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Erowid Center
Approved as a U.S. Non-Profit Educational Organization
by Earth and Fire Erowid
Jun 2008
Citation:   Erowid E, Erowid F. "Erowid Center: Approved as a U.S. Non-Profit Educational Organization". Erowid Extracts. Jun 2008;14:12-3.
As of January 1, 2008, Erowid.org is now managed by a non-profit educational organization named Erowid Center. The shift to operating as an IRS-approved charity brings some changes for members and crew, and for the future of the project.

What this means to Erowid members is that donations to Erowid Center are tax deductible for those in the United States who itemize or are otherwise able to deduct charitable contributions. It also means that our basic financial records are public. We will file yearly disclosures listing the total value of donations received, though only the names of major contributors (those giving approximately $5,000 and more) must be shared with the IRS, information that is already provided to the IRS by those who wish to claim a tax deduction. We will also make public the salaries of Erowid Center's officers and highest paid employees, major expenses, per-project expenses, etc. Otherwise, since we've always operated Erowid in a non-profit model, most financial issues will remain the same for members and donors.

Erowid Center's Mandate
Oct 1995- Erowid.org website founded
Jul 2005- Erowid Center founded
Oct 2007- Erowid Center receives IRS approval
  as a 501(c)(3) non-profit
Jan 2008- Erowid Center begins operations
As specified in our IRS-approved application, "The goal of Erowid Center is to improve the quality and quantity of available information regarding psychoactive plants, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, technologies, and religious, spiritual, and cultural practices. 'Psychoactives' are things that affect the brain and mind. There is a wide variety of psychoactives commonly available in the world, including such diverse things as caffeine in coffee, prescription antidepressants, illegal drugs such as cannabis, spiritual practices such as meditation, and new technologies such as direct neural stimulation."

For the project, becoming a non-profit is largely about improving the organizational foundations to build stability over time. We feel strongly that Erowid deserves a solid long-term outlook. We want to help ensure that--whatever psychoactive-related information needs there are in future years--Erowid continues to be able to bring well-edited, well-researched, and diverse community viewpoints to the discussion. As part of this process, we have formed a board of directors and a "council of electors" who elect the board on a yearly basis. This organizational structure provides mechanisms for oversight and handling unexpected situations.

What 501(c)(3) Status Brings
Hand in hand with additional fiscal accountability comes a level of institutional legitimacy. This official legitimacy is one of the primary reasons we decided to brave the laborious process of forming a non-profit. Although we have worked hard over the past twelve years to develop trust with our members, visitors, and the many experts with whom we work, it has become clear that new opportunities become available if we are able to build formalized relationships with professionals and professional organizations. Our new structure provides a more public and institutionally recognized validity as a resource and reference, and as an organization.

Importantly, our new non-profit status also helps Erowid's long-term financial stability. It makes Erowid Center eligible for a large number of grants that are restricted to approved non-profits, opens opportunities to benefit from corporate matching programs, will likely increase donations because of tax-deductibility, and allows us to accept tax-deductible donations of library materials and hardware.

The Erowid Expert Network will be a moderated, reviewed network of both trained and self-taught experts who are available for consulting, or for acting as a resource for media, publishers, educators, and others.
While we are concerned that institutional legitimacy could be a double-edged sword, possibly alienating the most anti-establishment elements of our core constituency, we hope we can work to maintain trust through our activities, choices of staff, and continued recognition that the members of the general public who use psychoactives, legally or not, are often the true experts on the subjects Erowid covers.

Why Erowid "Center"?
We have chosen the name "Erowid Center" to highlight the role we play as a hub for information sharing between the groups that make up our visitors, volunteers, and related organizations. Erowid has always worked to bridge the divides that separate the diverse types of people who have important insights and knowledge about psychoactives. We believe that expanding on this role is key to the core Erowid mission.

Erowid Expert Network (EEN)
With the formation of Erowid Center, we are entering a new phase of community building around the publication and dissemination of psychoactive information. Over the last twelve years, we have built relationships with a great number of people who are incredibly knowledgeable about one or more aspects of psychoactives and the publication and collection of information. One of the top opportunities we see with reforming Erowid as a non-profit is to formalize these relationships into a moderated, reviewed network of both trained and self-taught experts. The non-profit status permits natural allies in various fields to acknowledge the importance of improving the accuracy of freely available information about psychoactives and to contribute, either privately or publicly, to this goal.

Our plan for the Erowid Expert Network integrates many smaller projects and tasks we already perform informally into a more comprehensive vision. From doctors, lawyers, and law enforcement officers to journalists and experiential experts, we can collectively build a resource that participants can contribute to as well as benefit from.

Founding Donors
2008 is Erowid Center's inaugural year. We are working to raise $150,000 over our yearly operating budget to provide a solid financial footing from which to launch the Erowid Expert Network and other projects. We are seeking Visionary and Founding Members to donate $1,000 or more toward this goal.

Founding Members ($5,000 and higher) have a unique opportunity to make a lasting impact on Erowid Center's mission. These important contributors will receive permanent recognition as Founding Donors--acknowledged on a brick in both our (currently virtual) Founding Members Wall and on the Erowid website--as well as a small commemorative token of our appreciation.

Corporate Giving
We are asking Erowid members who work for companies that have corporate matching programs to contact their HR department to request that Erowid Center be added to the list of 501(c)(3) organizations for which the company will match contributions. This is generally a simple process that includes providing the HR department with nominal information about Erowid Center so that they can contact us for formal verification of our non-profit status. See Erowid.org/donations/corporate_giving for more information.

Increasing Membership
Erowid currently has 1,356 members. Our goal is to broaden our base of support and increase our membership by 10% in 2008 (to 1,500). Please help by talking to your friends.

Such people will help by being available for consulting, by reviewing published or in-press documents, or by acting as expert resources for media, publishers, educators, and other professionals. We often receive requests from journalists for information, or for a spokesperson or experienced person to interview. We need writers to draft articles and readers to review documents in their areas of expertise. Scholarly journal articles, news stories, and policy documents need to be checked and critiqued. The potential impact of proposed laws and the actual impact of newly approved laws need to be analyzed and evaluated by legal experts. And as always, the website must be maintained and improved to provide information in a format useful to both the general public and professionals such as physicians seeking information in the treatment of a patient.

A Community of the Informed
We are seeking assistance from everyone: pharmacologists, chemists, toxicologists, physicians, therapists, drug counselors, law enforcement, policy makers and analysts, parole officers, artists, musicians, authors, experts in psychedelic culture, anthropologists, educators, botanists, gardeners, and anyone else who has an abiding interest in and knowledge of psychoactives. The Erowid core crew will continue to review and vet members of the new expert network, as we always have, seeking to build a web of individuals and communities who prioritize improving information accuracy and communication quality in the often-challenging fields surrounding psychoactives and their use. Since we feel strongly that Erowid must not be a source for unwanted communications (spam), privacy and security are top concerns for this project.

Erowid's Expert Network will include a Board of Advisors: experts who endorse the project's data-collection and educational efforts and who agree to have their names listed as public members of the advisory board. We have just begun the process of inviting a diverse and talented group of people to become Advisors.

Building and formalizing the Expert Network is a priority for the new Erowid Center. It will facilitate projects that provide direct benefit to our visitors and will allow more effective use of Erowid Center's time and resources.

We hope Erowid Center members and supporters will be excited about this project and will contribute ideas, technical assistance, and funding to make Erowid Center's first year a success.

If you are a professional working in a field related to psychoactive substances and are interested in applying to join the Erowid Expert Network, please email us at [een-admin (at) erowid (dot) org].