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Re: On LI Fund management

On Thu, 14 Sep 2000, Indranil Das Gupta wrote:

> I appreciate Guru's interesting suggestion that in between events LI
> should have no monies in its kitty... it would be quite an ideal
> situation... but is it practical?

Now *this* is where I feel we are losing sight of the real objectives
before our list. Please permit me to explain:

[Reluctantly climbs the Soap-box...]

I have no doubt that all of us would agree on one point: that our job
here is to draw up the constitution of an organisation, befitting the
concepts of an OS we all have come to admire and love.

Like fans of a certain Tomato Ketchup - we think different. We are people
who at different points in their careers chose to follow an "impractical"
dream of a nineteen year old CS student.  The LUGs have sent us here to
represent, articulate and embody this difference into the organisation
that we are charged to birth.

I may sound presumptious, but let me state this: We are here today,
because we think differently, because *each* one of us took a conscious
decision to be *different*, some at considerable cost to our professional

[Senses boredom in audience, and begins to descend...]

I am guided here by a statement made by a friend who was explaining to
me the difference between a LUG and LI: 

"A federation of organisations should play the role of a Tour Guide in a
Gallery or a technical exhibition. People will come to this tour guide
because he is stands at the entrance advertising his existence and
services, which consist solely of guiding the visitor to the exhibits (the
individual organisations that make the federation) and providing
information about them. The quality and value of the exhibits (the
organisations, not the federation) will be their own. The tour-guide
should have no authority or ownership over the exhibits."

Nothing more, and more importantly, nothing *less*.

> what happens to the money that may be leftover in the LI kitty after
> any such fund-raising effort for any event? How do we spend this
> money? on what?

As Thaths has suggested: CDs, T-shirts and Badges for distribution at the
next event, or as gifts to the LUGs for onward distribution. If nothing
else is available, one could consider gifting the monies to charitable
organisations - that would generate goodwill both with the original
sponsor as well as with the rest of the world, letting them see the Linux
community in an entirely different light.

Anything to prevent LI from becoming a fat capitalist cash-cow with a
potential to dictate to the poor LUGs who do all the hard work.

> Please don't suggest that we handover the remainder to the sponser...
> it would be impractical and an accounting nightmare

No - that was only to scare you into spending it all ;) But seriously,
look at it this way. If our planning is good, we know exactly how much an
event would cost. If we know how much it costs, we stop when we have
raised enough.

> IMO, its far better to use this money to buildup long-term funds...
> that can be used in raising user-awareness, propaganda/publicity
> campaigns in a structured manner. 

Remember, we are here because of our LUGs - they are the *only* reason
for LI's existence. No LUGs, No LI. The LUGs came first.  Given that,
all I ask is that we raise money in a need-based, structured manner,
and spend it the same way.

I am not scared of capital. I even seek it out, just as the LUGs are free
to do (and some do). All I worry about is the possibility that with all
the floating cash (raised, saved and accounted for perfectly) some day, LI
would actually set the agenda for the LUGs and not the other way round.

Me, I just want to be a poor old tour-guide. I want my exhibits to
live and thrive long after I am gone. After all they are free to hire
a new guide to show them off at their best.

> bottom-line is that we need funds. 

Sure. Not capital and wealth. Not power and pelf.

> While Guru's ad-hoc fund-raising idea sounds simple and ideal on the
> face value, IMHO it is not entirely practical.

It is not ad-hoc. It is in fact extremely careful and demands perfect
planning. We plan for and raise exactly what we need. That is, if LI is to
raise funds at all, which I do not really think is necessary.

> BTW, I am all for us practising complete caution, but against becoming
> a bunch of "Doubting Thomas"es. We seem to be drifting on occassions
> to doubt everyone's motives/intent.... The majority of us are here
> with honest motives.

Without doubt, Indranil. Do you think, I would hang around on this list if
I believed otherwise? I have no problems with capital generated by the
*LUGs*. I would even admire the foresight of LUGs like Delhi who have
explicitly incorporated and planned for this possibility into their
MOA, or LUGs like Bangalore that have carefully balanced the need for
sponsorship without finger-pointing or accusations of wrong-doing. 

I have no doubt that LUGs like these would spend and account their wealth
in the most appropriate manner. In fact, I have not heard of a single
instance of mis-appropriation of funds at any LUG. 

Allow me the liberty of an example of what I am talking about: 

I remember the look of horror on Jessica Prabhakar's (ILUG-Bangalore
Coordinator) face after one meet in Bangalore that I attended. She
realised that they actually had Rs.45 (or some amount like that) left
over after settling dues for the meet.  Apparently this was a "not
done" thing at ILUG-Bangalore, so the money was quickly distributed as
additional tips to the waiters.

Yet that LUG is incredibly big and active, and a lot of money is asked for
(off sponsors) and spent to the benefit of the LUG and the community, all
for the good of Linux.

We have similar examples in Delhi, Calcutta and Mumbai that I am aware of,
and I am sure all the other LUGs operate in a self-sufficient and planned

> And since we are sticking to the democratic principles I am sure we
> can overcome/overrule representative with any other "interests".

But who will overrule LI itself, if it begins to bully the LUGs with all
that wealth. Think about *that*.

LI does not need money to build wealth - the LUGs are its wealth. If
LI needs money for a particular situation, it can always ask the
LUGs. If LI does a good job, no LUG would grudge the tour guide his
dues. The principle is simple: If at all, financial transactions
should place LI in the role of a conduit, not as an accumulator.

In this way, there can never be scope for accusations that are almost
unavoidable when it comes to money.

And after all, let's not lose sight of the fact that Linux itself grew to
what it is today - without generating or accumulating money. 

With warm regards,