Software Freedom Conservancy

Member Project Services

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. The following are the services and options that are available to FLOSS projects that have joined Conservancy as a member project.

Tax-Deductible, Earmarked Donations

Member projects can receive earmarked donations through Conservancy. Since Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) charity incorporated in New York, donors can often deduct the donation on their USA taxes. Additionally, the donors can indicate that their donation should be used to advance a specific member project, and those funds are kept in a separate account for the member project by Conservancy. This structure prevents developers from having to commingle project funds with their own personal accounts or having to set up their own project specific account.

Since Conservancy is a tax-exempt organization, there are some limits that the law places on what member projects can do with their assets, but those limits are the same as if the project was an independent non-profit entity. Usually, the project leadership instructs Conservancy's leadership on how the project's funds are spent. Conservancy spends these funds on the project's behalf on any expenses that constitute appropriate activity under Conservancy's 501(c)(3) not-for-profit mission. Some typical uses of earmarked donations by Conservancy's member projects are:

Asset Stewardship

Conservancy can hold any assets for the project on its behalf. This includes copyrights, trademarks, domain names, physical computer equipment or anything that should be officially held in the name of the project. Member projects are not required that Conservancy hold all assets of a project. (For example, member projects are not required to assign copyrights to Conservancy.) However, Conservancy can accommodate the needs of projects that want their assets under the control of a not-for-profit entity and exercised only for the public good.

Contract Negotiation and Execution

Projects sometimes need to negotiate and execute a contract with a company. For example, when a project wants to organize and run a conference, the venue usually has a complicated contract for rental of the space and services. Conservancy assists projects in the negotiation of such contracts, and can sign them on behalf of the project.

Conference Logistical Support

Many Conservancy projects have an annual conference. Conservancy provides logistical support for these conferences, particularly in the area of financial responsibility and liability. Conservancy provides a small amount of logistical support for conference in other ways, resource-permitting.

Basic Legal Advice and Services

Since projects, upon joining, become organizationally part of Conservancy, Conservancy can provide basic legal services to its member projects through Conservancy's own General Counsel, outside counsel, and pro-bono attorneys. For example, Conservancy assists its projects in handling issues related to trademark registration, trademark policy development and licensing, trademark enforcement, copyright licensing and enforcement, and non-profit governance questions and issues.

FLOSS Copyright License Enforcement

Complying with FLOSS licenses is easy, as they permit and encourage both non-commercial and commercial distribution and improvements. Nevertheless, violations of FLOSS licenses (in particular of the GPL and LGPL) are all too common. At request of the project's leaders, Conservancy can carry out license enforcement activity on behalf of the project's copyright holders.

Fundraising Assistance

Conservancy provides various tools and advice to member projects on methods of raising funds for their projects' earmarked accounts.

Avoid Non-Profit Administrivia

Member projects can continue to operate in the same way they did before joining Conservancy without having to select a board of directors or any other layer of corporate management, without having to maintain corporate records and without having to do any of the other things required of incorporated entities. Conservancy handles all of that burden on behalf of its projects.

Leadership Mentoring, Advice and Guidance

Many of Conservancy's directors are experienced FLOSS project leaders. They offer themselves as a resource to member project leaders who need assistance or face challenges in their work leading their projects.

Some Personal Liability Protection

When a project joins Conservancy, it formally becomes part of the Conservancy. (The project is thus somewhat analogous to a division of a company or a department in a large agency.) As such, project leaders benefit from some amount of protection from personal liability for their work on the project.

Officiating Community Elections and Ballot Initiatives

Conservancy will organize and run community leadership committee elections and/or ballot initiatives for its member project communities, using online voting software.


Those familiar with non-profit terminology will recognize most of these services as fiscal sponsorship services. This term is not particularly well known in the FLOSS community, and many are confused by that term. However, if you are familiar with what a fiscal sponsor typically does in the non-profit sector, the term does fit many of services that Conservancy offers its member projects.

Project leaders that believe their project might benefit from these services can apply to become a member project.

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