Tuesday, February 23, 2016

More On 501(c)(7)

You're a chessplayer, so I know you can deal with something technical.

The Marshall Chess Club is a 501(c)(7) organization.  That means a membership club.  The legal theory is that the member have pooled their resources for a purpose other than conducting a business.  I believe that the club being established as a membership club establishes a contract, not only with the IRS, but with all donors, volunteers and members.  Funds and work provided for one purpose should not be appropriated for a different purpose.

The Marshall was not always a 501(c)(7), but that is only because there was a prior code of laws that said the same thing.  This classification was used for exclusive clubs, such as "gentleman's clubs" and country clubs.

Unlike other such clubs, the Marshall, has had women members, and even a women leader (Carolyn Marshall) from the very beginning.  It had gay members since the very beginning.  I don't know whether it had African American members from the very beginning, but it certainly had them long before I first joined.  When I joined Archie Waters was a member and Roy Barker was on the board.

Teaching chess was not a major purpose of the original Marshall Chess Club, but of course its a very important part of the chess world today.  So the chess teaching should continue, but having the commercial element govern our club is incorrect.

There always have been national and international tournaments at the Marshall, and now that there is a great concentration of  master and above players in the NYC area, there should be even more of them.  But they should be more oriented towards members.  Members should have the right to play in them based on their qualifications, not whether they are political favorites.

If we asked hypothetically whether the Marshall could do more as a business or public service organization, we should not underestimate the tremendous benefit that Marshall has provided over the years as a place to play chess and to socialize.  We are quite unique in this role, while there are other organizations for other purposes.  "Going where the money is" is a typical problem with npn-profit organizations known as "mission drift".

There was one governor in the old days who used to say that a mission statement is a "yuppie thing".  Actually its not.  For a non-profit, aside from it being a moral obligation, it is a required part of the documents that exist in order for us to own property and have bank accounts.

One difference between a business and a non-profit is that a business should do what makes money.  A non-profit is meant to fill in gaps in terms of providing services that people want, but are not profitable.   The knee-jerk interpretation of economic theory, saying there is no such thing,  flies in the face of a hundred years of history.

The question has been raised as to whether a 501(c)(7) can be transformed into a 501(c)(3).  That actually happened with the Manhattan Chess Club, but it wasn't a major issue because the Manhattan had very little property.

When a 501(c)(7) is dissolved, its assets must be distributed to the members, because that's who owns it.  When a 501(c)(3) dissolves, its assets must go to another 501(c)(3) because it is owned by the public.  Therefore converting a 501(c)(7) to a 501(c)(3) is a form of theft, and is therefore immoral and illegal.   I don't even think it would be legal for the majority to vote to change it to a 501(c)(3) without distributing the shares of equity to those members who desired it.

It is also a form of theft to ban a member from the club without a legitimate purpose.  The board is empowered to remove someone who is adverse to the interests of the club.  But conveniently the board interprets the club and the present board as one and the same.  I don't even consider the board as an institution to be one and the same with the present board.  I was on the Marshall Chess Club Board of Governors before ANY of them were.

This is a rogue board.  The need to show some respect to the law, which corresponds with conditions under which the club first received its property.  They also need to refrain from making patently false statements about members and prospective members at their meetings and in their official communications.

The truth will win out.

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