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Is OpenStreetMap a charity?

Is it registered as such? If not, why not?

asked 12 Apr '14, 16:10

Harry%20Wood's gravatar image

Harry Wood
accept rate: 14%

OpenStreetMap is certainly a good cause, but it's not a registered charity no.

We have a charitable mission to create a map of the world and release it for free under an open license. We're giving this geodata to the world, for the benefit of everybody. It's a good cause.

By "we" I am referring to people all over the world taking part in the project in the their spare time. That's what OpenStreetMap is. A mass collaboration. We are a nebulous internet collective but...

There is an organisation: The OpenStreetMap Foundation (osmfoundation.org) "is an international not-for-profit organization supporting, but not controlling, the OpenStreetMap Project. It is dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free geospatial data and to providing geospatial data for anyone to use and share". You can donate to the OpenStreetMap Foundation, as a way of supporting the project in general (a key role of the foundation is to handle these donations, and manage the funds)

This is a UK registered not-for-profit company. It is not a UK registered charity at the current time.

The foundation could potentially apply to become a UK registered charity. My understanding is that the process with the UK charity commission would be painfully slow, with lots of legalistic paperwork and rounds of consultation, and lawyers time involved. I beleive the foundation treasurer had a stab at this back in 2007, but gave up. The problem is that the UK charity commission has a set of categories for charities, and (perhaps deliberatly) internet-based projects do not fit well into these. Wikimedia UK (a similar organisation) went through the long painful process, benefiting from lots of pro-bono lawyer time. The good news is that they eventually succeeded. The bad news is that it took them five years of hard work! See wikimedia UK charity status.

That's my understanding, though I'm not really much of an expert in what happened with wikimedia UK or what kind of problems we might face. I'm certainly not volunteering to look into the paperwork for this! Not my kind of thing, but if somebody fancies the challenge, being a charity would be great!

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answered 12 Apr '14, 16:10

Harry%20Wood's gravatar image

Harry Wood
accept rate: 14%

edited 12 Apr '14, 17:05


A couple of notes:

  • given the international nature of the project it would not be of much benefit to third parties if the foundation obtained UK charity status (for example donations in the USA to the OSMF would still not be tax deductable)

  • our current articles of association do not have extensive asset lock down provisions, this is something we are looking at to add this year, please feel free to join the dicussion when it gets moving.

(12 Apr '14, 16:57) SimonPoole ♦
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question asked: 12 Apr '14, 16:10

question was seen: 3,769 times

last updated: 12 Apr '14, 17:05

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