The open source community was surprised today by the announcement that the Open Collective Foundation is dissolving by the end of 2024. Since OCF is a popular charitable fiscal host for 600 collectives (including a handful of software ones), this is quite a surprise and a large disappointment.
Update: Open Collective Inc., the for-profit company that makes the open source software various collectives use independently, was also surprised by the OCF news by the OCF announcement. Similarly, Open Collective Europe (a public charity) has announced they’re here to help host charitable collectives too.
There are a LOT of questions out there, and information is coming slowly from the OCF, so here are a few FAQs for you.Read more: Open Collective Foundation Shutdown Explainer
What is the OCF? What about OC, OSC, OCE?
Software engineers know that naming things is hard; there’s often confusion about which Open Collective is which. Note that these are all separate legal entities, although they share many of the same values, and have had some of the same people work on their creation and in the past.
- OCF is the Open Collective Foundation, a US based 501(c)(3) public charity fiscal host serving 600 community-led collectives. The OCF can accept charitable donations (meaning most US donors get tax deductions) on behalf of collectives, and offer the same set of transparent finance management tools the OCF hosts, that the OC provides as open source code. The OCF is shutting down by the end of 2024.
- OC is the Open Collective Inc., a US based for-profit corporation that offers basic fiscal management tools to thousands of community based groups. The OC can accept donations on behalf of collectives, although in most cases they will not qualify for US tax deductions. Tax deductibility may vary in other countries. The OC also builds open source software tools for managing fiscal hosting and more, which the other independent OC* entities then use to host their own collectives.
- OSC is Open Source Collective, a US based 501(c)(6) business league fiscal host serving thousands of FOSS-related collectives with their instances of the same fiscal hosting tools that OC makes as open source. OSC also sponsors SustainOSS and other open source-focused programs. Donations are not typically US tax deductible.
- OCE is Open Collective Europe, a Belgian non-profit association serving as a fiscal host focused on European collectives.
- OCNZ is Open Collective NZ, a New Zeland non-profit serving as a fundholder focused on Aotearoa collectives. They offer both normal fiscal hosting, and charitable fiscal hosting through The Gift Trust, a registered charitable trust.
- The Social Change Agency and The Social Change Nest CIC are a pair of UK based organizations offering consulting and charitable donation funds management in very similar ways locally.
When is the OCF shutting down?
The latest news is on the brand new Dissolution FAQ, which states:
- Donations to all OCF collectives will stop on March 15th. This includes incoming ACH transfers.
- Fund spending will cease September 30th. Any funds left in a collective at that point will apparently be transferred to some other (hopefully similar) US 501(c)(3) public charity.
- Go read the FAQ for what I’m sure will be frequent updates.
What alternatives do OCF collectives have?
You may need to move quickly, since the OCF will stop accepting any incoming donations in March! Importantly, you should start worrying about moving (or spending!) your collective funds now, because it’s likely you’ll be restricted to finding another 501(c)(3) or equivalent public charity to transfer any accounts to. It’s unlikely (depending on your tax situation) that you could directly transfer existing funds to OC or OSC, for example (although you could obviously do new donations with one of them).
- If your collective builds software, then you should evaluate these fiscal hosts that focus on FOSS software projects and are 501(c)(3)s:
- Software Freedom Conservancy
- Software In The Public Interest
- NumFOCUS – If you are focused on the scientific data stack and tooling.
- OSGEO – if you are focused on geospatial tools.
- HackClub focuses on teens and high schools, but may offer hosting for other software projects too.
- Some other 501(c)(3) FOSS foundations also accept new projects, although fiscal sponorship details vary.
- TIP: you can search the active OCF collections by tags: 56 open source related collectives currently hosted likely need new homes:
- Software Freedom Conservancy
If your collective is not based on building or using software, then the OCF lists two great (and giant) databases of other fiscal hosts. Note: you will need to do your research – most fiscal hosts have specific focus areas, or may have other governance or program requirements. It’s also important to understand the tax status, since any funds at the OCF need to be either spent on your mission before September, or get transferred to another public charity like a 501(c)(3).