After attending the ASAE conference, and then the ICMA conference, it dawned on me that the (short) history of ELGL should be recorded and shared. Why? Mainly to capture the story of ELGL, and also to share how our organization operates and how that’s very different than most groups.
Previously: Lunch for 16, Living Room Meetings
I’ll structure this “This is Us” blog post in a Q&A format, using some of the questions (or rumors) that we get about ELGL and our organization.
Are you a non-profit?
Yes, we’re a registered 501c6 – a public benefit corporation with members. You can review our registry with the state of Oregon here. Our constitution and bylaws are registered online here. For the first year of organizing small events for ELGL, Kent and I incurred expenses (for things like lunches, rental fees, etc.) and charged for events from our personal accounts.
As we grew and as we realized that ELGL was going to be a long lasting organization, we wanted to remove potential liability and risk, so formally incorporated the organization so we could open a bank account and purchase insurance.
We opted to formalize as a 501c6 because we identified more with the IRS definition:
“[501c6 organizations are]… business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, boards of trade and professional football leagues, which are not organized for profit and no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder…”
Are you part of ICMA?
No. While we have great relationships with other professional associations like ICMA and GFOA we are totally independent from those organizations and work with them in partnership only. We recently signed an affiliate agreement with ICMA to formalize our relationship, but this doesn’t tie us to ICMA anymore than any other organization.
Do the Wyatts have a financial interest in ELGL?
No. Even though Kent and I founded this organization, all of our legal requirements about dissolution are spelled out in Section 12 of our Bylaws. Essentially, if ELGL were to disband, any assets would be used to pay outstanding debts and then reimbursed back to members.
Now that I am a full time, salaried employee of ELGL, we’ve set up some checks and balances with our Board of Directors to ensure that Kent doesn’t interfere or discuss anything related to my compensation. He abstains from voting or discussing my salary, which is discussed separate from the general organization budget.
How do you set your dues structure?
From day one, our priority has been a dues structure that isn’t prohibitive to anyone. We recognize that not everyone works in organizations that is supportive of professional affiliation and so we want our dues to always be affordable for an individual.
Recently, the question was raised if our dues are so low because we don’t need additional money, and this couldn’t be farther from the truth. The Board is currently working on ways to create more revenue to support all of the programs we run, without raising dues on our members. This is a tricky balancing act, but our focus on keeping ELGL affordable will remain our guiding principle.
How many employees do you have?
One – just me. All of the great work of ELGL is done by volunteers, including a working board of directors and a fully engaged management team. We use Slack to communicate and plan together, and we also assign projects/roles to management team members who want to stay more engaged with ELGL. One of the biggest compliments is when people think we’re a fully staffed organization – to us, it shows that our volunteers are making a huge impact and we’re empowering them to make ELGL a vibrant and dynamic organization.
So that’s the story of how ELGL went from a lunch bunch to something more formalized, how or legal structure ensures that we’re sustainable for the long haul. In future blogs, I’ll share stuff like: we don’t have an office; how our work is entirely dependent on awesome volunteers; and the overall leadership structures and checks/balances.