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28 Jul 2012

Aakin put together this great email for our mailing list a couple days ago, I thought it should be shared, so I'm doing so now; Enjoy!

Hey everyone,
I wanted to send out an update on where we are with SYN Shop, and where we are going. There's a lot to cover, so bear with me; I promise I'll keep it all relevant.
Corporate Status
Currently, SYN Shop is incorporated as a non-profit in the state of Nevada, and registered as a valid corporation with the Federal government. We were debating pursuing 501c3 charitable status with the IRS, but after advice from our accountant, have decided against that plan for now. The primary reason for that was that the costs outweighed the benefits - charitable organizations are subject to (and often required to undergo) extensive and expensive auditing processes, which we can not afford at this time. The main benefit that we would get with charitable status is the ability to pursue federal grants, which we are not ready to file for, and will not be ready to pursue for several years - grant proposals are an expensive process that we do not currently have the funds to undergo. 
So, given that, we are remaining a regular (non-501c3) non-profit organisation. This means that donations to us are not tax deductible, and we do have to pay sales tax on purchases, but we don't have to pay for audits that go into the 10's of thousands of dollars, so overall, we consider that a net win. We also save on the $850 501c3 filing fee. :)
Update on Facilities
First and foremost, the new location for the Shop. We are proceeding ahead with the 117 N. 4th street space. The building is currently in the renovations stage, and is rapidly approaching completion; the builders gave us an initial completion estimate of the end of July, and it seems that it will still be fairly close to that. The last update that we received (yesterday) stated that there are a couple more weeks of construction left. For those of you not familiar with it, we will be moving into an approximately 4500 sq.ft. space a couple of storefronts north of the eastern end of the Fremont Street experience - a pretty fantastic location for getting involved with all the changes coming to downtown, and central to everyone in the city. The Downtown Project is leasing the building for us, and while this will not be a permanent arrangement, they are giving us a fantastic deal for now in the interest of helping us get off our feet. 
We will be sharing the building with another group the Downtown Project is looking to help start up - a photography studio and coworking space. The spaces will be divided, with access to a common bathroom area. Our part of the building will occupy roughly 3000 square feet, and we should have access to it as soon as the builders finish with their renovations. We are currently working out the business license and permits with the city, and everything looks like it is proceeding smoothly; we should be able to move in soon after renovations complete. You should all be excited. I'm excited. Be like me. :)
We will shortly be sending out a list of what equipment we already have, and want to start a conversation on what else everyone is looking for; it's time to start actively laying out our space. :) 
Membership Dues
That brings us to membership dues. We are very shortly going to start acquiring regular expenses - rent (though there will be some leeway on that), utilities, and equipment costs. So we need to start collecting membership dues to start preparing for our bills, and our utility deposits. To be fair, right now, you aren't getting much for the membership fee as we have very limited facilities, but in order to build up the facilties we all want, and in order to support the facilities that we will very shortly be acquiring, we need to start building up SYNShop's funds. To that end, we are going to start asking for membership dues of $40/month, starting on August 1st. This would be voluntary, of course; but in appreciation, we would give a priority to getting full access to the new space to those who started contributing now, as well as any other random benefits we can come up with. 
Once the Shop opens, we are hoping to keep the fees minimal. We are going to try keeping the membership fee at $40/month to start, and seeing how sustainable that is. At some point, we will need to start assuming the full rent on the space we are using, so we are going to try to build up to the point where we will not have an issue managing that. Ideally, we will manage that with the number of members and supplemental income sources such as classes, as opposed to the number each member pays.
Financial Statement
And that brings us to the most pressing part of running any corporation - the money. We currently have a little over $2k in the bank, almost the entirety of which came from various donations at meetings, and some of which came from tshirt purchases and the donations from First Friday. We are looking into other ways of building up our funds, but we will primarily be getting revenue from membership fees for the foreseeable future, which to me makes us very accountable to the members in terms of how our finances work. To that end, we want to remain very open with all of you as to how our money is flowing, and what the numbers are. We are working on putting together a google doc spreadsheet for tracking purposes which will be readable by everyone, and all our income and expenses will be marked there. PLEASE feel absolutely free to ask us for more detail on any of it; SYN Shop belongs to all of us, and we are committed to remaining absolutely open on how we work. Legal requirements might preclude us from sharing certain information (such as anything that could be tied back to a specific individual) but outside of such constraints, we would be happy to elaborate on anything people are curious about.
- Aakin
Treasurer, SYN Shop