Type of Organization

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OWEA Members Involved in this Focus Area

  • John Allsopp (lead)
  • Doug Schepers
  • Aaron Gustafson
  • Ben Friedman
  • Mark DuBois
  • add your name here

Session outcomes

2-3 options for organization type, including advantages + disadvantages from which the team can vote.

General Consensus

The option that seemed to offer the greatest amount of flexibility for OWEA is becoming a W3C Domain. The process of becoming established is pretty swift (6-8 weeks) and the W3C's already established policies (such as those around IP) would relieve OWEA of the task of creating these same policies. The structure for an Domain seems sufficiently flexible and the close partnership between the W3C and WF would help a great deal in terms of fundraising. Furthermore, the example of WAI as a self-funded and fairly autonomous Domain is encouraging.

We do have a few concerns about becoming an Domain and would want to ensure that our Charter provided for the separation of OWEA from the W3C should either party feel that the partnership is not working or that OWEA has become too big to still function within the W3C Domain structure (e.g. if it began to eclipse the W3C proper or any other Activities in terms of resource requirements).

Votes can be cast on the discussion page

What type of organization should OWEA be?

What sort of organization should OWEA be?

  • A W3 working group or Activity?
  • An incorporated not for profit organization (like the Mozilla Foundation, Creative Commons)? If so, where would it be incorporated
  • Other kind of legal entity?

DataPortability has a taskforce to investigate similar issues for their organization.

How will OWEA Make decisions?

  • How are major decisions made in OWEA?
  • How are minor decisions made in OWEA?

Organization Structure questions (Mark DuBois added August 20, 2009). We need to think in terms of how all the separate organizations participate in the decision making process. A separate page was created for this discussion.

Examples of Org Structures

Some organizations with similar goals whose structure it would be worth investigating as possible

Discussion Notes from 6 August 2008 in Chattanooga, TN

Participants: John Allsopp (Web Directions), Ben Friedman (AIGA), Aaron Gustafson (WaSP), Doug Schepers (W3C)

What sort of organization should OWEA be?


  1. be a part of another org (such as the W3C)
  2. form as a for-profit corporation
  3. form as a non-profit corporation
    1. tax-deductible, e.g. US 501(c)(3)
    2. non-tax-deductible

Each option was considered in terms of the following:

  • legal structure
  • cost of establishing/running
  • intellectual property
  • autonomy
  • location (as in where it's organized)
  • ability to secure partnerships
  • non-profit status
  • time to market
  • income prospects (including ability to secure grants)

Option 1: Existing within another entity

Potential parent organizations:

  • W3C
  • Web Foundation
  • other?

Began with a discussion of what the W3C options are:

  • Working Group (a la HTML WG)
    • did not seem to fit us -- is more focused on spec work and is very formal in structure
  • Domain (a la Web Accessibility Initiative)
    • more flexible
      • WAI is self-funded
    • Question: could we be a domain without following the existing domain structure? Doug: The W3C is open to any proposals about how an org wants to operate.

Process for becoming a W3C Domain:

  1. draft a Charter to create the Domain
  2. Charter reviewed by W3C membership
  3. issues raised in review are addressed or dismissed
  4. Charter goes to W3C management for approval

Pro (+) and Con (-) list for becoming a W3C Domain:

  • + we are flexible in terms of how we run the domain
  • + funding can be channeled through the Web Foundation (WF)
  • + immediate credibility in the industry and in the education sector
  • + can maintain our own separate membership (with its own dues and responsibilities) or combine it with general W3C membership
  • + IP is already handled
  • - may need our own lawyer for reviewing partnerships as W3C resources are scant
  • + semi-autonomous
  • + would be a smooth financial transition from W3C Incubator status if we were to receive funding before becoming an Domain (since it could all be run through WF)
  • - could be closed/not renewed by the W3C
  • ? charitable from a donation perspective
  • + director of the Domain is part of W3C management
  • + Charter could establish a means of the Domain being "spun-off" into a separate entity should either party (or both) decide that's best (could even establish a means for separating only the fundraising component, should it be mutually beneficial)

Option 2: For-profit corporation

Process for establishing in most U.S. states is roughly a day.

  • + could be set up to act like a non-profit
  • - could be perceived in a not-so-favorable light
  • - no credibility (apart from that of the individuals involved)
  • - shareholders
  • + franchising possibilities for oversight of regional/international efforts
  • + could establish a certification (Note: this could also be done under the other options)
  • + could be an accreditation body (Note: this could also be done under the other options)
  • + cost is less than a non-profit
  • - no tax benefits for financial contributions
  • - more difficult to get grants

Option 3: Non-profit corporation

Process for establishing in most U.S. states is roughly a day. 6-12 months to establish itself as a 501(c)(3)/charitable non-profit.

  • - legal cost of establishing is high if applying for charitable status
  • - time-to-market is lengthy if applying for charitable status
  • + no shareholders
  • - there are specific rules about how it distributes its funds
  • + tax benefits for financial contributions
  • + easier to get grants

Other Resources