Some of our processes and limitations

Open Collective Foundation is closing down in 2024. Read more here.

Situations where we need to be involved

Open Collective’s platform is set up so that your Collective can have autonomy and independence, but there may be some exceptions when you need to get an OCF staff member involved. Here are some situations where you’ll need to reach out to us:

  • If you choose to enter into an agreement with a third party (like a vendor or a service, contract, or a lease agreement), please email us well in advance. Since we are your fiscal host, these agreements are legally between the third party and OCF, and need to be reviewed, approved, and signed by our team.

    • 💡 From our Fiscal Sponsorship Agreement (FSA): If you want to enter into an agreement with someone else, such as a contract with a vendor or providing a specific service to a sponsor, you need to get our permission, because legally that agreement is with the Foundation as the legal entity. This applies to employing people as well. If you ask us to sign a contract for you, you agree to fulfill the terms of that contract.

  • Groups hosted by OCF must obtain approval from OCF staff prior to the purchase of any large assets (e.g. cars, property)

    • In our Model A fiscal hosting, these types of purchases are owned by OCF, so our team must review and approve these expenses/contracts first. If you would like to make a large purchase/enter a contract for your hosted Collective, please email us contact@opencollective.foundation

  • If you need to submit a grant application as Open Collective Foundation, we may need to review the grant application. You may also need documentation from us that is not available on our Official Information and Documents page. Check out our information on Applying for Institutional Grant Funding for more information on how to apply for foundation and corporate grant funding.

  • If you want to distribute grant funds and/or direct cash assistance.

  • If you engage in offline or in-person fundraising, so that we can make sure we are registered with the government in your state.

    • (Purely online fundraising does not need to be reported to us.)

  • If you want to use an external service or platform to receive funds that is not covered in these docs, please let us know so we can make sure it is compatible. If you do not reach out ahead of time, it could cause trouble and delay fund transfers.

  • If you want to sell goods or services, or provide anything tangible in return to someone giving you money (i.e. it’s not purely a donation). There are tax implications including potential sales tax and impacts on tax-deductibility. See our FAQ for more details.

  • If your Collective’s mission/activities change from what you submitted in your application.

In any of these situations, or in others where you need assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Restrictions and Limitations

While our goal is to help you do more, there are some limitations to what you can do as an Collective hosted by Open Collective. In order to host your Collective and all the others who are currently with us, Open Collective Foundation needs to maintain its 501(c)(3) status and remain in good standing with the IRS and other US authorities.

💡 Please make sure to consider how the activities of your Collective could impact the other Collectives hosted by OCF.

Please make sure to review our Terms of Fiscal Sponsorship agreement. Here are some restrictions to be aware of:

  • Collectives funds must be used solely for your sponsored charitable activities. Funds used for any other purpose, such as private profit, will need to be paid back. (Note: this does not mean that you cannot be paid for your labor.)

  • Funds cannot be used to support breaking the law.

  • OCF cannot sponsor Collectives for which religion is a key focus of their mission, that seek to spread any particular religion, or that require members or beneficiaries to hold certain religious beliefs.

    • Further, Collectives may not have a "congregation," host religious services, have a core recognized creed and/or form of worship, or otherwise resemble a “church” as defined by the IRS.

  • Collectives may not hold funds for the project in any other bank account while hosted by OCF. All funds for your Collective should be hosted with us. Review our Outside Accounts Policy for more details.

Note : You can maintain another bank account for other projects and activities that may be somewhat related. They need to be fully distinct, with different names and purposes, and funds must remain completely separate. Money cannot be regularly flowing back and forth between the two accounts/entities. You will also need to define a very clear scope for your Open Collective funding and activities that is fully separated from any other ones.

  • Collectives cannot be simultaneously hosted by another organization or use another legal entity for their hosted charitable activities. Review our Outside Entities Policy for more.

  • If you are engaging in political work, please make sure you are abiding by the IRS’s limitations on political activity for 501(c)(3) organizations. We wrote a friendly guide here.

  • OCF Collectives are not able to take on loans. We can facilitate donations and grants only.

  • We do not give/find our initatives money: We are here to support existing projects. Check here for some fundraising tips.

  • Once funds enter into a 501(c)(3), they must remain in the 501(c)(3) sphere. This means if your OCF-hosted Collective closes down, your funds cannot be returned, and can either be spent on project expenses or must be transferred to another 501(c)(3) - perhaps another OCF-hosted Collective!

🌟 As a reminder:

  • Everything is managed and tracked on the Open Collective platform.

  • We will receive money on behalf of your Collective and we will hold it safe and not spend it on anything else.

  • Your Collective isn’t a legal entity itself, but sits under the umbrella of OCF.

  • In the Terms of Fiscal Sponsorship agreement, you promise that you’ve been honest about your Collective’s mission, and will only spend the money you raise on that mission.

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