The Utility is one of the more unique aspects of Code for Charlotte. The Utility is a for-profit that is owned by a non-profit. Let that sink in for a minute…
Oh, and in the true sense of open-source, we borrowed the idea.
Unfortunately, government isn’t setup to have a non-profit for a vendor: It kind of freaks their system out. Government doesn’t have any rules against non-profit vendors, but it does make qualifying for an RFP harder. Fortunately, it turns out that a little company called Mozilla has already set a precedent.
Not sure how it works? Let me explain: Randall is a freelance developer and brigade member. Due to his brigade membership we know that he is a hard worker and that he writes smart code. So when The Utility is awarded a contract from the City of Charlotte to write a application for a new youth program, Randall is contracted to work on the project and gets paid his normal fee. After the application is delivered and all the contract employees are paid, the profits are then used to help support Code for Charlotte’s non-profit organization.
We believe this is the perfect fit for us. Not only because it solves this problem but also allows us to do something that we’ve always wanted to do. Hire brigade members to do contract work on RFPs with the city while not breaking a “Chinese Wall” of volunteer brigade work.
We believe the Utility will provide the necessary profits for Code for Charlotte to help cover overhead, to pay non-profit expenses, and to make us an independent organization without the need of long-term foundational support. Pretty amazing. At least, we think so.