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Managing Funds for User Groups

This question seems to come up a lot and it's worth discussing. Few user groups are incorporated, fewer still are true non-profits, so how you pay for pizza, charge sponsors, do the little things that need to be done without having a checking account? In my view unless you have a huge group incorporating isn't worth the time or money. There's an initial filing fee, an annual fee ($150 in Fla), plus you have to file a corporate tax return, file change of address if officers move, etc. Non profits are extra work beyond that.

To start with I'll say that I don't see anything wrong with just asking one member to manage the money, even if its keeping cash in a cash box. For the average group it might be a couple hundred in cash per month from sponsors, donations, etc. Just keep a written journal of expenses and present it at the meeting for review. The worst that can happen is someone steals a few hundred dollars. Not likely, and not the end of the world if it happens.

A better solution is to find a member that has a business that's willing to invoice sponsors and handle the money for you. The advantage is they can write checks and often can provide credit card services as well. In terms of auditing the money it's really the same thing, just review the status at each meeting. oPASS used End to End Training (where I work) to manage funds for SQLSaturday and it worked out very well, most sponsors would much prefer to pay by credit card compared with having to get a new vendor set up with finance.

Of course one of the big advantages of a corporation is it shields you from personal liability (when done correctly!). I know we live in a world where lawsuits are common, but given that incidents are rare and that if something does happen the corporation would have no assets (just inviting them to come after members personally anyway) I'm not sure it's worth it. Given the choice I'd incorporate, but you have to be beyond soda and pizza money to consider it.

From a sponsor perspective I'd much rather pay with a credit card or write a check than to show up with cash, or to have to arrange the pizza/soda to be there (a common request so that the group handles NO cash).


I'm Andy Warren, currently a SQL Server trainer with End to End Training. Over the past few years I've been a developer, DBA, and IT Director. I was one of the original founders of SQLServerCentral.com and helped grow that community from zero to about 300k members before deciding to move on to other ventures.


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