved.

Re:You asked for something sketchy, and nobody bit (2)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 8 months ago | (#44688093)

Why couldn't they just give the projects the money in exchange for actual future services?
It's not uncommon for open source projects to recieve money in order to be able to implement a particular feature, write documentation, provide support, etc.

Perhaps this company could have done a small "{your-company-name-here} Summer Of Code", where summer interns would built code for the open source projects you wanted to support. $20k ought to pay for quite some code. The Open Source project would probably be happier than accepting the money as is (money isn't always the best thing to happen to a group of volunteers).

Re:You asked for something sketchy, and nobody bit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44688393)

> Why couldn't they just give the projects the money in exchange for actual future services?

Whatever the purpose, they need the invoce to be backdated (June 30th), which no project will accept as this cannot be done in a legal way.

Re:You asked for something sketchy, and nobody bit (1)

dj245 (732906) | about 8 months ago | (#44688387)

So you wanted to give money away, fine. But you then asked the project to lie about it and potentially put themselves at risk for fraud by asking them to make up some sort of invoice for a service that they weren't prepared to provide, like "support". Also, the fact that many open source projects are basically volunteer efforts means that they aren't really setup to pay people for their work. They would have to work out the taxes and it could end up being a relatively huge amount of effort for a fairly small payoff ($5,000 covers a developer for maybe a month). That said, there are some big projects that should have been able to figure out something. Apache for instance has their own foundation. So does X (although they apparently aren't very good at doing taxes), Mozilla, and some others. However, none of them are likely to want to talk to you once you start prattling on about fake invoices. If you want to donate, just donate. That way you can write it off of your taxes as well. If management doesn't like that, then that's their problem. You shouldn't have to do something shady and possibly illegal to support open source.

Perhaps the company phrased things the wrong way, or didn't think of the project's situation. If they had Function X on their wishlist for Software Y, why can't they write a check for $5000 for a developer of the project to work on that issue? Perhaps the project could estimate that creating such a function and testing it would take approximately 120 man-hours (for example), and invoice accordingly. Isn't that a completely legitimate use of a 1099 contractor? I am not entirely familiar with 1099 employees, but I am under the impression that all tax liabilities are the responsibility of the contractor, and that the paperwork for both parties is relatively straightforward and commonly done.

Re:You asked for something sketchy, and nobody bit (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about 8 months ago | (#44688729)

Also, the fact that many open source projects are basically volunteer efforts means that they aren't really setup to pay people for their work. They would have to work out the taxes and it could end up being a relatively huge amount of effort for a fairly small payoff ($5,000 covers a developer for maybe a month).

This is probably the biggest problem... taxes and logistics of distributing the money. Someone has to be approved by all of the co-developers to accept the money on their behalf, pay taxes and distribute the proceeds equitably (how? 1099? That's even more paperwork). If there are 10 regular developers, that's $500 each, minus taxes, so around $300. Probably not worth the effort or political problems "Hey, Developer X contributed twice as many lines of code as Developer Y. So X should get more money than Y. But Developer Z created the entire code base the project was based on 2 years ago, so he should get the most money."

Maybe they could have become a member of EFF, the Open Source Initiative, The Linux Foundation or some larger organization like that without it appearing as a donation. These places must have run into this situation before and have a way to deal with it appropriately.

The invoice must be for something. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44687821)

The problem you are having is that open source projects are run by ethical people. It would not be ethical to invoice for $5k for services rendered when no services were actually rendered. (This might also cause folks to wonder, as you suggested, if your offer was actually a scam.) Your heart is definitely in the right place; perhaps with a little advanced planning, you might be able to keep a list of feature requests you have for open source projects. An offer to pay $5k in return for actual work might receive more response.

Non Profits (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44687827)

You can give a non-profit a donation but I don't think you can pay them for services, because then they aren't a non-profit. If there is an umbrella org, ie Apache, become a corporate member instead.

Re:Non Profits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44688303)

Non-profit doesn't mean what you think it means.

Re:Non Profits (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about 8 months ago | (#44688667)

You are the one who doesn't know what it means. From the IRS website:

"The exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3) are charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and preventing cruelty to children or animals. The term charitable is used in its generally accepted legal sense and includes relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erecting or maintaining public buildings, monuments, or works; lessening the burdens of government; lessening neighborhood tensions; eliminating prejudice and discrimination; defending human and civil rights secured by law; and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency."

Do you see anything in there about doing paid work for someone?

Re:Non Profits (3, Informative)

omnichad (1198475) | about 8 months ago | (#44688627)

The Girl Scout Cookies I bought disagree with you. Yes, I know those are goods and not services, but a car wash fundraiser would fit. The question of whether you are non-profit has everything to do with what happens to surplus proceeds.

Yes to Money, but not as donation. (0)

epSos-de (2741969) | about 8 months ago | (#44687833)

You could give 3k to me and I will publish a batch of the best 100 images under the creative commons license on Flickr. The images would be free to use for everybody. I can guarantee an audience in the millions. I can guarantee perfection and quality which you can see in advance. The problem is that you can not get your money to be marked as donation, because I am not an registered non-profit organization as same a many of the open source developers and contributors. Donating money is easy, getting it recognized as donation is harder. Contact epSos.de on Flickr with your money granting proposals and have fun !

Wrong way of doing it (4, Insightful)

guruevi (827432) | about 8 months ago | (#44687843)

Open Source projects are often leader-less, don't have a corporation attached or anyone really working for them and (also) often not-for-profits.

Especially in the US you can't just accept $5k from someone without major tax hurdles. There has to be a service delivered (which is apparently what your company wants) and you can't just give money from your company without getting something of equal value in return (that would be too easy a way to syphon out money) and at the end of the year you have to indicate this on your taxes as well (which costs easy another $300 at the tax-preparer especially if it is out-of-state -- I used to do independent contract work in three states, at the end of the year I spent $1000 at HR-Block to figure out all the paperwork for local/state/federal taxes and the permutations of deductions between the 7 governments)

Now, you could've gone to one of your favorite open source projects and said: I want feature x - here is $5k for whatever freelance developer wants to take it on, that would've worked. I am always available to work on certain projects...

Re:Wrong way of doing it (2)

Kjella (173770) | about 8 months ago | (#44688047)

Now, you could've gone to one of your favorite open source projects and said: I want feature x - here is $5k for whatever freelance developer wants to take it on, that would've worked. I am always available to work on certain projects...

Well yes but it'd be silly to make it just random windfall for one developer (unless there is only one main developer, but I'm assuming it's a bit bigger than that), but if they have some sort of organization set up and it can't be a donation (corporate policy, whatever) then I'd suggest that with a twist, basically pick a small feature or one that was going to be in the next release anyway, work is "donated" to the organization and the organization bills them $5000 for custom development. As long as it is declared somewhere and the IRS gets their cut, it's probably fine.

IRS (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44687853)

"For those of you with open source projects for which would you would like to take donations but sometimes cannot, what complications get in the way?"

Why? Because IRS, that's why.

Tax avoidance (1)

webtron (1124453) | about 8 months ago | (#44687861)

If the only reason you are doing this is tax avoidance people are probably not responding to you for that reason alone. It would make them complicit in your trying to avoid paying taxes. The clauses you are trying to work around (ie, had to be done in the past) is there explicitly for these purposes.

Pay your taxes man.

Re:Tax avoidance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44688043)

Idiot.
It's obviously not tax avoidance -- if it were, donating to a nonprofit would be the obvious way to go.
It's a matter of "use all your budget this year, or we'll cut your budget next year because you don't 'need' it"

three easy steps (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44687879)

get non profit tax status
lose non profit tax status
profit!

tax fraud (4, Informative)

duckintheface (710137) | about 8 months ago | (#44687881)

These projects were most likely tax exempt 501(c)3 entities. They are set up to receive donations and not to provide for-profit services. In asking them to invoice you for serivces that were not rendered, you were asking them to commit tax fraud. Your management knows this but they wanted to write off the donation as a business expense. Just make the donation and stop trying to game the system. This is how tax exempt organizations lose their tax exempt status. This is also how people go to jail.

Hire a developer. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44687905)

Spend the 20k to hire a developer which you pay to contribute code to these projects.

Re:Hire a developer. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44688593)

Amen. Code is a real contribution. Money is just an insult. I turn down donations to my open source project because I don't want the implied obligations. I don't have time or interest in managing other developers. If you want to help, then just help. No one contributed to my project when it would have been helpful--before it was big and successful. Now, attempted donations just remind me what really makes a project successful ...and it's not money.

Acknowledgement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44687907)

Projects might create a closed-system advertising/acknowledgement program using Piwik or similar. When a supported wishes they simply purchase an advertisement, and receive a small banner or text ad somewhere in the project website, perhaps in the footer of all pages, in rotation with all other purchased support acknowledgements. Weight banner/text-ad insertions somehow, eg one view per dollar, to create fairness among supporters.

Try this: (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 8 months ago | (#44687927)

Before trying to throw $5000 at someone, you should perhaps try to give them more than a month's advance notice. Then they can or can be prepared to give you some actual service.

If that still doesn't work for you, then try something like a bounty. Offer them $5000 for a bugfix or a new feature. If it would have to be claimed by the end of June, make it about fixing some typos or some other easy to accomplish task.

nt (4, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | about 8 months ago | (#44687955)

Not surprised.

If you have to do something underhanded like "A management catch was that it could not appear to be a donation and it had to be for something we had notionally received in the current financial year" then you're going to run into trouble.

My guess? Your company wanted some good publicity but couldn't figure out a way to satisfy its own beancounters.

The fault lies with your company, not the open source projects who refuse to fudge things to make the numbers easier for your beancounters to digest.

Tax Fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44687957)

The submitter just admitted his company was conspiring to commit tax fraud by claiming expenses that were illegitimate. Why else would they need an invoice???

Re:Tax Fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44688125)

Probably so his department could claim to have spent all the funds and receive the same or more ammount of funding for the next year instead of having funds cut?

Also, care to point out how expenses that are actually paid out are illegitimate?

Think before you type.

Re:Tax Fraud (1)

osu-neko (2604) | about 8 months ago | (#44688653)

Probably so his department could claim to have spent all the funds and receive the same or more ammount of funding for the next year instead of having funds cut?

So they were trying to lie to another department within their own company, instead of trying to lie to the taxman. Possibly still a crime, although you're right, it's not the crime OP implied.

Also, care to point out how expenses that are actually paid out are illegitimate?

When it's not actually an expense, perhaps? If you have to falsify paperwork to justify the "expense" for a service that you already received for free... well... see your next comment...

Think before you type.

Assuming you actually tried that, you might want to look up what "expense" means, since you either didn't think, or don't understand the term. Money paid out is not necessarily an "expense". It's a bit more complicated than that, but a donation is never an expense.

Re:Tax Fraud (1)

osu-neko (2604) | about 8 months ago | (#44688693)

... It's a bit more complicated than that, but a donation is never an expense.

...and of course, the moment I hit save, I start thinking of exceptions. "Never" was too strong a word there. There are times donations and even gifts can be legitimately counted as expenses. This, however, is not one of them...

Re:Tax Fraud (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about 8 months ago | (#44688735)

Companies can write of legitimate expenses related to R&D, etc. Donating money is not a legitimate expense. Claiming it is a legitimate expense is fraud, plain and simple. If you want to donate money, go ahead. That is also deductible and can be written off. Or maybe you can explain how you submit a fake invoice to your company (no matter what your motivations are) and NOT have that show up as a (fraudulent) expense on their tax forms.

Another approach (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44687959)

Hire some of their devs with the money to work on some bug reports they already have. Consider paying for a link on their site for a year.

There are other ways to help out a project without an official donation.

Most can't do it (1)

asmkm22 (1902712) | about 8 months ago | (#44687963)

Most open source projects aren't setup as an actual licensed company, and many aren't legally able to do business as a result. Which is fine because setting up a donation button works well enough for their needs.

There is also the problem with most of the people running the open source projects being techs, and not business people. For them, the creating and sending out an invoice for "support" and writing up the contract for a "client" to sign (to protect themselves in this situation) is pretty arcane.

And that's assuming those email accounts you used are even checked regularly. Some of those things get setup at day one, and everyone forgets about it unless forwarding is configured.

Charge for Physical Delivery (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 8 months ago | (#44687985)

Tell them you are willing to pay $5K for a fully-licensed copy shipped to your business address. Somebody at the project burns you a DVD or loads a $5 usb flash drive with the latest release and ships it. That way you get something tangible and they get the money with a postal receipt in case the project needs to prove they held up their end.

I am not a corporate auditor but I don't think that would scenario would create any problems.

GPL-compatible of course (1)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | about 8 months ago | (#44688165)

Maybe the project could treat it for tax purposes as one of those things where donors get something of value in return, which I believe is legal for 501(c)3s (DO NOT TAKE MY WORD FOR IT).

Re:GPL-compatible of course (1)

systemeng (998953) | about 8 months ago | (#44688409)

There a re a lot of 501c3 organizations including universities that do a lot of work for profit.

Hmmmm ... (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about 8 months ago | (#44687993)

All somebody needed to do was invoice us for something (perhaps 'support' or whatever) and they'd have received $5000

You mean, commit fraud?

Part of the problem sounds like your company needed it to look a certain way for accounting, and if the projects you contacted found themselves "how do we do that and keep it above board", maybe that was your problem.

But if someone giving out free software invoiced you for $5k for something they didn't ever actually sell you, that might put them into a questionable situation.

On the surface, it sounds like your "management catch" might have been worded in such a way as it would require very creative accounting on their end to satisfy your requirements for your gift. And that might have scared them off -- because when someone says "hey, we want to make a donation, but all you need to do it make it look like we bought something" can definitely make people worry if they're not going to get screwed in this deal.

Re:Hmmmm ... (1)

chill (34294) | about 8 months ago | (#44688511)

That isn't how I read it. I read it like management said "to make it legit, you have to pick one of the FOSS projects that we are using software from this year. How about, say...CloneZilla?" If they downloaded a new revision or patch release (2.1.2 from 2.0, say), then it most certainly could be legitimately labeled "support".

I see the problems on both ends. It isn't simple to fix.

Mmmm Kkaayyy! (2)

tiberus (258517) | about 8 months ago | (#44687995)

Problem #1: Placebo Corp has funds that you would like to nominally give away but, for some strange reason (e.g. FSO is addicted to counting the wrong kind of beans, CEO thinks donating is a bad word. etc, etc, etc.) you are not able to actually give money away.

Problem #2: Open Source projects accept actual donations. Sending you an invoice would very likely change their financial and/or legal status, especially, when said invoice is for services they didn't provide or for a product they don't sell.

While I can't comprehend why Placebo Corp wants to but can't give away money, I do have a vague grasp of why an Open Source project won't invoice you. The Project is unlikely to have anyone who can easily deal with invoicing etc. especially in the time frame you are taking about. The simplest solution would be to solve the problem on your end and figure out a way for you company to actually make a donation.

Corporate giving, it's been know to happen!

gnu (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44687997)

Many years ago I actually proposed to GNU that they set something up to make it easier to donate to OSS developers (and developers to sign up to receive donations).

notionally? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44688007)

A management catch was that it could not appear to be a donation and it had to be for something we had notionally received in the current financial year.

"notionally" [merriam-webster.com]?

Huh?

If your company is using these products then I think there's plenty of reason to donate money. But "existing in the mind only" is one definition of "notionally"; therefore, ANY FOSS project qualifies.

Sue them ... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44688019)

... for being bearded hippies, and then settle out of court

Gittip. (1)

Rinisari (521266) | about 8 months ago | (#44688061)

You can fund developers individually via Gittip [gittip.com].

WHAT IS GITTIP?

Gittip is a way to give small weekly cash gifts to people you love and are inspired by.
Gifts are weekly. The intention is for people to depend on money received through Gittip in order to pay their bills, and bills are recurring.
Gifts come with no strings attached. You don't know exactly where your gifts come from, and the maximum gift from one person to another is $100 per week.
Gifts are public. The total amount you give and the total amount you receive is public. Participants on both sides of the equation are rewarded publicly for their participation. (You can opt out of publicly displaying your total giving.)
Give by answering Who inspires you? on our homepage, and following the steps.

Gittips FAQ say "talk to lawyer" about taxes (2)

peter303 (12292) | about 8 months ago | (#44688565)

Its only a matter of time before the IRS starts nosing around about crowdsourcing money. After about a decade it was decided that aution sites like Ebay and Amazon has to issue 1099-Ks for more than 200 transactions or 20K cash flow during the year. Then it is up to the recipeint to minimize the net income this represents on a tax return. I predict they'll do this for crowdsourcing too.

Better Gittip should have said "talk to tax accountant".

I was in a similar situation once (4, Insightful)

aflyingcat (2611763) | about 8 months ago | (#44688083)

A few years back, I was in a similar situation; our group wanted to give some money to a couple open source projects that we used and wanted to thank. Donation was the first thing that came to my mind, too. Unfortunately, that could not be justified at the company level. The financial types who ran the company at that point would not accept the company doing a donation for no direct return. They also insisted it be buying "something". That part wouldn't have been too bad, I could come up with something that was pretty close (but not exactly) what the open source projects already had (something like a 'golden master' CDROM including the source control archives) that they could charge us for; it seemed like a good solution; they'd get some money, we'd (hopefully) encourage them to keep improving the project. The sticking point turned out to be that our company management (either legal, finance, or both, I don't remember at this point) insisted on doing up a full contract. Based on our standard contract. That eventually killed the deal. The open source project didn't have a staff lawyer to review and revise the contract, our company lawyers really didn't want to spend the time modifying the contract into something that made sense for this situation; so they made a couple half-assed attempts on modifying the contract, but never got something that anyone on the open source projects would (or should) sign. So the donation really went nowhere. (I did what I could on the department level to thank the open source projects; but it was a lot less than it would have been if the company had gotten behind the effort)

Re:I was in a similar situation once (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44688389)

"We want to donate money to you, but it can't say "donate"...and we're not trying to launder money, even though it appears that way."

There are lots of ways to donate money to Open Source projects. One might be to pay to host a server somewhere. And you could always host a user group, and give dinner or goodies to attendees. You could offer to give some part time contract work to some needy members of the project to do work on that project. The original poster didn't say why the donations couldn't be listed as donations, so we are only guessing their intentions were good.

Foundation membership (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44688085)

If your company would consider foundation membership as a receivable, do that. It gives you tangible benefits such as influence over the project's direction.

The one that comes to mind is OpenStack because we work with them. Their Gold Membership requires $50k, but I'm sure some smaller projects would let you in for $20k.

You would then get the ability to shape the project over the next year and could use that as a business advantage (ethically, of course).

501(c)(3)'s CAN CHARGE FOR SERVICES!!!!! (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44688091)

Where is this BS that a 501(c)(3) cannot bill or send invoices? They are not donation only entities.

As long as the billed service is for volunteered work/services and the 'profit' goes to furthering the 'cause' its COMPLETELY ACCEPTABLE to send an invoice.

Re:501(c)(3)'s CAN CHARGE FOR SERVICES!!!!! (1)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about 8 months ago | (#44688209)

Yes, but what do they bill for? The project didn't do any work or provide any services, so what do you create an invoice for that isn't completely fictitious? Bear in mind that fabricating an invoice can result in falsified financial records, which can cost you your 501(c)(3) status and get you in trouble with the IRS. That, I think, is the main problem: the business wants a fake invoice that they can "pay" to cover up the fact that they're donating, and the project isn't set up to do that.

Re:501(c)(3)'s CAN CHARGE FOR SERVICES!!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44688419)

Yes, but what do they bill for?

Priority support by email for the next year.

Re:501(c)(3)'s CAN CHARGE FOR SERVICES!!!!! (1)

damacus (827187) | about 8 months ago | (#44688517)

Ever been to Kickstarter?

You can sell a poster for $500.

Sell a meeting with lead developers (to discuss project direction, feature requests.. whatever) for $2,500.

Get creative.

Re:501(c)(3)'s CAN CHARGE FOR SERVICES!!!!! (1)

damacus (827187) | about 8 months ago | (#44688629)

Absolutely. Quoting Wikipedia, "While not-for-profit organizations are permitted to generate surplus revenues, they must be retained by the organization for its self-preservation, expansion, or plans." ... "The extent to which an NPO can generate surplus revenues may be constrained or use of surplus revenues may be restricted."

Corporate Sponsorship? (1)

corychristison (951993) | about 8 months ago | (#44688121)

As others have mentioned there are a lot of legal and tax reasons they could not accept the "donation".

However for future reference you could always go down the Corporate Sponsorship route. Many projects accept these and are also a write-off on your companies taxes (eg. advertising).

Sounds Like Money Laundering (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44688173)

What a bunch of nerds we are, we're looking up "money laundering" in a dictionary.

Kickstarter (1)

umafuckit (2980809) | about 8 months ago | (#44688213)

OS projects are volunteer efforts that man hours more than cash. Cash might help buy man hours but it might not. Choosing 4 Kickstarter projects, on the other hand, is a better bet. Kickstarter projects deliver a product and need cash for development. It's not a donation.

buy art. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44688243)

Seriously, just go to your local gallery. Buy originals, not some dogs playing poker.

Ideame your money!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44688253)

Some friends and i are working on a free-software cooperative and have a project that needs some money, we would gladly accept it.

Also, we sell this really expensive limited edition papercrafts...

http://idea.me/proyectos/9198/gaspacho-smart-router

-aza

I'll take it... (1)

ZonkerWilliam (953437) | about 8 months ago | (#44688331)

Seriously though, a open source is a loose collection of people who have come together to work on a project/software, no real formal structure.

an actual suggestion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44688333)

If you really do want to spend money, but don't know how much or when, you could set up a service or R&D contract consisting of a bunch of options. You'll have to be able to describe what it is you want for your money. You're not going to get that done in a month, and some non profits may not want to do business that way at all. Many academics are ok with that, though. You'll want to have that contract in place early in the fiscal year, and then exercise options as you want to spend the money.

In the case that you end up without that extra budget, you don't exercise any options. You'll have wasted time and money getting the contract set up, but at least everyone's lawyers will be comfortable with the situation.

uncle sam's cut? (1)

peter303 (12292) | about 8 months ago | (#44688423)

The receiving entity would have to be set up as a non-profit to avoid taxes, which not be feasible or worth the trouble. A small project and donation could be set up as a personal 1099 business. The business could write off a lot of expenses before the rest of the donation became income to the recipient.

Consultants and small partnerships do this all the time. And there is lots of web and book literature on how to do this.

Slashdot submitters are this ignorant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44688449)

The only reason "underspent" exists as a thing is because corporations needed a way to say "tax evasion" without using the words "tax evasion." I honestly can't believe the submitter and his/her company is surprised that people would not want to participate in illegal activities which, while seemingly beneficial to the recipient, could have potentially disastrous legal and financial repercussions later down the line.

Here's an idea: Just pay your fucking taxes!

News Flash: Scam (1, Funny)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 8 months ago | (#44688499)

Open Source projects are not looking to scam the government, and lose their non-profit status or whatever credibility they previously had. They are not willing to draw up fake bills of sale, just to save your company a little money.

Why would you ever admit publicly your underhanded dealings, and tax scams?

Need a middleman for FOSS donations (1)

mounthood (993037) | about 8 months ago | (#44688525)

FOSS should have an org. that acts as a middleman for donations, tax issues, and foundation compliance. Make a donation to the org (hereafter MITM) on behalf of the software project, similar to Kickstarter but without the projects needing to join or setup a page. MITM can let accounts build-up until it's worth dealing with, find and verify the contributors, then help them with taxes or setting-up a foundation. MITM could also have donation clauses that let them change donations from dead projects to other similar ones, or maybe donations could be restricted by license, or by estimated number of users, etc...

I'd suggest GNU to take this on, but I don't think they'd be pragmatic enough.

Walk down a "respectable" street... (1)

boristdog (133725) | about 8 months ago | (#44688599)

Walk down a respectable street and stop respectable looking people and try to make them take a $20 bill from you. Most will run the other way.

Now, if ou did that in a poor neighborhood or a college campus area...results might be different.

FSF Membership (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44688687)

https://my.fsf.org/associate/support_freedom/join_fsf

Set amount that you want.

also (4, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | about 8 months ago | (#44688725)

The complications are from your own company.

Don't blame the open source project for your own beancounters and managers making things difficult to donate.

You are the one making them jump through hoops, not the other way around.

Sell me a plaque (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44688727)

Most fundraisers are about selling items for more than they are worth, or rather, more than you paid for them. So, I give you $5000, you give me a $15 plaque from your local trophy place that says thanks for supporting project X. No legal, ethical, or accounting issues. If the accountants really get fussy, say its to decorate for when a customer comes to visit.

Something for nothing and the sex is free (1)

Trax3001BBS (2368736) | about 8 months ago | (#44688741)

I figure most are hardened to the Internet now, get rich quick schemes, and if if it seems too good....
all get a quick glance then removed.

But haven't seen what was sent to the developers, that would of been an important item to of linked to.

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