Open Source endowment?

  • From: Steve Baker <ice@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: technocracy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 14 Jun 2000 17:06:43 -0500

  At the behest of fellow technocracy member John Bell I have finally gotten
around to spending a few minutes over at the ISU foundation office talking
about how you can give your money to ISU instead of Uncle Sam. Basically, I
learned we can do anything we want with donations to ISU and they're very
happy to help us give them money.  I thought I'd share with all here on what
I learned.

  An endowment is a fund that is pooled with all the other endowments at ISU
and put to work on the stock market and other places earning more money.
From that money that is earned 5% of the endowments value can be spent by
the endowment every year.  So if we have say, $30K in the endowment we can
spend about $1500 every year on say, a scholarship or merely put it back
into the endowment to earn more money next year.  Endowments are forever,
but they typically want them to be at least $25K in size before they let you
spend the 5% earned interest (seems reasonable to me, since anything smaller
is almost too small to use for anything).  Oh, and if you like you can
donate securities in leu of actual cash even and that has some sort of
additional tax benefit.

  You can also opt to spend part of your donation immediately, thereby not
putting it in the endowment but making it available to be spent
immediately.  You could say, donate $10K, with $5k to be spent immediately
on whatever it is you wanted, and the rest put into the endowment, and say,
do that on an annual basis until the endowment is big enough to sustain the
spending you want, etc.  Basically anything goes here.

  Now what started out as a Joke could in fact become a reality if we get
enough people or businesses involved.  That being the founding of a Open
Source development lab and Open Source scholarships here at ISU.  While we
would need upwards of a half million in an endowment to be practical, it
doesn't seem impossible to me to get that much if we had say, 15-20
contributors who donated say, $5K a year for 5 years and maybe a few big
corporate donations to top it all off.  Sure we couldn't set it up in a
year, but compound interest is a wonderful thing eh?  Eventually if we had
enough money in the endowment we could fund a professorship even.  The part
I like about it most is that it's forever.

  Sitting all alone in the Sequent lab programming my ass off on this and
that was far better preparation for the "Real World" than sitting in say,
"Theory of Computation" or baby sitting 50 people in the 24 hour lab.
Certainly better than assembling burgers at Burger King. It seems to me also
a novel way to pay for Open Source development.  I would wager by and large
that most people who do Open Source development are of college age, this
seem to be the target group to give money to, in my opinion anyway.

  Giving scholarships to incoming freshmen who've distinguished themselves
by their Open Source programming efforts also seems a mighty fine way to
reward them their efforts and get decently intelligent people to walk the
halls of ISU's math/CS dept.

  Who decides who gets what and how the money is spent, well those who
donate can decide everything.  For scholarships ye who donate the money can
decide who appoints the scholarship committee, which does have to be approved
by the Office of Student Financial Aid (primarily to insure that distribution
of scholarships is all on the up and up as there are apparently limits to how
much money can be given to a student if they don't need it.)  That person
could be the Dean or me or anyone really.  You decide what criterion must be
met for receiving a scholarship, whether it be for a year, 4 years, if the
student is incoming or already enrolled and if they must maintain a specific
GPA and remain enrolled in a specific field.

  And the endowment can be tweaked as we go, because as we get more money in
it, we might want to do different things with it.  They do want
contingencies in the event that say, the CS dept. dissapeared or computers
went out of vogue, but that's pretty easy (just assign the money over for
general purpose scholarships, etc).

  Anyway, I'm going to wrap this up.  What I'd like to hear are suggestions
on what to name the endowment, who all is interested in contributing (and
perhaps how much), what it should accomplish, how it should be run, by whom
and so on.

                                                                - Steve

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