Tagged Foundation Administration

What’s in a Name; and Why a “Foundation?” You Ask

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.

Legally Speaking…

So, another dictionary definition that applies to us is this one:

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.

Generally Speaking…

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.

Help Wanted; The Search is On

Greetings All
Sorry we’ve been away from the podium here for a couple of weeks.  We’re heads-down on some very exciting projects.  But not nearly as exciting as what I have to announce today.  Let’s get right to it.

The time has comeSome might argue it’s overdue.  Growth of the activities and work here, and the need for speed in advancing the agenda of open source elections technology triggers today’s announcement:

The OSDV Foundation Leadership Team is growing, and we’re officially recruiting for a new Chief Executive Director.

The search is on, and we want your help in locating an absolute “A-player” to lead the next level of growth for the Open Source Digital Voting Foundation.

Wait a minute,” you say. “Wait a minute!  Doesn’t the Foundation already have an Executive Director… or actually like two of them?”  Oh, definitely—you’re right, two of them.  John Sebes and myself, co-founders and co-executive directors (as mandated by the Foundation’s by-laws), have been tirelessly leading and managing this 4-year effort since Day 1 with the generous support and advice of our Board.

We have also have been managing all aspects of Foundation development (read: funding) and technology work (e.g., the TrustTheVote Project).  And the workload has become overwhelming.  We each need to now focus on our particular domain expertise in order to sustain and accelerate the momentum the TrustTheVote Project is gaining.

So, it is time for both of us to narrow our respective scope of efforts.  For myself, this means focusing on stakeholder community development, public outreach, adoption and deployment, and strategic alliances and backing.  In the commercial world, this might be akin to the kind of role I’ve played in the tech sector for about 1/2 of my career: running marketing and business development.

For John, this means the heavy responsibility for leading the core mission of the non-profit: open source elections technology design and development efforts. This is aligned with his commercial world experience: as an engineering manager and chief technology officer.

What’s left are all of the activities associated with day-to-day operational leadership, to effectively manage and grow the Foundation.  This includes executive leadership in major fund raising from all sources, accounting, finance, administration, legal affairs, and public relations.  It is in the commercial world, a CEO role.  In other words, with the growth in activities and work, the leadership team must expand and bring in the right talent to take this to the next level.

We’ve successfully been managing what essentially amounts to nearly a $1.0M  operation; a tiny start-up by commercial comparison, but significant by some non-profit comparisons.  We realize that we must now elevate this to a $7-10M annual operation in order to maintain the momentum we’re generating and be the kind of change agent for public elections integrity and trust according to our Charter.

And we’re experienced enough to appreciate that neither of us is well suited to provide that non-profit leadership and somehow keep doing what we do best.

The details of technology architecture and building the stakeholder community are more than full-time efforts alone.  To be sure, both John and I have managed commercial technology operations greater than $10M per year (but in those cases had staffing and resources commensurate with the size of operation).  However, the nuances of a non-profit operation, its methods of funding, and the need for our acquired domain expertise on elections technology, flat out prohibits us from trying to do it all any longer.

So, Here We Go.
We’ve uploaded a position description on the TrustTheVote Wiki.  You will find it here. And there is a companion document that provides some background, here.  We’ve engaged with our Board, an Executive Recruiter, and our advisers to expand the search.

With today’s announcement, we look to you, our backers, supporter, stakeholders, and other interested onlookers to join in the search for our ideal candidate to lead this exciting and important project blending the best in technology innovation, with the imperative agenda of “critical democracy infrastructure.”

And it’s a helluva lot of fun working to be the change agent for accuracy, transparency, verification, and security of public elections technology in a digital age.  To be sure, there’s a bunch of great stuff going on here: the digital poll book project based on the Apple iPad; the election night reporting system project using open data and web services distribution; work with the Federal Elections Assistance Commission on component-level certification for the open source Tabulator we’re building; and working with the IEEE 1622 Standards Group on our proposed standard for open election data formats.

Please spread the word; the search is ON.  If you know of an ideal candidate, or even think you might be one yourself, we want to hear from you.  Ping us.  You can also drop a note to “edsearch” sent to our Foundation web site domain.