Monthly Meeting - 2013-02-19

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Public meeting minutes for Tuesday, February 19th 2013 at 6:30pm
Location: 1820 Pandora Street
Previous: Monthly Meeting - 2013-01-08 | Next: Monthly Meeting - 2013-03-12



Mike McManus, Tim Adkins, Steve King, Mike Frost, Brian Matheson, Chris Hooper, Dave Floyd, Justin Simpson, Karen Noregaard, Michael DuBelko, John Whistler (as of 8:00)

Explanation of roles

Facilitator: Chris H.

Scribe: Michael D.

Consensus briefing

Consensus briefer: Chris Hooper




Continuing the conversation from the January meeting. The link above is to a set of 3 budget scenarios for the 2013 budget.



Build / Production

H & S






$17.5k net



HW Grants

  • Steady so far. A few no-shows who have not responded back.



Events / Media


Staff / HR

Directors / Governance

Old business

Motion to pass the minutes from the previous meeting

2013 Budget

See Finance: Budget report above


  • Justin: Made a correction: $2000 credits that were actually counted as credit.

Justin: New scenarios will have a deficit, based on increasing staff rates. They assume a continued increase in sales. Deficit would be about $50,000. Includes a contingency fund to go for 5 months without income or to move on short notice. Keep in mind possibility of starting a separate charity. See link above for exact details for each plan. The biggest difference in the budget is staffing; overall, all the other items make only small changes. Do we want Free Geek to give higher salaries, which will be unsustainable long-term, or stay with bonus system, which is an unknown? Even with deficit, there would still be money in the bank at the end of the year. How much will be left is unknown--depends on income. Structural deficit (reduced rates) vs. one-time deficit (lump sum).

Brian: Nervous about the term deficit: 20%+ would wipe out FG. The board is personally liable for the finances of the society. Board will be investigated if org gets wiped out. Previous boards have been very conservative with income. Money should be left for contingences. Would like the opinion of a CGA about bonuses.

Justin: In the year 2012, we had a profit of around $40,000. If revenue stays consistent, we will be able to sustain this success.

Brian: Actual, current money in the bank has to be enough for all contingences.

Mike M: How long would current surplus last, if revenue would drop to 0?

Justin: 3 months. Depends on what expenses are cut during this period. Some expenses are constant, others would change depending on activity.

Tim: Shipments account for roughly 10% of income. The rest is from the store.

Brian: Worst case scenario: we would have to survive for 9 months (?). If we made $40k last year, that's how much more we should expect to spend this year.

Mike F: Why limit the extra expenses to last year's profit? We've been saving up for years.

Tim: Our income has been going up for a long time.

Justin: However, we can't make long-term predictions with the PC market.

Brian: I'm not confident in PC market. I'm concerned about the society. I believe we should be fiscally conservative. We'll be in bigger debt than we were in 2010.

Justin: The additional $40k, in these budgets, is just toward pay. The rest of the expenses are non-recurring costs, and are one-time investments.

Karen: Would wheelchair accessibility increase our revenue?

Brian: It's for our philosophy. It should have no bearing on revenue.

Justin: The budget is right down the middle; neither conservative nor optimistic. Makes sense to put money into investments (such as wheelchair ramp, vent hood) only after we've renewed our rent agreement. Using the $40k on salary would give us $15k left for "special projects" category. If we make a deficit, next year we'll have to cut hours or decrease. Having a bonus system would leave the discretion to the membership whether the bonuses should be issued or not. Choosing whether or not FG is obliged to pay extra to the staff or not.

Tim: We can still resolve hiring vs. bonuses 6 months down the road.

Mike M: We should give staff some kind of a pay raise tonight.

Justin: These numbers will have a small retroactive portion for wages. We can approve a wage increase without approving the budget. Having an HR commitee would help with these decisions 6 months down the road. HR commitee would serve a similar role to that of a manager in a business. Would be able to give staff evaluations, provide a liason for staff about staffing. Proposal 1: Agree on some form of spending decision for tonight (wage increase or payment of some kind to staff). Proposal 2: We go forward with an HR commitee. The two proposals are linked.

Tim: There was already an agreement to have an HR commitee last year (during Pro-D), but not much was done.

Brian: There's a source we haven't looked at for soldering station and handicap access: corporate sponsorship. Could also tap into volunteering.

Justin: If we take the budget proposals and remove the special projects and bonuses, and we'd end up with a deficit of $28k. Proposal 1: Pass Plan D without bonuses and extra projects, retroactive to the beginning of the year. Proposal 2: Review the process to find ways to spend money on these extra projects and what to do about bonuses, by the membership, not later than June.

Brian: Proposal 3: To have a minimum of 1 board member, 1 staff, 1 volunteer for HR commitee. No one component can be more than a half bigger than the smallest component.

Proposal 1 passed.

Proposal 2 passed.

Proposal 3 passed.

New business

Charitable Foundation Presentation

John Whistler, the finance director at Pedal, is going to come to the meeting and talk about the idea of setting up a Free Geek charitable foundation. He was hired by Free Geek to consult and give advice on our financial health and financial processes. This is one of the recommendations from that consulting work. He has gone through this process at Pedal already. At our request, he has offered to work with us and guide us through the entire process, on contract for a fee. We will be able to discuss this idea after his question and answer period.


John: FG is very similar to Pedal and very successful. Getting charitable status will give us access to more types of funding. Pedal incorporated a second society: the Pedal Foundation. Regular Pedal operated as normal. When an organisation has charitable status, there are reporting requirements. There is the expectation that we make charitable activities. However, we also have non-charitable activities, e.g. income from shipments, store. Will put limits us on what we can advocate, for to 10%. OHN would be considered one of our charitable activities. Charitable status is federal, while non-profit status is provincial. To maintain control of the charity, the members of the foundation should be the directors of the society. Once a director retires, he/she retires from the membership. Should be a contract between the foundation and the nonprofit. Foundation should be merely an accounting shell for the nonprofit; nonprofit should control the foundation. Set up an appropriate pay structure for charitable services to be funded. Funds are transferred from foundation to nonprofit's charitable services. At pedal, the donated bikes are only given to clients who have referral from an organisation vouching for the client's need: to assert that client is in financial need. Should make a list of all our charitable activities, and have a business strategy for each of them. Should be very easy to transfer all the funds from the foundation to the society. Main difficulty is in documenting the activities. Admin/Accountant/Bookkeeper would manage all this. Hardware Grants can have a monetary amount attached to them which are paid for by the foundation.

Mike M: How difficult would this be to handle, personnel-wise?

John: Part-time amount of work.

Brian: Big can of worms with certifying FG volunteers as financial in need, to do with invasion of privacy.

Justin: At Pedal, what was the impact on staff, in terms of work?

John: Could make a conscious decision to not have it impact all activities, just certain ones. Not a big deal, overall. All you need to fill out is an annual return: not a huge amount of documentation in the output. They are looking for reasonable documentation on FG's end, not official forms etc. Staff time spent on said documentation would be billable as charitable activities.

Steve: Could the computer grants to volunteers be considered part of an education? And thus be charitable?

John: That could fit in the Education category of charitable activity, but it would need to be accredited.

Justin: Open Source education does not have accreditation.

John: Skills development is charitable, such as that from students sent to FG from schools/institutes. FG should manage its receipts. Should create a whole, rigorous process for receipts given to donors for high value donations. Receipts should only been given to items between $200-$1000 in value. CRA does not like self-estimates more than $1000.

John: Once foundation is created, promoting it should be a priority. Little things can be done immediately, such as a donate button on the website. To get it all set up properly will take about a year.

Brian: Receipts from computers would be useless, as businesses already write off computers. Small businesses can also partially write them off, and it would be very problematic to issue receipts for equipment that has already been written off.

Justin: Should focus on cash donations only at first for receipt.

John: Once a foundation is established, foundation+FG should get audited. It's part of the annual report process, and is helpful. A lot of government funding expects audited statements.

John: Recommend removing financial reports from wiki. Potential thieves will notice how much cash we have on hand, etc. If FG wants to incubate other societies, they can provide financial reports to those societies at a time. Doesn't have to be publicly accessible. I also suggest getting a purchasing card.

Next meeting

When: Tuesday, March 12th, 2013 at 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm

Where: Free Geek Vancouver, 1820 Pandora St., back door


Facilitator: Chris Hooper

Scribe: Mike Frost