FAQ
Frequently-Asked Questions

Basics

How can I contact Open Collective Foundation? Where can I go with questions or concerns?

Email us at [email protected]. We will respond as soon as we can!
You can also join our Slack to get in touch with the entire Open Collective community. Check in at the #ocf channel.

What is the difference between Open Collective and Open Collective Foundation?

Open Collective is the software platform, which is made by a company called Open Collective Inc. Open Collective Foundation is a separate 501(c)(3) entity that uses the platform to provide fiscal hosting services. The two entities are legally completely separate, but share some of the same staff members and community guidelines.

What is the difference between fiscal hosting and fiscal sponsorship?

These two terms mean the same thing. See our Fiscal Hosting page for a detailed description.

What are your fees?

See our Fees page!

How does paying people work?

Payees should submit an expense in order to receive payment from a hosted initiative.

When are payments processed?

How can people donate to my initiative?

Individuals and organizations can contribute to your initiative in a variety of ways, including by credit card, bank transfer, and in-kind donations. See Financial Contributions for more information.

Will our application be approved?

As long as your group is legitimate, meets all of the eligibility requirements, is aligned with one of our impact areas, and has no conflict with the Terms or limitations of our program, you can expect to be approved. We will follow up with you via email if we have any questions or concerns about your application.

Contributions

What if a contributor wants their contribution to be anonymous?

Tell them about our incognito contribution feature! Or they can also make a guest contribution. You can also now differentiate your public display name from your private legal name.

What if a financial contributor is unable or not comfortable with submitting their credit card information online?

If a donor is not comfortable with online credit card transactions, they can send the funds via Paypal, bank transfer, or check.

What if a financial contributor requests a donation invoice?

Reach out to us - we are happy to procure an invoice of this kind when requested. Please provide: Donor name, Email, Initiative Name, & Donation amount (+ screenshots/links) for context.

Can we use outside fundraising platforms, like GoFundMe, to fundraise for our initiative?

In most cases, yes! As long as the funds are transferred into your Open Collective account in a timely manner (30 days). Please note, that most of the time, donations not made on the Open Collective platform will not receive the tax- deduction. For more details, please review our Outside Accounts Policy.
Also, check out our Third-Party Fundraising Tools page for more options and details about GoFundMe.

Can we receive earned income (i.e., non-donations) or sell stuff through OCF?

OCF’s ability to support sales of goods and services as a means of fundraising is limited, but we will consider requests on a case-by-case basis.
Initiatives may sell products or services through a distinct and separate outside entity where the proceeds are then donated to an Initiative under OCF (as long as buyers are made aware that their purchase is not a direct donation and isn’t tax deductible, and that the Initiative and the outside entity are separate and distinct).

Can we offer financial contributors something in return for their donation?

If your initiative intends to sell or provide free goods or services in exchange for donations (a.k.a. partial deductibility), you must inform us and get our permission in advance.

Can we run a raffle or other game of chance to raise money?

Due to state-by-state regulations and significant reporting requirements, OCF's initiatives cannot run raffles.

What should I do if I receive funds outside of the platform?

As laid out in our Terms (Exhibit A, no. 6), when you receive funds outside of the platform, you must immediately transfer them to your account with Open Collective Foundation. Please let us know when you do so, and we will then manually add the funds to your budget. You cannot hold funds outside of your budget at any time.
If you are using a third-party fundraising platform, please see the Third-Party Tools and Benefits page for information on specific platforms.

Can my initiative donate to another hosted initiative?

Initiatives can easily give to other initiatives hosted by Open Collective Foundation. (If you want to give to an initiative with another fiscal host there are some extra steps.)

Can my group offer memberships/accept membership fees?

The platform has a 'Tier' type for membership fees. If all output/impact from an initiative is for 'members only', then it wouldn’t be for public benefit and therefore would not be eligible for fiscal hosting under OCF.
How do I cancel recurring donations/subscriptions/payments?
See our instructions on how to cancel recurring or ongoing donations, subscriptions, payments, etc., here.

Can I donate stock, cryptocurrency, real estate, a life insurance policy, or another major nontraditional gift?

Get in touch with us and we will be happy to talk through possibilities.

Expenses

What does the approval process look like for expenses?

Please see Submitting Expenses for more information on the approval process.

Can we send or receive funds via Venmo or Cash App?

Unfortunately, these services do not currently allow nonprofit accounts.
If you work with a mutual aid or solidarity project and must use these apps, please see our Cash Assistance Policy.

Do you offer payroll services? Can I have employees?

Open Collective Foundation does not offer payroll services at this time. If your initiative has staff, they must engage as independent contractors.
Open Collective Foundation must collect tax forms for any individual who invoices (this does not apply to reimbursements) over $600 in year. Those individuals will be automatically issued a 1099. Here's a good explanation of how W-9s work for independent contractors, and there's more info on what a 1099 is here.
When you submit an expense that puts you over the $600 threshold, you will be sent an email with a link to complete your tax form online. This email will come from HelloWorks, the system we use to handle the forms.
Expenses will not be paid out to you until you submit the tax form.
If you don’t meet the $600 threshold, simply report your earnings as miscellaneous self-employment income when you file your taxes as described above.
Please note Paypal only sends out 1099s when >$20,000 is invoiced. This means that users who select to get paid via Paypal will not be automatically sent the 1099.
Payroll and employment services are something that we are currently exploring and hope to offer soon. If you are interested in these sorts of services, please let us know.
Can I be incognito/not display my name?
We now have the option to differentiate between your public display name, and your private legal name.
We do need your real name as your legal name, because we are bound by IRS regulations and need to be able to ensure funds are being used appropriately. This private legal name will only be visible to admins.
Details such as attachments, comments, the private note section, and the payout method information are only visible to the submitter of the request, the collective admin, and the fiscal host admin who processes the actual payment. Confidential details can also be included in those areas to ensure privacy.

Legal and Compliance

Do we need to set up a bank account?

Nope. We will hold your funds for you! Hosted initiatives should not set up a separate bank account or legal entity for the project. If you are eligible, joining is fast and easy.

Do we need to file taxes?

Initiatives do not have a separate legal existence from Open Collective Foundation and thus should not submit tax forms to the IRS. Your financial activities are included within our annual filings.
Individuals who receive income from Open Collective Foundation (or one of its hosted initiatives) may be asked to submit a W9 and will be issued a 1099. If this applies to you, you will automatically be sent a notification.
If you have questions about your own personal tax situation, we recommend reaching out to a tax professional.

Are we exempt from sales tax?

Sales taxes are administered on the state and local level, but we're happy to apply or complete a certificate for your state or area, provided that we are eligible. Reach out to us and we'll look into it!
Only direct purchases, such as those via the platform or via Virtual Card, are eligible for sales tax exemption. Purchases that would be reimbursed are not eligible.

Will OCF own our intellectual property?

Per our Fiscal Sponsorship Agreement, you retain ownership of all your initiative's intellectual property. If you would like us to hold non-monetary assets, such as trademarks, please reach out.

Do you provide insurance coverage for our activities?

Yes! More info here.

Can we receive international contributions or pay out international expenses?

Yes. But be aware that all of OCF’s transactions are denominated in USD and will then be exchanged into other currencies as part of the transaction.

Can you host groups that are based outside of the United States?

Although Open Collective Foundation’s hosted initiatives can do work outside of the US, their operations must currently be based in the US. There are a number of other hosts using the Open Collective platform, based all over the world.

Can we be fiscally sponsored by another group while being hosted by Open Collective Foundation?

No. Hosted initiatives can only be hosted by OCF for the duration of their time with us.

What is the process for leaving Open Collective Foundation?

While you entered into an agreement with us when you joined OCF, there is no contractual obligation to stay with us, or with any particular fiscal host on the Open Collective platform.
If you decide to transition to another fiscal host that uses the Open Collective platform, the process is relatively simple. If you “zero out” the funds in your account and decide to close it, you can also archive/delete your initiative if you are ending your initiative.
If you decide to transfer your funds to a fiscal host not on the Open Collective platform or to a new 501(c)(3) entity (one that you have set up or another fiscal host/sponsor), please reach out to us.

Grants

Where do I find OCF's official information for an external grant we are applying for?

Please be sure to have any correspondance sent to [email protected] and be sure to include the name of the initiative.
For details about employee gift-matching programs, check here.

Where can we get an MOU (Memorandum of understanding)?

You can send our Terms of Fiscal Sponsorship document over when someone requests a fiscal sponsorship agreement (you agree to this when you tick the box when you sign up with us.)
If they require a signed document, please request one via email [email protected] (be sure to include the name of your initiative, and the name/details of the requester).
If you have a specific document that needs to be signed, please send it over to us so we can review it.

Can my initiative apply for government grants?

Sometimes! If all that's needed is proof of 501(c)(3) status, then yes. If special audits and more specific support is necessary, then unfortunately, no. We may be able to make exceptions, but it would be case-by-case. You can always reach out to check.

Troubleshooting

For technical support or help with a specific expense, please email [email protected]

Where's my money?

Ping us! We often receive money into our bank account without any indication of where it should go. (This is why it's so important to include the name of the initiative on any correpondances/checks/transfer that gets sent to OCF). We don't use/disperse that money anywhere, it just sits in our account until someone claims it, so just send us a message (in slack or email) with screenshots/receipts that include the dollar amount & the initiative name, so that we may get your funds to you.
Last modified 23d ago