Terminology

We have developed some terminology to describe processes within Open Collective Foundation. Please use these terms when creating issues or support requests, instead of user —everyone is a user!

Since there are many ways to interact with our site, we have defined some terms to clear things up:

Every action inside Open Collective is based on contribution.

The word we will use for "someone who contributes to a project" is "contributor". The buttons on tiers will say "contribute".

We are all individuals

People are individuals. Individuals create accounts on our site in order to form or donate to initiatives inside the Open Collective Foundation.

  • On our site, individuals can be a 'Contributor' or an 'Organizer' (or both!)

  • Initiatives are either a 'Collective' or a 'Fund' - When you set up your account, our team will help you determine which.

Contributors

Financial Contributors

Organizational Financial Contributor

A company that supports an initiative financially, often at a higher tier. This is often called sponsorship in practice, but can go by other names depending on the Collective's context, such as base supporters, members, etc.

Sponsors often represent companies with accounting and reporting needs. They may want brand exposure, access to or goodwill from a community, tangible benefits like support, or help with their recruiting efforts.

Individual Financial Contributor

Supports an initiative financially, with a repeating or one-off contribution.

They arrive at a initiative many ways:

  • Search from Open Collective's homepage

  • Direct link to a Collective

  • Organizer's page

  • Our blog or newsletter

There are two different formats to contribute financially:

  • One-time financial contribution

  • Recurring financial contribution

Expense submitter

An individual who requests payment from an initiative's budget using the expense function. This might be for reimbursement for purchases made on behalf of the initiative or could be financial compensation for work completed (you can upload an invoice or create one on our site when you submit an expense.)

For tax purposes, an expense submitter who invoices (not reimbursement) over $600 will be treated as an independent contractor and will automatically be issued a 1099 form. More about that here.

Non-financial Contributors

Organizer

An individual who creates or works on an initiative. After talking with our team, organizers will determine if they are creating a 'Fund' or a 'Collective'.

Core Contributors

Individuals who are major contributors and represent the Collective with their face on the Collective's page as part of the team.

Collective Admins

A type of Core Contributor with additional permissions, so they can edit the Collective, change settings, approve expenses, make financial contributions to other Collectives, and receive messages from people trying to contact the Collective.

Core Contributors want to make their communities sustainable financially, so receiving financial contributions is first on their priority list. They use tools like tiers, goals, and social media sharing. They are interested in managing and growing their communities by creating events and sending updates.

Event Attendee

Individuals who register to attend a Collective's event. They often arrive through a direct link provided by the event organizers. They want a smooth, hassle-free experience, clear information about the event, and ideally a pathway to stay in touch or become contributors.

Initiatives

Initiatives are the accounts for projects/groups that are hosted by the Open Collective Foundation. An initiative can be either a Collective or a Fund. As part of your application process, our team will discuss with you which is the correct account type for your project.

Collective

A Collective represents a project or group that has a mission or purpose in the world, which they raise and spend funds transparently to achieve.

Fund

Funds is a way to manage grant-making initiatives on Open Collective. Funds is designed for larger initiatives who need a simple, scaled back way to receive and disburse financial contributions. Know how much money the fund has, approve or invite grant requests, easily request disbursements from your charitable fund.

Funds allows for more customization in the transparency of your initiative. This is a great way to issue grants to recipients of emergency aid, human rights activists and censorship targets, for example, for whom more privacy is essential.

It's also perfect for initiatives who want it to be easier to distribute money outside of Open Source Collective- Funds is the best way to manage your FOSS support fund to projects in or out of your OSC fund since you'll only need to deal with one vendor (us!). With Funds, we can now offer more flexibility for managing finances and expenses

How to Choose:

Apply as a Fund if:

  • You would like a way for to accept and use large checks

  • Your fundraising efforts are less social; less about crowdfunding

    • Funds is more of a financial management tool: more about disbursing of large chunk rather than receiving lots of small chunks;

  • There are less people involved in your initiative (just 1 or 2 fundraisers)

  • You want a simplified way to allocate money,

    • You can engage with just one vendor (us) in order to distribute large checks to both collectives on our platform or outside our platform

Apply as a Collective if:

  • You are working with a team

  • You want to crowdfund

    • You want to be able to update many people (your team and your donors) about your initiative

  • You will be accepting donations from many different sources

  • You will be disbursing funds to many different recipients

Payouts

There are two types of payouts that submitters can receive: Expenses (e.g. Invoices and Reimbursements) and Grants

Expense Payments

In contrast to a grant, which primarily benefits the recipient, an expense payment (e.g. Invoices and Reimbursements) generally benefits the payor organization. Such payments include salaries and wages paid to employees of the organization, and payments made to independents contractors, vendors, and consultants who provide services to the organization. These payments are considered taxable income, and a 1099 would need to be issued to any independent contractors.

Grants

Generally, a payment to an individual is considered a grant where the payment itself furthers a charitable purpose, and the grantor is only involved in administering and monitoring the grant. If a payment to an individual is properly classified as a grant, it will be treated as a gift and will be excluded from that individual's taxable income.

Examples of grants include:

  • A scholarship or fellowship grant to be used by the individual for study at an educational institution.

  • A cash prize or award recognizing an individual's past accomplishment in a particular field.

  • A payment to an impoverished individual for food, clothing, housing, transportation, or other necessities.

  • A fellowship grant that enables an individual to achieve a specific objective, produce a report or other similar product, or improve or enhance a literary, artistic, musical, scientific, teaching, or other similar capacity, skill, or talent.

In other words, your initiative could make a grant to an individual so that they could spend a summer learning how to code. You could also award a fellowship to an individual to work for a software project for a period of time to improve their coding skills, or to complete a piece of software.

*Please note, the Request a Grant feature is not yet available to all groups and is still in beta testing, so this feature is subject to change.

To summarize, a payment to an individual who is providing services to or for the benefit of Open Collective Foundation and/or its hosted initiatives is likely an expense payment. If a payment furthers a charitable purpose and directly benefits an individual (or their project or organization), it is likely a grant.

Fiscal Hosts

A Fiscal Host or Sponsor is a type of Organization.

Fiscal hosting enables Collectives and Funds to transact financially without needing to legally incorporate. A fiscal host is a legal company or individual who holds a Collective’s funds in their bank account, and can generate invoices and receipts for Financial Contributors. You can think of a fiscal host as an umbrella organization for the Collectives in it.