being a current member of the Board, I am asked rather frequently what the board of the OTS Foundation actually does – increasingly since we are trying to organise the general assembly to elect a new board (members will receive a notification about this soon). Before we go into that, I want to restate some important things to keep in mind:
- the OpenTechSchool e.V. (aka “the foundation”) was established as a legal framework to assists and deal with legal and financially things regard the international OTS community
- it is split into two main organs, the general assembly, which consists out of all members (anyone can become a member here), which elects 3 people as the board (including its chairperson).
- the board acts as the legal representation of the foundation and handles the day-to-day
As such the main priority of the board of the foundation is to enable and assist the community in its capacity as a legal entity and financial construct and secondly keep all the burden, restrictions and things to deal with that comes with it off the community.
This might sound big and complicated but it is important in order to understand where and how the board is acting. On day-to-day the work of the board consists of the following aspects (at the moment):
- membership management, money and bookkeeping of the foundation as well as per teams
- dealing with the tax office and official administration tasks
- dealing with contracts with third parties
- transferring legal authority – giving certain members legal authority to sign contracts in the name of the foundation (regarding a certain aspect)
- legal representation and IP enforcements
Let me elaborate, what that means:
Money and bookkeeping management
As any “Verein” the OTS has a paid membership system and with our non-profit status we are allowed to accept donations. This generally covers the base expenses (for hosting, domains, meetup.com, etc). Further money is usually bound to a specific purpose or team (like Team Hamburg or Science Hack Day) and is legally bound to that purpose. The board is in charge of keeping the books about it, reimburse the commuity and take care of the ledger of members. This aspect takes about 4-8h per month (spread all over the place).
The second part about the book keeping is about reporting, to legal authorities as well as to the community. The current board is reporting on a team-by-team-bases on its yearly reports (search “yearly” in the Members-Area) and give the current balance per team on request. This takes about 12h once a year.
It is the boards responsibility to keep the books clean and make sure we don’t do anything to risk our non-profit status. Although trying to keep the overhead thin, it sometimes needs the members to fill in forms and such to ensure it works. Whenever possible the board explains the process, how to do it and assists to keep the workload for the community as low as possible.
If there is a treasurer assigned in the board, it is their job to do this, otherwise the obligation lies with the chair person.
Dealing with the Tax office and administration
The previously mentioned and a few other reporting also need to be done for the tax office and some official administration. It is also the boards responsibility to answer official mail and requests. This comes up to a few hours per year.
One task on the plate every year is also to calculate and send out the tax receipts for donations (and membership fees). With proper accounting in place, this takes only about two days every march.
Aside from that the board is responsible to organise and hold the general assembly and hold elections every two years. As we are in the midst of this, I can’t tell you just yet, how much time it takes. But it goes into the days category .
Contracts and dealing with third parties
As the legal representation, the board is the only one allowed to sign contracts in the name of the foundation (and to that extent the community) – see the exception as follows in the next paragraph. This could be easy things as a rental contract for an event or more complex ones like sponsoring agreements. Or general agreements for example, when OTS took over the IT Labs project. I’d guess that dealing with contracts and their implications, takes up to a couple of days over an entire year.
As OTS has always understood itself as an umbrella organisation for everything tech-education related, we also sometimes help out befriended projects that are missing the legal structures (in German). As an example, the foundation was backing the School of MA in its first steps or helped Hackidemia transfer funds onto their account. This makes up to a few days of work per year.
Another aspect of dealing with third parties includes receiving emails asking for things. As an example, we receive emails from new teams, who want to record events. In general this often just means forwarding the email and making sure, someone replies. So far we hadn’t much other dealing with third parties. It maybe comes down to a couple of hours a year.
Transfering legal authority
As we are distributed network of teams, the board can’t be everywhere to sign all contracts. What the board can do, however, is transfer the legal rights of signing papers to others and does it – always limited to a certain scope and amount of money to be dealt with. This of course bears its risks and it is the boards responsibility to oversee that this isn’t misused and all works correctly. Through this easy legal contracting, we are running the Berlin Science Hack day and most likely will organise the first OpenTechSchool Conference in Dortmund without any member of the board having to be on side.
Dealing with this kind of contracting and overseeing what is going on takes a couple of hours per month.
Legal representation and IP enforcement
Fortunately, this one is more of the hypothetical variety at the moment. But should there be the case of someone challenging OTS, the community or the IP in court, it is the boards responsibility to show up and defend it. Or should there be any infringement of the IP by third parties, it is the boards responsibility to sue.
As said, luckily, this hasn’t happened yet.
This is a brief summary of what the foundation board usually does. In order to get all this done, the team of three has its own mailing list allowing it to discuss and decide things – also adhoc if necessary.
If you have any (further) questions, please don’t hesitate to ask them here!