on 01-31-2017 05:01 PM
Hello all - looking for some practical advice on logistics of SUGs. I have lots of questions. Most of the guidance documents I have seen focus on marketing your group, planning meetings, engaging members. I need some more basic information on how other SUGs are organized and how they manage their funds. I'd appreciate hearing about how other groups are set up. Any advice much appreciated!
Do you have a separate bank account for your SUG?
Is it tied to a board member's personal account?
Do you have a tax identification number?
Are you incorporated?
Are you incorporated as a nonprofit? .... like a 501c(6)?
Did you pursue tax exempt status?
Did you hire a lawyer to help with any of this?
Thanks in advance!
on 01-31-2017 05:27 PM
I can tell you that PharmaSUG has separate bank accounts (both checking and savings) which are not in anyway tied to the board member's personal accounts. We also have separate credit cards which are held by members of our finance committee. We do have a tax ID number, and we are incorporated as a nonprofit, but we have not pursued tax-exempt status. I believe a lawyer was involved in setting some of this up, but that was before my time so I can't tell you exactly what.
There are also some other financial and legal matters to consider: setting up corporate by-laws, liability insurance, directors and officers insurance, hiring an accountant to keep the books, filing appropriate tax forms with the IRS and/or the state in which you incorporate, finding a place to keep meeting minutes and other important documents, and setting up appropriate policies and controls around reimbursing board members and other volunteers for travel or other expenses incurred in operating the organization. The list goes on and on!
Happy to answer any other specific questions you may have.
on 01-31-2017 06:17 PM
I helped with the incorporation of both the Western Users of SAS Software (WUSS) regional conference and the San Diego SAS User's Group (SANDS). Both are non-profit but 501c status is not available as they support a specific company (SAS Institute Inc). Both pay Californina income tax. I am also working with the Alaska SAS Users group (AKSUG) which is not incorporated, but has no bank account either.
Incorporation is a way to help shield board members from potential liability, and in some states may be required in order to have a bank account.
on 02-01-2017 02:46 PM
on 02-01-2017 04:07 PM
If you are able to get tax exempt status, please let this group know. CA taxes impose quite a burden on both SANDS and WUSS. It has been awhile since i was on the board of either group, but the single annual WUSS conference draws about 400-500 persons. SANDS puts on quarterly meetings and draws 50-75 persons each time.
on 02-01-2017 04:16 PM
I've been told that the Boston Area SAS Users Group (BASUG) was successful in obtaining tax-exempt status. This seems to be confirmed by the IRS as they are listed as a "public charity" in the IRS searchable directory of exempt organizations. Interestingly, they are the only organization in that directory that includes the exact phrase "sas user" in its name.
on 02-01-2017 05:11 PM
on 02-01-2017 04:59 PM
on 02-02-2017 09:37 AM
Hello Anne, this is Elizabeth Axelrod from BASUG (the Boston Area SAS Users Group). Years ago we went through the entire process to become incorporated and a tax-exempt 501c(3) non-profit. We wanted to be incorporated so we could get insurance for our board members. I'll answer your questions briefly below, but our treasurer can probably provide greater detail. Let me know how to reach you and I can put you two in touch. Here are the short answers:
Do you have a separate bank account for your SUG? YES.
Is it tied to a board member's personal account? NO.
Do you have a tax identification number? YES.
Are you incorporated? YES.
Are you incorporated as a nonprofit? .... like a 501c(6)? YES - we're a 501c(3).
Did you pursue tax exempt status? YES.
Did you hire a lawyer to help with any of this? YES - ABSOLUTELY!
02-06-2017 10:20 AM - edited 02-06-2017 10:22 AM
I wanted to answer quickly and say –
Consider the time, money and effort necessary for all that vs the needs of your local user community.
Ask them and talk with them about what is necessary. But I would like to suggest that you correctly identify what kind of identity and entity you want your community to be. Most groups have an identity disorder - they want to be small and nimble but ultimately they try to act like a regional group. (see below).
And if you want to grow a great software community – I encourage you to visit (for the sake of observing – we don’t want to lose you) other software user groups in your immediate area and see why they are growing. Yes – I am encouraging you to see an HTML user group or a JAVA user group. Find the biggest most popular group in your area- visit it and see how exciting things are there. And then bring it back to your group.
So here is the rest (yikes not so quick - sorry)
A lengthy set of things to consider or ponder. But not just for you. I’m very curious what others think. Im going to ask a few questions below but its not for my benefit. And I wont engage in debate on this stuff here. So your responses will be informative and amusing. If you care to debate – lets meet over a beer at SGF and have a good time.
The rest is IMHO.
I suppose I’ll find out who dis/approves of this rant I’ve been contemplating from when I saw the first message. Anne – my prayers go out to you if you go down the path of what I call “LUG identity disorder”. Either wanting to be a Regional or acting like one. Or doing the work of a seminar or training company but not calling it that. If I tell any business professional about the LUG model without naming “SAS” – and ask if it’s a “conference” or “seminar” that im going to – guess what they say? “OH You are going to a software training seminar!”.
I lead the Chicago Area LUG - wcsug.com. Our membership is over 650 and growing. We want to grow a community – a user group and not a seminar or training company. We operate in a very unique way. With a mix of live in person networking events and regular virtual webinar-like events. (quick commercial plug here – if anyone wishes to present or speak at our events – send me an email! firstname.lastname@example.org)
So I'd like to ask that we categorize the group(s) correctly. Meaning - if you are a Regional User Group, PharmaSUG, SGF - you are in a very different league. This kind of event imho - requires the protections, organization of a formal legal entity.
If you are not any of the aforementioned - you could either be a SIG, Internal User Group or LUG. Lets put SIG's out of the way for a moment. Presumably there are too few for me to observe how they work - in general. So Internal Groups - those would be covered by the organization/company that they meet under. So now we are left with "LUGS". Before I start on LUGS. The other groups have a size and population of membership that allows for them to organize and find volunteers. Furthermore that they dont overwhelm each other since the population is sizeable. Yet I do regularly hear the leadership moan about not finding new volunteers - clearly there is a disconnect thats possible? And these Groups hold more of an annual event. Thus the effort is spread out among - many - over time - but for typically a single annual event.
SO on to LUGS.
What gives with everyone? I dont get how a small local user group wishes to run and operate like a big regional or SGF. I personally believe that people have greatly benefitted from the annual or semi-annual or quarterly model. In the past. But now? Is that still necessary? Shouldnt we cooperate with our regionals and SGF better? Who has time for all that work? I greatly admire you folks that pull that off. But its not for me. I've told me membership (the few who ask) that if they wish to do an annual event - cool - i'll mentor and help them - but its on them. And very quickly do my "volunteers" disappear and the person who asked for an annual meeting (who sometimes is the volunteer) - quiets down.
I restarted the wcsug group in October of 2014 after a few years of it being dormant - we had one member - me. Now over 650.
I specifically asked SAS User Group Support if they could tolerate me running the LUG very differently from the typical way SAS Lugs run. They have been very supportive and very helpful. And curious as to how we continue to grow and ask for very little from them. And I don’t want to dismiss Anne’s question – yes our group is reaching a point where we should consider some formal organization.
Our events are growing. But we don’t gather annually. I’ve avoided this because it just takes time and money. And for now all our events are free to users. We havent decided yet what to do. I am trying to work with SAS to see about how to get help or services that are different and thus would allow us to continue how we have – free.
Before I restarted the group I did the following:
I have been shocked by how much of a disconnect there is in the software community about SAS at the user level.
We have NOT adapted enough and we are leaving the doors wide open for other data open source softwares to grow in popularity - and I place a great blame on that because we are not meeting enough.
I've gone to meetings where:
But what is glaringly obvious is there is an enthusiasm and momentum that i have NOT seen at very many lugs. Wait - not fair - yes i do see it - annually. Folks - these other groups meet monthly.
SO the users gather monthly - learn monthly and find support regularly.
SO guess what software they choose to work with- more than monthly? --- its quiet here...
But guess what - its ok - next fall is the regional. And SAS LUG leaders are working hard to put on an annual meeting. Or gee a Semi-annual meeting.
Those poor folks are taking time from family, work etc to bust thier humps for an event to help users. But then - wait?
As a user i've got real work to do - my -non-sas event is this week and in two weeks - but the "SAS" event is in 8 months. Hmm?
Look - I cant tell you how to run your local user group.
But i can warn you that if you do not see what the competition is doing, learn, adapt, change... well i hate to say it but we are all up a creek. See ironically - i firmly believe that SAS is a genuine User Group Software.
From Goodnight, Sall and everyone else. This family of SAS Users grew because of relevant timely events (back then) which enthused users to go and try more. Then return and share.
But somehow the LUGS mentality and identity got stuck in the past. We are NOT training/seminar companies. Well we take money like a seminar but we don’t give out certificates? Hence why I say that most SAS LUGS have an identity disorder. I dont think LUGS should have to incorporate, spend on lawyers etc.
I think SAS should re-evaluate its relationship and support of LUGS and provide a DIFFERENT type of support.
I think LUGS should have things like:
In general I think both SAS and LUGS need to take a hard look, fresh look and re-evaluate together about how to change the model. It cant be right. I dont think it is. When software developers are left to do part time work as seminar companies and organize annual events? As volunteers? Well something is wrong. I'm a SAS developer - im NOT a conference organizer.
We should find that enthusiasm again that we get from SGF, Regional, Pharma and bring it to our locals but NOT in an annual way - ask yourself - why not more often?
At its very core ask – am I helping my SAS user community by meeting once or twice a year?
Well thanks to anyone who tolerated this lengthy opinion.
I hope everyone has a great 2017 and learns something new about SAS - but also tells a friend how SAS software is easily accessible via SAS.com and all the wonderful learning material SAS has made free.
Build great communities!
on 02-06-2017 12:16 PM
Zeke - that is a lot of food for thought and I really appreciate it. What you say makes a lot of sense. My immediate reason to consider formal organization is to protect myself and the other volunteers - a very small group of volunteers. I inherited the bank account after a period of time when our group had been dormant. It is now connected to my personal bank account and this makes me nervous.
on 02-06-2017 05:40 PM
Interesting points you raise and discussion topics of this thread.
FYI, in Australia there are local user group meetings in each state twice a year and they are run by SAS Institute Australia. There are committees at each of the user groups to assist with the presentation planning etc. A few years ago we found that attendance was low for reasons you point out and SANZOC was started. Having an online community also enables people to share across borders. There hasn't been many discussions happening here though of late and it seems the role of a SAS users has evolved from the SAS users of yesteryear and attend other technology and special interest groups. Thus having webinars is a popular and more convenient way to disseminate information to a community.
In case you aren't aware earlier this year a SAS Nordic Community started in communities.sas.com and they have a fantastic SAS webinar program for SAS users that is engaging (lots of polls) and content-rich and encourage SAS users from around the world to attend. These webinars are at 8pm my local time so a convenient time in the day and it is also recorded for people to watch on demand afterwards. I've shared this with the local SAS Australia community and heard people have enjoyed them. The sessions are in English and there is one this week on SAS Studio that may be of interest for your users - Creating SAS code from a web browser - SAS Studio 3.6 - 7th Feb 11 CET
I agree adaptation and creating fun and exciting sessions will continue to enthuse users and encourage new SAS users to attend.
on 02-07-2017 09:57 AM
Thanks Zeke et al,
This is a really interesting discussion. I'm new to LUG leadership (I joined the Boston Area SAS User Group Steering Committtee last year).
I think one general point is that it's probably important for each LUG to have a clear vision of their own (evolving) goals. If the goal is mostly socializing / networking then I can imagine a monthly meetup approach with pizza working well. If the goal sharing SAS techniques / methods to help support the skills development of the local SAS community, then I think the quarterly meeting approach with formal presentations as well as a networking opportunity works well. And certainly agree, that in the past year I have learned that managing four meetings a year with invited speakers takes a tremendous amount of work. I too am grateful to all those who have run LUGs and RUGs and SUGI/SGF for so many years, making my career possible (and fun). And of course the structured meeting approach and casual meetup approach are not mutually exclusive.
Personally, I wouldn't be enthused abou the idea of a LUG that did a lot of virtual meetings via webex or whatever. To me, that feels like something SAS could do instead of a LUG (and indeed, they have a ton of online presentations / trainings already). Web trainings / presentations can be very useful, but that doesn't feel to me like the 'user group experience.' And they also don't feel 'local.'
I congratulate all LUG leaders who are pointing in the time to build their communities. The diversity of approaches taken by LUGs / RUGs in meeting their ow local community's needs is probably indicative of strength. And I look forward to more information sharing about how different LUGs are doing their thing.