MeFi Nonprofit -- Volunteers, Purpose, Name October 30, 2023 11:26 AM   Subscribe

Now that we have formed an interim board to become a MeFi nonprofit, we can move on to a few next items.

COUPLE VOLUNTEER ROLES – A handful of people have volunteered for non-board roles with the coming nonprofit. We could probably use a volunteer coordinator already. We also might be able to use some help with communications, especially public relations. If you're interested, please let us know below.

PURPOSE – The paperwork will likely include purpose, mission or vision.

The current “About Metafilter” on the “About” page says:
“MetaFilter (MeFi) is one of the longest-running online communities.
“MeFi isn't only a community weblog where anyone can contribute, it is also a place where you'll find some of the most interesting stuff on the internet.
“Here you can expect thoughtful and varied discussions. Since 1999, we've been focused on fulfilling the web's potential to bring people together and create genuine, vibrant, good-hearted community spaces. You can join MetaFilter and support us.”

Would you keep that or adjust it in any way? Keep in mind that the expectation is that we will apply as an educational nonprofit.

NAME – Here’s your chance for input on the nonprofit name. You can weigh in on any of the options already given, or suggest something new.
These have been suggested, in seriousness or in jest:
* 20 dollars, same as in town
* MetaFilter, MebFi
* MetaFilter Assemly
* MetaFilter Community Conversations, MeFI CoCo
* MetaFilter Community Group, MeFiCoGro
* MetaFilter Conversations Collaborative, MeFI CoCo
* MetaFilter Fellowship, MeFiFe
* Metafilter Followers, MeFIFo
* Metafilter Forged, MeFIFo
* Metafilter Formalized, MeFIFo
* Metafilter Forth, MeFIFo
* Metafilter Fortified, MeFIFo
* MetaFilter Forum, MeFiFo
* Metafilter Forward, MeFIFo
* MetaFilter Foundation, MeFIFo
* MetaFilter Foundation Fund, MeFIFoFun
* Metafilter Founders, MeFIFo
* MetaFilter Society, MeFiSo
* Plate of Beans
* Popette Jess
* MeFiFoNonProFo

Also consider some guidelines for naming, suggested by Iris Gambol.

Other naming comments: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!
posted by NotLost to MetaFilter-Related at 11:26 AM (116 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

The Metafilter Cabal (MeCab)
There Is No Cabal (NoCab)
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:33 AM on October 30 [1 favorite]

Posters Without Borders
posted by bondcliff at 11:59 AM on October 30 [3 favorites]

MetaFilter Community Conversations, MeFI CoCo
MetaFilter Community Group, MeFiCoGro
MetaFilter Conversations Collaborative, MeFI CoCo

I like all of these. I have no idea whether a cheeky pun or in-joke would have any effect on the IRS's disposition towards the application for non-profit status, but I think a straightforward name is probably best.
posted by a faded photo of their beloved at 12:28 PM on October 30 [3 favorites]

MetaFilter Foundation Fund, MeFIFoFun

Well, I LOLed.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:57 PM on October 30 [33 favorites]

Does the name need to be something other than "Metafilter"?
posted by jonathanhughes at 1:00 PM on October 30 [6 favorites]

Would simply MetaFilter Community, or Metafilter Collaborative, be an option?

I agree that a straightforward name is helpful! Perhaps brevity would be helpful also?
posted by beryllium at 1:01 PM on October 30 [11 favorites]

don't make it cute imo.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:03 PM on October 30 [44 favorites]

MetaFilter Foundation, MeFIFo
posted by rozcakj at 1:06 PM on October 30 [3 favorites]

I like the idea of "MetaFilter Company" or "Metafilter Community" or "Metafilter Cooperative" because they reduce to "MeFiCo" which seems like a nice communicative little 6-letter slug. What's MeFiCo? It's the Co that owns the MeFi. Easy!
posted by 4th number at 1:14 PM on October 30 [20 favorites]

MetaFilter Bean-plating Association

I kid, what about just "MetaFilter?"
posted by kensington314 at 1:17 PM on October 30 [2 favorites]

MetaFilter: A Moderated Community (MetaCom)
posted by mule98J at 1:45 PM on October 30 [1 favorite]

The first guideline is "Mistake #1: Deciding A Creative or Clever Nonprofit Name is Always Best"

This process could involve months of going backwards and forwards with bureaucrats who have long since had the sense of humour burned out of them. Something simple and descriptive might be best.

Miko has already pointed out: "A foundation is a fund that makes grants to other organizations, not an organization that mainly funds itself."
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:02 PM on October 30 [11 favorites]

AO3's umbrella org is the Organization for Transformative Works, which is pretty badass.

But since 'Metafilter' is the site name and has 20+ years of name recognition I like Metafilter Foundation.

Also, I didn't know about this, because I don't spend as much time here as I used to, but I think this is delightful and can maybe volunteer to help. I'll poke around and see what's going on so no one has to explain to me the thing everyone else understood for a month. I diverted my attention in 2016-2017 in a cumulative case of Bad Feelings but the site's changed and so have I so I'll see if there's a way I could make myself useful.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:27 PM on October 30 [4 favorites]

OK not foundation then. But agreed w/those who say to keep it straightfaced, not be cute, treat it seriously so that others understand it's serious. It's sometimes a giggly place, but it's often serious and having nuanced discussion is something to really lean into because holy crap there is little happening elsewhere.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:29 PM on October 30

Would it be too obvious just to name the entity "MetaFilter Nonprofit"? (I guess people who wanted to abbreviate could do it as MeFiNoPro?)
posted by whir at 2:43 PM on October 30 [1 favorite]

Or "MetaFilter 501(c)3" is as dry as it gets, depending on how confidently one can assume it'll get approved as a 501(c)3. Simple. Parallel to the current MetaFilter LLC.

(The parentheses wouldn't make it into the official paperwork, I believe.)
posted by nobody at 2:53 PM on October 30 [2 favorites]

don't make it cute imo.

Firmly in this camp. Sorry but nah. This shouldn't be in jn joke or a pun. Just something straightforward and clear for the Federal government. Metafilter Nonprofit or maybe Metafilter Fund.
posted by chasles at 2:55 PM on October 30 [15 favorites]

FWIW, in a post in the last thread, I mentioned, "After the state of incorporation is chosen, its .gov site will have any local naming requirements and a database to check for business-entity name availability." For example, if it's Vermont, "cooperative" in the business name is a no-go. (More info at that link.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:09 PM on October 30 [2 favorites]

I suggested several of the MeFiFo items because it tickled me, but I will happily retract them if it’s better to find our funsies elsewhere!
posted by samthemander at 3:34 PM on October 30 [1 favorite]

Does the name need to be something other than "Metafilter"?

'Metafilter Inc.' which could be informally shortened to M.Inc and pronounced as Mink.
posted by Lanark at 3:39 PM on October 30

Perhaps this is is a silly question- because Metafilter LLC significantly predated Zuckerberg's "Meta" there was no question about it infringing on the Facebook/Meta trademark. Would a new NPO with "Meta" in the name potentially have trademark issues? I hope not, but just want to raise the issue so that people more versed in the legalities of this sort of thing can mull it over.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 4:03 PM on October 30

I think Metafilter Community is clear, includes the Metafilter name and the word that comes up over and over in the description of the site. I also prefer it to names that imply it is specifically an org for funding Metafilter, rather than a broader purpose of funding, directing, organizing volunteering, etc.

I think a good description or mission statement might include something about the benefits of having a space to share, learn and discuss. Perhaps also something about how it benefits both members and the public.
posted by snofoam at 4:31 PM on October 30 [18 favorites]

I forgot to mention that another suggestion had been "Friends of Metafilter."
posted by NotLost at 4:57 PM on October 30 [2 favorites]

I would like a name that says something about what we are or what we do -- such as including "community", "conversations", or "forum".

I think that more clarity can help with marketing and external fundraising.
posted by NotLost at 4:58 PM on October 30 [4 favorites]

Another vote for Metafilter Community.

As for the mission... does anyone say "weblog" any more? Also, if we're going for the educational or literary category, we should probably say so.
posted by zompist at 5:07 PM on October 30 [2 favorites]

Either MetaFilter Community (my 1st choice) or Friends of MetaFilter.
posted by dg at 6:41 PM on October 30

Metafilter Alliance (can be nicknamed Mefi All)
posted by phunniemee at 7:47 PM on October 30 [1 favorite]

Regarding purpose, this could be inspirational.
posted by NotLost at 8:29 PM on October 30 [1 favorite]

Considering the purpose and other objectives, this might be useful.
posted by NotLost at 8:40 PM on October 30 [1 favorite]

Metafilter Community works best for me.

I would say that our purpose in more formal language is to

"provide a highly moderated membership-based platform open to anyone to view for a range of community sourced information including but not limited to (1) links to news, opinions and other content and discussions about them (2) answers to questions posed by individuals (3) discussions of popular media such as films, books and tv series."
posted by plonkee at 2:12 AM on October 31 [11 favorites]

+1 to Metafilter Community

plonkee, love the shape you have for a formal statement of purpose -- if you don't mind me putting on my proofreader brain, I might workshop the language a bit to

"provide a public-facing, membership-based and moderated platform for community discussion and information sharing, including (1) links to timely, thoughtful, or entertaining pages across the Internet; (2) answers to questions posed by community members; and (3) discussions of popular media."
posted by Kybard at 5:09 AM on October 31 [10 favorites]

Metafilter Community seems good. I don't think "Friends of Metafilter" makes sense in this context- it sounds like a group that's supporting a thing called Metafilter rather than the name of the primary organization. "Friends" was a good name when the idea was to create a parallel org of volunteers to support Metafilter LLC, but that's not the plan now.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 5:21 AM on October 31 [4 favorites]

So far, this discussion continues to be a perfect illustration of the Parable of the Bikeshed.

One of the items on the agenda for this thread: the purpose, or mission statement - is really quite difficult. It's not at all clear how, specifically, you present Metafilter to the US federal government as a public benefit educational project, in a way that they will recognise and approve as a 501(c)(3) and not find themselves thinking "isn't this just Reddit?".

There are ideas and thoughts and possible approaches but they need to be turned into a concrete mission statement that there is broad consensus around. This is immensely important, because once the organisation is formed, everything it does has to be shown to follow from that mission.

But that difficult question is being buried under everyone's opinions on naming, which are mostly really quite irrelevant and counter-productive, particularly because if the mission statement were clear, then the naming would follow from it.

I expect that a good name does not even include "Metafilter". And I'd like to point to two examples of successful 501(c)(3) nonprofits which were started to support existing online projects, as examples of why that may be: Notice how these are not called the AO3 Foundation and the Debian Foundation, or anything similar. Because what they did is to figure out what aspect of these projects qualifies for 501(c)(3) status, wrote a mission statement around that, and then named the organization after that mission.

And like I've said before, I know crap all about 501(c)(3)s, but I sure bet there's really good reasons they did things that way.
posted by automatronic at 5:40 AM on October 31 [28 favorites]

The Organization for Human Interaction Online, or OHIO.

(Your point about this being the least-useful part of the process is well-taken.)
posted by restless_nomad (retired) at 6:24 AM on October 31 [5 favorites]

Here's info from the IRS on types of exempt organizations. -- Nevermind. I misread.
posted by NotLost at 6:24 AM on October 31

There are millions of NFPs in the United States! I assure you that many of them have pretty simple names that refer specifically to the thing that they do - i.e., "XYZ Charity" or "ABC Synagogue" or "Elk's Club" or whatever. There's no need to come up with a grandiose and cryptic name that does not refer to MetaFilter! Let's not make this more complicated than it is.

I think kicking around the name is probably not the hardest/most important thing to be done in terms of setting up the new organization, but it's also some harmless fun and consensus-building stuff.

In terms of the mission statement - I am in favor of simplicity. I think Kybard's/Plonkee's formulation is solid.
posted by Mid at 7:20 AM on October 31 [4 favorites]

Questions I am wondering about:
  • is the purpose of MetaFilter to be highly moderated, or is moderation one way in which the site currently seeks to fulfill a deeper purpose of (possible examples, many others are possible!) cultivating informative, inclusive, and compassionate conversations / helping people find answers to questions?
  • Is an unstructured MetaTalk the best place for workshopping a mission statement, or is there another way we might ensure that all voices are heard, and especially BIPOC and trans voices our community has fallen short of honoring in the past, in the creation of a mission?
posted by beryllium at 7:24 AM on October 31 [7 favorites]

P.S., if you are concerned about the name, try searching for generic terms like "Club" or "Society" in the IRS database. You will see dozens of "Soccer Club of Akron," and "Motorcycle Club of Sacramento" type things. It's OK!
posted by Mid at 7:29 AM on October 31 [2 favorites]

I expect this MeTa to be the start, not the end, of working out these items.
posted by NotLost at 7:30 AM on October 31 [4 favorites]

is the purpose of MetaFilter to be highly moderated, or is moderation one way in which the site currently seeks to fulfill a deeper purpose of (possible examples, many others are possible!) cultivating informative, inclusive, and compassionate conversations / helping people find answers to questions?

Good question. To me the fact that it is moderated is essential to Metafilter's character. I am terrible at grasping the distinction between purpose, vision, mission, object and other strategy words so maybe the concep needs to sit in a different place in a different way.

Is an unstructured MetaTalk the best place for workshopping a mission statement, or is there another way we might ensure that all voices are heard, and especially BIPOC and trans voices our community has fallen short of honoring in the past, in the creation of a mission?

Unstructured MetaTalk is invariably not the best way for anything but we're all going to do it regardless. It does allow an element of crowdsourcing which people who have more capacity and willingness to get this thing off the ground properly can chose to use or not use as they see fit.
posted by plonkee at 8:01 AM on October 31 [2 favorites]

The new organization needs to meet and maintain tax-exempt educational nonprofit criteria, and how it goes about that is reflected in the mission statement.

501(c)(3) Organizations: What Qualifies as “Educational”? via Congressional Research Service:

There is no statutory definition of the term “educational” in the IRC [Internal Revenue Code]. Rather, the term is defined by a Treasury regulation. It defines “educational” to encompass both (1) individual instruction “for the purpose of improving or developing his capabilities,” and (2) “[t]he instruction of the public on subjects useful to the individual and beneficial to the community.” The regulation goes on to address the heart of the matter about the term’s scope:
An organization may be educational even though it advocates a particular position or viewpoint so long as it presents a sufficiently full and fair exposition of the pertinent facts as to permit an individual or the public to form an independent opinion or conclusion. On the other hand, an organization is not educational if its principal function is the mere presentation of unsupported opinion.
The regulation also provides examples of educational organizations, including schools of every educational level; groups that hold public forums and lectures; and museums and zoos.

There are a few examples of group activities which met the "instruction" requirements for this designation in the descriptions of legal cases [warning for inflammatory language] at the link.

So, for "public forums and lectures":

-- Content on this site is public-facing, but only an account-holder can post to a forum here; does that qualify?
-- Do link-laden FPPs present "sufficiently full and fair exposition of the pertinent facts" to qualify?
-- If so, how often do new FPPs of similar depth need to appear to continue supporting the mission & the legal definition of this type of nonprofit?
-- Do these FPPs need to be collected/highlighted in a new (easily searchable) archive?
-- if the lectures and presentations created for last year's fundraiser could be accessed/viewed by anyone, would that qualify?
-- How often would an educational video library need new content?
-- Group-published newsletters are a means in the link; would the MetaFilter newsletter be revived, with specific article/essay assignments to meet the educational standard? Could the newsletter publish the transcripts of lectures and presentations, or FPP content, or a link round-up?
-- How can the existing MetaFilter presence on social media support meeting and maintaining the designation?
-- What would it cost to develop and maintain [see above], to continue to exist as a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit?

Lifecycle of an Exempt Organization (IRS)

What the community calls the new organization, affectionately, is not the same its legal name, and nonprofit legal names follow certain conventions. Part of the reason for becoming a nonprofit is the tax-exempt status; it creates opportunities for individual and corporate donors (many companies offer employee match programs) and helps this place survive.

Please consider the official new name/new acronym as something appearing on legal filings, on annual tax forms, on employee-match submissions.
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:56 AM on October 31 [6 favorites]

Dec. 2021, at the IRS, with a note about state law prohibitions: LLCs Applying for Tax-exempt Status under Section 501(c)(3) Must Submit Information Described in Notice 2021-56. I don't know if it will come into play here, as it seems like the existing Vermont LLC is phasing out as the new 501(c)(3) is starting up.
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:58 AM on October 31

I like Metafilter Forum, because (a) I think what Metafilter does is create spaces for discussion, with the possible goal of discussions that build community?, and also (b ) I also like the idea of MeFiFo Fundraisers. (Sorry.)
posted by mersen at 9:51 AM on October 31 [2 favorites]

+1 to MetaFilter Community
posted by kimberussell at 10:10 AM on October 31

Another vote for MetaFilter Community. Straightforward, not cute/punny (I love a good pun but better for riffing in threads than doing govt. paperwork), not overstated or pretentious, and it's a word that's deeply central to this place's purpose and history.

MetaFilter Association came to mind as a similarly straightforward idea but it feels a bit more abstract from this place.

In any case, you're all doing great and I appreciate you.
posted by cortex (retired) at 10:17 AM on October 31 [8 favorites]

MetaFilter Society of Arts & Letters

Most Serene Community of MetaFilter
posted by slkinsey at 10:34 AM on October 31 [1 favorite]

For brainstorming, mission statements on 501(c)(3) nonprofit websites + annual 990 tax filing's "Briefly describe the organization's mission or most significant activities" response:

Khan Academy: Our mission is to provide a free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere.
Form 990: A free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere

Crayons to Classrooms: Secure and distribute school supplies at no cost to teachers of students in need.
Form 990: Secure and distribute school supplies at no cost to teachers of students in need.

The New York Public Library: The mission of The New York Public Library is to inspire lifelong learning, advance knowledge, and strengthen our communities.
[Below that, "To deliver on this promise, we rely on three great sources..." with subsections]
Form 990: To inspire lifelong learning, advance knowledge, & strengthen our communities.

Marine Science Institute
: To inspire environmental stewardship through hands-on learning and exploration of San Francisco Bay ecosystems.
Form 990: Cultivate a responsibility for the natural environment and our human communities.

American Cancer Society: The mission of the American Cancer Society is to improve the lives of people with cancer and their families through advocacy, research, and patient support, to ensure everyone has an opportunity to prevent, detect, treat, and survive cancer.
Form 990: Improve the lives of people with cancer and their families through advocacy, research, and patient support, to ensure everyone has an opportunity to prevent, detect, treat, and survive cancer.

The Epilepsy Foundation: To lead the fight to overcome the challenges of living with epilepsy and to accelerate therapies to stop seizures, find cures, and save lives.
Form 990: We improve and save lives through community services, education, access to care, and research.

The Nature Conservancy: To conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.
990 form: TNC's mission is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.

The nonprofit must describe that year's program service accomplishments (what was done in support of its mission) in form 990's Part III.
I've learned a lot from this community over the years. I'm not sure how I would describe that process.
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:41 AM on October 31 [13 favorites]

If we become anything other than just "MetaFilter", we should also consider whether and how that would change the site.

My vote would be that we stay at, with our current banners on all the subsites, and use the new full name just in body copy.
posted by NotLost at 10:51 AM on October 31 [1 favorite]

Absolutely the name of the site stays the same! Full name of corporate organization can be in a footer or "About Us" page.
posted by Mid at 10:59 AM on October 31

yes either Metafilter Community or just Metafilter makes sense, is not confusing, or cutesy/jokey
posted by supermedusa at 11:00 AM on October 31 [1 favorite]

Does Metafilter already own ""?
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:58 AM on October 31

(moving toward nonprofit status, it should, even if it's not going to be used except to redirect)
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:59 AM on October 31 [3 favorites]

Name: MetaFilter Community

Purpose, mission or vision: To maintain an independent web community that fosters education and civil discussion of interests based on but not limited to the Internet.


One of the NPs where I am on the board redid our Vision and our Mission last year, and it took lot of work -- writing, yes, but also just Discussing all the things we do, how they can be grouped, and which ones we should maybe not do any more. I found it mildly exhausting, but it's SO GREAT to be able to point to the Vision and say, "Are we serving the farm's real mission here? What's the most important thing on our To Do list?"
posted by wenestvedt at 12:25 PM on October 31 [5 favorites]

+1 to MetaFilter Community or MetaFilter Society
posted by hydra77 at 1:33 PM on October 31

I also think just plain old MetaFilter is the best option. This organization is intended to take over the operation of MetaFilter, which should it be called anything other than MetaFilter? That's what it will be!

I think if there is a specific context in which there is potential for confusion in the transitional period between MetaFilter LLC and MetaFilter (the non-profit), then we can easily specify which one we are referring to, but if the long-term goal is that MetaFilter (the non-profit) runs the website MetaFilter, then why wouldn't it call itself MetaFilter?
posted by ssg at 1:54 PM on October 31 [1 favorite]

Iris Gambol, thanks for the examples from other organizations! I especially like the one from the NY Library, which could almost apply to us: "To inspire lifelong learning, advance knowledge, & strengthen our communities."

I notice that a lot of these are designed to be extremely broad, presumably so as not to close off doors. E.g. the NY Library says nothing about books. We probably don't want a close description of what the Mefi website does; otherwise we're limited to what Mefi currently does and how it does it. How about:

"To foster education, community, and engagement, by curating and creating content from across the world and supporting inclusive, thoughtful discussion."

So far as I can see, a 5013c org can have a literary purpose; e.g. one of the examples in this IRS document is a literary magazine. It seems to me a lot of Mefi is better described as a literary than an educational enterprise.

It may be worth pointing out that the nonprofit will be running the forum, not providing the content. The literary magazine, or the library, is an analogy: it's not the organization that's writing the articles or books. That may be important in light of regulations about the organization engaging in advocacy.
posted by zompist at 2:24 PM on October 31 [20 favorites]

Yes, broad statements, and rather short (like an elevator pitch), but then each organization gets specific in part III of the 990 filing (scroll down at 990 links), how that year's programs/offerings/etc. prove that its mission is being supported?

In Jessamyn's initial post about the nonprofit option, "educational" is how her legal advisor believed MetaFilter would qualify for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. But we'd have to document, in legal filings every year, how we were serving the public good (not just our specific membership) to keep that designation.
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:36 PM on October 31 [1 favorite]

Someone more knowledgeable should chime in, but I wouldn't think the bar is terribly high.

With invented numbers:

", the flagship program of Metafilter 501(c)3 Inc., hosted and moderated over one thousand discussion forums throughout the year, and maintained public access to over fifty thousand archived discussions."

" hosted and moderated over two thousand question and answer sessions throughout the year, and maintained public access to over one hundred thousand archived question and answer sessions. "

[third one for Fanfare, to meet the top-three-programs filing requirement]

If the mission itself is providing public spaces for participants to [x,y,z] alongside maintaining public access to those archived discussions, then this covers it. (Imagine what happens here being smaller, in a small town, in a physical location with panel participants and audiences in seats, and the "educational" and "public good" labels stop feeling like something that requires much stretching to achieve.)
posted by nobody at 5:23 PM on October 31 [8 favorites]

AskMe's been likened to Quora; "in 2021, Quora announced a program to begin allowing its users to earn money from their content. With Quora+, users agree to a $5 per month subscription service (or $50 one-time payment for a full year) to access such paywalled content. These subscription payments will then be allocated and 95% of it distributed to content creators. This subscription service will exist in parallel to the existing free Q&A and other content, with a business model similar to competitors like Substack and Ghost."
posted by Iris Gambol at 6:58 PM on October 31

Hm, user nobody suggested that Fanfare might fulfill the third program, but I wonder if Projects might be a better way to go?

I like Metafilter Collaborative, but Community works too.
posted by Night_owl at 8:04 PM on October 31 [1 favorite]

Sorry, I should have specified I was just talking about the Form 900 Part III requirements Iris Gambol brought up, which gets filled out after the org's first year. (And not sure if it would even be advisable to split the subsites out on that form at all, but if it were advantageous to split them out as separate "program services," you'd have to list the three largest "as measured by expenses," so picking any other would probably not be an option.)

(And Iris Gambol, I'm not sure I'm catching what you're getting at with the Quora comparison. I don't think a non-profit has to worry about there being for-profit companies providing [and profiting off of] similar services, if that was your point?)
posted by nobody at 8:55 PM on October 31 [1 favorite]

So I went looking for nonprofit groups that are loosely similar to MetaFilter. At ProPublica’s Nonprofit Explorer, I tried a few search queries and settled on combining “current events” with “discussion”. Some of these appear to be defunct or not have a current website. But all appear to have passed IRS scrutiny.

Carey Institute for Global Good

One or more Ebell Societies
Purpose: The mutual improvement of its members in literature, culture and the discussion of the vital questions of the day relating to current events.

Swarthmore Public Library
posted by NotLost at 10:40 PM on October 31 [4 favorites]

These I list here and above has a similar purpose on the 990 as MeFi might, although they manifest differently.

Paristown Salon
posted by NotLost at 10:53 PM on October 31 [4 favorites]

OK, 'Quansar Rehabilitation Fund' clearly won't fly, but do consider something with 'HiveMind' or 'MindHive'.
Also, how about 'The 301 Foundation' (301=Moved Permanently)?
posted by zaixfeep at 11:23 PM on October 31 [1 favorite]

I think these examples mainly show that a halfway decent and short, general description is all we need.
posted by Mid at 4:53 AM on November 1 [5 favorites]

My suggestion above (the Organization for Human Interaction Online) was actually not a joke (the acronym was a joke, as was the slogan that occurred to me later - "We want to do right but not right now") mostly because a broader organization name and a mission slightly broader than "administer" may be something that the community wants in the longer term. The AO3 org - the Organization for Transformative Works - doesn't just run AO3, they also have a legal defense arm for fanfic authors, which is a part of their mission.

I have long wanted to start a nonprofit for collecting moderation best practices and, ideally, offering a broad range of training for moderators to help small, non-tech, and marginalized organizations support their own missions online in the best way possible. Metafilter would be an excellent umbrella for that somewhere down the line, and I'm sure there are other specific educational and public-service things that this community would be well-suited to.

(I am very much not trying to derail the conversation into a debate about the above idea - it's just an example of why a nonprofit a little bigger than just Metafilter might be desirable.)
posted by restless_nomad (retired) at 5:19 AM on November 1 [13 favorites]

“The Metafilter community reacted poorly to the decision of the Metafilter Community.”
posted by zamboni at 6:07 AM on November 1 [10 favorites]

Yes, I think whatever choice MeFi as a non-profit makes with naming, it's important to keep space for the 501(c)(3) to grow beyond what MeFi does now if it evolves in a different direction, whether in the direction of restless_nomad's idea or many possible others (e.g. expanding work on the MeFi wiki or on real-time events or... I'm also not wedded to any specific idea, just wanting to keep options open!).

I'm not sure that including MetaFilter in the name would itself close that possibility off - MetaFilter could be more than a community weblog - but if there's a name that captures the essence of what MetaFilter is/would like to grow towards that would be unlikely to change, that could be good too.
posted by beryllium at 9:53 AM on November 1 [1 favorite]

nobody, the point being, we're seeking nonprofit status for a site that is frequently lumped in the likes of Quora, and Reddit. How does MetaFilter differ from Reddit, at a glance? Or differ from any online discussion forum that maintains an accessible archive? Aside from: charging an account fee (which can be waived, but it's an additional step to participation); paid moderation (a huge plus to me, and to many others -- but some online communities have flourished without it); and unprofitability.

Per my previous comment, a couple of years ago, successful-business Quora made it possible for its users to earn money.

Meeting the "for the public good" stipulation, in ways the IRS recognizes, distinguishes MetaFilter from seemingly similar online communities for tax exemption approval.
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:02 AM on November 1 [1 favorite]

I think it is wise to not box future entity in by choosing a name or mission that is too narrowly defined. But also, Metafilter is over 20 years old. I feel like the primary goal of the new nonprofit is to help the existing Metafilter flourish and the name and the mission should mostly reflect that.

At some point in the process, it might make sense to come up with a list of things that are part of Metafilter, or might be desirable in the future and then make sure the name & mission aren't explicitly ruling those things out.

My guess is that a name and mission that does a good job describing Metafilter in general terms will probably be flexible enough to include the most likely future possibilities.

I would also say that having a nonprofit that can successfully run Metafilter would be a big success in my book. I don't think it would be misguided to mostly focus on achieving that for the time being.
posted by snofoam at 12:08 PM on November 1 [7 favorites]

A U.S. nonprofit needs to have a certain mission, stated in its nonprofit application. The to-be-named nonprofit entity will effectively have the mission of running Metafilter, although that can and should be stated in broader terms. But if the nonprofit starts, I dunno, distributing milk to orphans or electrifying remote villages, and those activities become a major part of its operations, that would violate the terms under which nonprofit status was granted.

I think the correct name for this entity is "Metafilter." Nonprofits don't need any "inc" or "llc" or "501c3" tacked onto the end.

The entity could use (if it is available, sure hope so) to keep it distinct from online.
posted by adamrice at 12:57 PM on November 1 [2 favorites]

(In Vermont, nonprofits apparently do need a "corporation" (Corp), "incorporated" (Inc), "company" (Co), or "limited" (Ltd) somewhere in the name, as per this VT Secretary of State page.)
posted by nobody at 1:09 PM on November 1 [2 favorites]

(Also, a total aside: the copyright notice at the bottom of every MeFi page is linking to the currently-defunct Looks like it may have been defunct since April 2020?)
posted by nobody at 1:14 PM on November 1

the copyright notice at the bottom of every MeFi page is linking to the currently-defunct

For anyone as confused as I initially was: that copyright link is apparently only present in the classic and plain themes, not in the modern themes.
posted by advil at 1:53 PM on November 1 [2 favorites]

I mean, I'd include maintaining the classic theme in the articles of incorporation, if it were up to me. Or I'd put up a little plaque from the local heritage board and make the gas company call them first before drilling into the facade. 100 years from now computers won't even have screens, but this one site would still have a legally-mandated legacy mode.
posted by nobody at 5:35 PM on November 1 [3 favorites]

If it's Vermont, "cooperative" in the business name is a no-go.

The link says the name is restricted to certain circumstances, not that it is forbidden.
posted by NotLost at 7:46 PM on November 1 [1 favorite]

At the link, "Business names may NOT contain the word "cooperative," nor the abbreviation "coop," unless duly registered with the Secretary of State as a cooperative corporation." I think "cooperative" has a specific meaning, in Vermont, and I didn't think this 501(c)(3) nonprofit was registering as one? See Title 11 : Corporations, Partnerships and Associations, Chapter 007: Cooperatives.
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:16 PM on November 1 [1 favorite]

I like to think of metafilter's mission being more than just running this website. It's to preserve and promote a certain type of thoughtful conversation that happens through text, not image. Pseudononymous, yet moderated. Favorites but not data. Sure, it's of a time, but it can help this time, too.

We belive this offers a lot of benefits. And like r_n said above, we can share and help others.
posted by rebent at 12:24 AM on November 2 [4 favorites]

It's to preserve and promote a certain type of thoughtful conversation that happens through text, not image. Pseudononymous, yet moderated. Favorites but not data.

I don’t know that it was meant to be considered as part of the mission, but these kinds of details are more about how the mission is implemented. Also, this kind of specificity is something that would limit the org to a very specific way of doing things.
posted by snofoam at 6:52 AM on November 2 [2 favorites]

To try to move this towards resolution, I think the Kybard/Plonkee fomulation above is solid. I tweaked it a little bit, below. I think we want simple, broad enough to encompass a lot of thing we might do, and understandable by the IRS and other people not familiar with the site. I think there are a lot of good ideas for adding concepts or things we would like to do in the future, but I suggest that we keep this simple and add our "wishlist" items to future planning/discussion rather than overcomplicating what will be a few lines on a form.

Mission: Provide and foster a moderated, inclusive, and membership-based online community and related web site open to anyone for sharing and discussing information and events, including but not limited to (1) links to current events, opinions and other content and discussions about them (2) answers to questions posed by individuals such as regarding life advice, human relations, business and financial matters, and personal health, (3) discussions of popular media such as films, books and tv series.
posted by Mid at 7:27 AM on November 2 [5 favorites]

I think these examples mainly show that a halfway decent and short, general description is all we need

Mid has some excellent advice here. We need to remember that the audience for official paperwork is extremely small and specifically designed for the needs of government. It should be brief, resonate with the board, and be reviewed by legal to ensure it does what we want which is make it eligible for the non-profit status we seek.

It is very different from the broader vision, mission, and about us type stuff we use to describe our community to current and future members. This is something that should be participatory and contain a level of detail that allows us all to see ourselves and our community clearly.

There are a lot of great places to be participatory on the governance of the new entity but what to put in government paperwork in my opinion is not one of them. Get legal advice and get it in - what we are officially named has no bearing on what we call ourselves which will always be the Metafilter community.
posted by openhearted at 7:47 AM on November 2 [9 favorites]

For the purpose, I lean toward shorter rather than longer, closer to Kybard's version than to Mid's version. I think the purpose doesn't need to describe everything about what we are or do or aspire to.
posted by NotLost at 8:14 AM on November 2 [1 favorite]

A huge thank you to everyone who has put in tons of work here so far!

Just wanted to raise my hand to say I don't think "current events" should be in our mission statement. While many current events discussions have been meaningful and positive in our community, I think that MeFi is about posting links to cool things on the web first and foremost and is not a news site and our mission statement should reflect that.
posted by capricorn at 11:38 AM on November 2 [7 favorites]

Your mission should be the most durable thing about the organization. So it's a good idea to make it less specific to activities, because activities can change. Example:

Mission: Convene an online community offering meaningful social and civic discourse by sharing and fostering the discussion of information and events on a moderated website.
posted by Miko at 3:53 PM on November 2 [16 favorites]

Also, mission is a miserable thing to wordsmith in a big group. Refining mission could be spun out to a small working group/transition board, and presented back to the larger group that's interested.
posted by Miko at 3:57 PM on November 2 [12 favorites]

I don't expect to finalize anything here. But it's good for brainstorming and to work with a more-diverse group.
posted by NotLost at 4:24 PM on November 2 [2 favorites]

Sorry I've been a bit MIA, thank you to everyone who has been keeping the conversation going and constructive.

In Jessamyn's initial post about the nonprofit option, "educational" is how her legal advisor believed MetaFilter would qualify for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. But we'd have to document, in legal filings every year, how we were serving the public good (not just our specific membership) to keep that designation.

This sounds like a big thing but it's not that big a thing in the way we're planning to do things. They mostly want to make sure that the money the organization is bringing in is being spent in service to the mission and the non-profit direction we're serving. With a lot of non-profits that can also include things like hefty salaries, professional development etc. This is not like "Say how you're serving the public good under penalty of perjury" With MeFi, that's all that's ever happened, at least since the late-mathowie era.

And yes, this is definitely not the mission thread (and that's probably going to be a board-with-community-input thing as Miko suggests) but it's really useful to have people be thinking about it and to note that it needs to have some robustness but also flexibility to it. On the other non-profit I run (smaller, so reporting requirements are significantly less), we have a broadish mission and it's served us well for some of the programs we've wanted to take on as it evolved.

I do feel like a co-op name is a non-starter just because it sends the wrong idea (co-op was one structure my lawyers and I discussed, it would have required more input and paperwork than I felt would have been attainable) but I feel like many other suggestions seem like they have legs. I'd caution against calling it just "MetaFilter" only because of the confusion factor. Maybe we need to "call the question" get people to give input into the top few choices and then I can start, with input, actually start filing paperwork? Sort of excited about this and was not expecting to be.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:27 PM on November 2 [17 favorites]

Meta Cognitive Disassociation
posted by y2karl at 7:50 PM on November 2

As just another example of a similar (much larger) nonprofit, perhaps we can look at Bogleheads forums and its parent nonprofit, The Bogle Center.
posted by samthemander at 9:33 PM on November 2 [2 favorites]

Mission: to foster meaningful and inclusive community on the internet.
posted by samthemander at 1:01 AM on November 3 [2 favorites]

Jessamyn has good insight. It’s heartening to hear that we don’t need to agonize over the IRS. And I agree with her point about the mission being robust but flexible.
posted by NotLost at 5:45 AM on November 3 [3 favorites]

I am excited about all this happening, too! And I appreciate everyone's input.
posted by NotLost at 5:47 AM on November 3 [1 favorite]

Jessamyn, is there a deadline you are pushing for to get the paperwork filed?
posted by rebent at 8:19 AM on November 3

Just a thought, sometimes organizations have a separate arm that is just for fundraising, an auxilary or guild. In that case it would make sense to differentiate the 501 (c) 3 from capital-M Metafilter. But as I understand it, the non-profit will be, for legal and operational purposes, the entire Metafilter organization. All the mods will work for it, fundraising will go through it, etc., right? So why would it not be Metafilter, Inc.? Is there some possible circumstance where it would be be spun off again as a different entity?
posted by wnissen at 10:35 AM on November 3 [1 favorite]

I think I only meant that since there have been three different MeFi iterations (Mefi Inc owned by Matt, Mefi Inc owned by cortex, MeFi LLC owned by me) it might be good to make that distinction slightly with the name so that it's very clear which entity owns what. Don't have strong feelings about it. I'll talk to NotLost about timing, I'm antsy just because I am me, but I should not be the one setting a timeline.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:22 AM on November 3 [5 favorites]

Not that it changes the point you're making, but it looks like the corporation matthowie originally set up (and then transferred to cortex) was called "MetaFilter Network Inc." (I'd either never noticed or totally forgotten until seeing it on an archived page in the last few days.)

(It's kind of funny to see how also under that MetaFilter Network Inc. umbrella were sites like the PVRBlog, SXSW Blog, and The Ticketstub Project. I wonder if anyone bothered to spin off those now long-defunct projects back to matthowie when he left, or whether Metafilter Inc. technically owns them all still.)
posted by nobody at 12:17 PM on November 3 [1 favorite]

Adding to the historical business entity naming trivia, I thiiiink Matt originally set it up as MetaFilter Network LLC before later restructuring it as an S-Corp Inc., but that was all before I had any responsibility for anything so it's hazy memories at best.
posted by cortex (retired) at 12:58 PM on November 3 [2 favorites]

Matt sold PVR Blog on eBay for $12K back in 2009. I vaguely remember he ended up owning it again somehow?
posted by zamboni at 6:08 PM on November 3 [1 favorite]

Could there be something about facilitating community gatherings too? I'm thinking of the IRL and Events section as well as the bunch of times people will respond in person to an AskMefi quandary
posted by creatrixtiara at 7:01 PM on November 3 [3 favorites]

^I think referencing that aspect of the org's community-building would be part of a value(s) statement. [Info on mission vs. vision statements; some organizations (like those in my previous comment) have vision and/or value statements on the same page as the mission declaration.]
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:12 PM on November 4 [4 favorites]

Would you keep that [mission] or adjust it in any way?

I would explicitly include something about DEIB. It's my understanding that if it's done right, DEIB has to be central to every decision anyone makes about anything.
posted by aniola at 9:27 PM on November 4 [2 favorites]

A mission is a very high level document. It answers the question why do we exist? It should be the least limiting and most purpose-focused expression of intent. A mission does not need to include a laundry list of everything an organization does, what it believes and how they believe it should be done. That's why it's usually also part of an infrastructure of several core documents that also includes a vision, a values statement, and often a shortlist of key activities and/or an active strategic plan.

A professional facilitator with expertise in this area can usually take a group through the process of defining a mission, vision, and values in a short consultation period and a workshop of a few hours' length, with a small group.
posted by Miko at 7:52 AM on November 6 [18 favorites]

I was a mod at eGullet when it converted to a 501(c)(3). This was circa 15 years ago when it had a lot more relevance and activity. As far as I can remember the name of the entity just changed from eGullet to "the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters . . . a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts." Financial contributors are members of the Society, and they may get some perks. It's unclear that our mission here needs to be more detailed than that.
posted by slkinsey at 1:40 PM on November 6 [4 favorites]

If metafilter is about community, I believe DEIB should be mission-level central to the why do we exist.
posted by aniola at 1:48 PM on November 6


I hope that any mission statement we settle on actually uses words to spell out our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, justice, accessibility, and whatever else is encompassed by the latest acronym du jour.
posted by zamboni at 5:41 AM on November 7 [3 favorites]

I would call those values (not part of the why we do something or the what we do but the howwe do it), unless MetaFilter exists explicity for the purpose of advancing belonging, justice, equity, etc, in society, which as of now ....well, either strains belief or sets the thing up for a serious failure to achieve its stated mission.
posted by Miko at 8:26 AM on November 7 [25 favorites]

metafilter is about posting interesting links and talking about them, and asking questions and getting answers to them.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:13 PM on November 7 [7 favorites]

Quick update: The board will have our first meeting on Wednesday evening, Nov. 15, when we will start with next steps.
posted by NotLost at 10:56 AM on November 9 [7 favorites]

I notice the "MetaFilter is hiring" part has been removed from the top-of-the-page banner. Has a candidate been selected?
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 10:46 AM on November 10

Nope, still evaluating.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:56 PM on November 10 [2 favorites]

posted by Nanukthedog at 6:15 PM on November 11

dropping a quick comment here to say: I communicated some time ago (to Jessamyn, and NotLost) that I would be interested in supporting this process (of transitioning to a non-profit) in whatever way would be useful. (am an ex-SC member and current BIPOC board member)

I also mentioned that the SC (and working group volunteers) had worked on a number of resources last year and earlier this year that I felt could be useful for planning.
(Some of these resources were initially intended to be published and made available to the community earlier this year; this was unable to happen after the SC was put on hold.)

Jessamyn has given the go-ahead to compile a public landing page of these resources (thank you Jessamyn!), which I am now working on.
I'm hoping they'll be useful to the community in brainstorming and planning for this transition. One takeaway I've had from these discussions (on MetaTalk, and with other MeFites) is that we should consider building on the work and research that has been done by previous groups where possible. While not everything may be directly relevant to what MetaFilter wants to do now, some of it may still perhaps be useful as a reference/template for some aspects of planning.

I'll post the link here in this thread later this week.
I'm also really grateful to Jessamyn for shepherding and guiding this process and getting us all to this point, and to NotLost and rebent for taking the initiative in organizing and leading the interim work. It feels like MetaFilter is (slowly but surely) moving in a better direction, towards a better place. It's heartening, and while there's still a lot of work ahead, it's exciting to contemplate. I'm hopeful this means we're moving towards what could be a new beginning of sorts, with less of the messy stuff that held us all (community, staff, admin) back, but with all of the old and familiar things we love about MetaFilter.

There's so much that's good about this place and community, with so much potential, too - and I am thankful for everyone who has cared in one way or another (at one time or another) to contribute to all that good stuff that has kept us here and kept MetaFilter going.
posted by aielen at 10:15 AM on November 14 [25 favorites]

Would The Metafilter Organization work as a name? I feel like this more accurately reflects the fact that the nonprofit is the organizational superstructure that emerges from the community but isn't directly the community itself.
posted by drlith at 6:59 AM on November 15 [4 favorites]

Hey, uh.... New flag thing went live today? Caught me by surprise, it did.

Any other changes going live on the down low?
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 12:11 PM on November 15

The Pluto Gangsta, a different MetaTalk, this MeFi Site Update, includes the flag change and requests user feedback.
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:37 PM on November 15

New thread here.
posted by NotLost at 10:30 AM on November 20

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