What’s in a Name; and Why a “Foundation?” You Ask
Christine Santoro, Esq.
Recently, we were asked, “Why is your organization referred to as a ‘Foundation?‘” “Are you a true Foundation and why wouldn’t your non-profit simply be known as the TrustTheVote Project?” Herein some answers to those reasonable questions.
What is a Foundation?
The simplest answer about our name can be explained in observing that dictionaries generally offer, as one of several definitions of the term “foundation” this one:
The basis on which a thing stands, is founded, or is supported.
The “thing” for us is open source election technology. And the OSET Foundation is the basis on which that stands, was founded, and is supported. Truly, that’s it. But then there is the legal naming explanation. So let’s turn to that aspect.
So, another dictionary definition that applies to us is this one:
A foundation (also a charitable foundation) is a legal categorization of nonprofit organizations that will typically either donate funds and support to other organizations, or provide the source of funding for its own charitable purposes.
This applies to us. Often times a foundation is assumed to be one that either donates funds and support to other organization, but it can also be one that supports its own cause. It is also common to read a legal definition that describes a Foundation as a “permanent fund” established for purposes of carrying out its charitable mission, but that does not necessarily have to be the case as explained here.
Ultimately, the OSET Foundation (recently re-named from the OSDV Foundation) seeks to do both — support our own cause as well as create a permanent fund to support others.
The notion of a permanent fund to donate to others requires we build an “endowment” of capital whereby we can utilize the interest income to carry out our charitable mission. We believe it will be some time before we can realize that goal.
Managing our own internally spawned projects such as the TrustTheVote Project only requires that our Foundation be funded by other philanthropic sources, which includes other grantor organizations (sometimes called “GMOs”), high net-worth individuals, private family foundations, government grants, and individual citizens.
- A Note of Caution: understand that “foundation” is not a legal term, so if an organization has that word in its name such does not necessarily mean the organization is a “grant-making” operation.
Our ultimate goal is to make grants, but not in the immediate future, or at least until we have completed the base development of the open source election technology framework.
So, looking forward, we chose a name that could support a grant-making goal over time, and then immediately turned our attention to the TrustTheVote Project.
Our objective is to build a basis on which publicly available election technology innovation can be sustained for the public benefit as a charitable cause to assist in the preservation of democracy. Over time, we hope to have a portfolio of OSET Foundation “projects” to do just that. Today, our flagship effort is, and remains the TrustTheVote Project.
There were some additional nuanced legal and technical reasons for structuring (and naming) this CA Public Benefit Corporation and tax-exempt charitable organization in this manner. We’re glad to wade into those legal and technical nuances off-line if someone has a sincere interest.