[Carfreeliving] TLC as a membership organization
dave at livablecity.org
Tue Jan 17 17:35:55 MST 2006
I understand that several folks were eager to see my answer to Joel's
question. So I asked the question at our board meeting tonight so I
could give a good answer, sanitized somewhat of my frustration at my
inability to create a single administrative structure with multiple
banners. I'll add the "backstory" at the end of this note.
TLC was created to fund the tax-exempt activities of sustainable
transportation organizations, and continue to fund Walk SF, SFBC Bike
Ed Fund, and the San Jose-Guerrero Coalition. TLC receives individual
contributions and foundation grants for TLC's programs, as well as
those of the other nonprofits. We need members because we work on
important initiatives of the alternative transportation movement
which are not addressed by any of the existing transportation reform
groups: Rescue Muni, Walk SF, or the SFBC. That is, the intersection
of urban design, environment, and transportation; land use and zoning
and policy and planning changes that actively reduce incentives to
car use. We work on many of the same issues as SPUR, but with a more
explicit focus on environmental sustainability and social justice.
Members support our advocacy efforts financially and in spirit.
Foundation funders look to a membership base to ascertain whether the
organization is publicly supported. (Hence, your membership dollars
are in effect matched several times over by foundations.) Members
also give us numbers of people to rely on for grassroots activism.
We've already found that useful with our efforts to create a livable
downtown through parking restrictions in the new zoning. However, the
SFBC will always have the largest database and hopefully will share
their membership base with us and support our efforts with direct
outreach to their members when we need them.
Now, the back story...
You said, correctly, "I thought the idea was to have it be a funds
dispersing and support org for the membership orgs." The idea -- it
was Terry Miller's idea and he put in the long hours and creativity
in creating the structure for the IRS' approval -- was to have a
single 501c3 that received tax deductible donations from major donors
and foundations and dispersed that money to various satellite 501c4
lobbying groups per the board's and donors' discretion: the SFBC,
Walk SF, Rescue Muni, and whomever else. The problem came when I took
over TLC and turned it into a big-picture advocacy organization
instead of a big-picture, background funding organization. In Terry's
model, the work that TLC is doing should be done by one of those
satellite organizations, and the corporation known as TLC should
become the background organization that Terry envisioned. In reality,
because TLC is getting so well known as the big picture advocacy
organization, the SFBC Board and Leah Shahum no longer want it to
serve as its fiscal sponsor, so they're creating another 501c3 to
serve as its fiscal sponsor. Since TLC can legally do all the
lobbying we need to do as a 501c3 organization (we spend less than
20% of our budget on lobbying), we're not going to create that
background organization. TLC is in fact fiscally sponsoring the SFBC
(though the SFBC will soon opt out), Walk SF, and the San
Jose/Guerrero Coalition. In sum, the two differences between Terry's
model and the reality today is that the SFBC will have its own fiscal
sponsor instead of TLC and that TLC's advocacy and education is done
"in-house" instead of contracted out to a 501c4. Does this make sense?
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