Transforming openHAB to a charity organisation

My two cents:

  1. I’d propose to start with the “needs” (kind of requirements collection) and then define the proper organization. At the end it doesn’t matter what abreviation stands at the end (e.V., Ltd, AG, etc.) - the matching with the needs is the important thing.

  2. While I was thinking about different legal entities the organizational structure of Wikipedia was coming up to my mind. Wikipedia is collecting the knowledge of the world - openhab is integrating the technologies of the world. Seems to me more or less the same approach - why not checking whether a “Foundation” would fit for openhab.

As @proofy said: think big.

I don’t think that collecting the money will be a big deal. Let’s do some figure games:

  • assume there were 30 users worldwide - everyone would have to spend 1000 EUR - too much, no way
  • assume there were 300 users worldwide - 100 EUR each - not impossible, but a challenge
  • assume there are 3000 users worldwide…where is the problem? :slight_smile:

Do you have any statistics (quantity structure) how many active installations (=users) openhab has?

This is exactly my suggestion. A German “e.V.” is nothing else than a foundation, so my aim is to create an “openHAB Foundation (e.V.)” - and yes, the abbreviation at the end matters a lot from a legal perspective!

I’d like to mention the Eclipse Foundation with the Eclipse SmartHome project in this respect - we have already set the direction for a broader reach of openHAB by making it one solution out of many being based on Eclipse SmartHome and thus sharing the same “standard”. For the ones who did not follow these activities, please read my blog post from 2014:

No! A “foundation” is in German a “Stiftung” which is for sure not a “Verein”. These are completely different legal entities.

I guess you didn’t get what I was saying: my proposal was to start thinking about “what needs or goals” the legal entity of openhab has to/should/might fulfill thus decide which one is the right one instead of discussing about various pro’s and con’s of German/European/international legal possiblities. As soon as a final list with the desired legal/commercal/administrative requirements is created one can start thinking about which “abbreviation” matters.
In that context I’d like to bring up the question “where” the “openhab empire” should be founded. I can imagine that there are some alternatives to Germany (e.g. in terms of data privacy, adminstrative flexibility, legal certainty, protection of intellectual properties).

Ok, you are right. The word foundation is correctly translated as Stiftung, while a Verein is rather an association. Nonetheless, this difference isn’t really made in English most of the time - foundations are usually NPO (Non-Profit Organisations) and often structured like a Verein; see e.g. the Linux Foundation, the Eclipse Foundation, etc. Another German example is e.g. “Die Open Knowledge Foundation Deutschland ist ein gemeinnütziger Verein”.
Nonetheless you are right that a real “Stiftung” could also be considered. And there is also something in between, the “Stiftungsverein”.

I guess you didn’t get what I was saying

My apologies. So here is my personal list of requirements, but first start with the purpose of it all: Stealing from Wikipedia, I would define the purpose in short “to promote, protect and advance openHAB and collaborative development”.
Requirements for the legal organisation:

  • non-profit
  • legal entity on its own with limited liability for board members
  • flexible active member/board structure, allowing meritocratic governance
  • easy way to receive donations (tax-free or even tax-deducted)
  • allow companies to support and promote, but not to take over control

Is there anything you could recommend to fulfill these over an e.V.?

In that context I’d like to bring up the question “where” the “openhab empire” should be founded

The question you ask is rather whether it should move - because currently, it clearly is in Germany with the biggest percentage of the user base, most events taking place in Germany etc. Next would be the U.S., but we would imho need some strong argument to move there. But I am of course all ears for good arguments!

Not only is it important to set the technical standards, but also the political and because making a European organization simply more ago for decision makers in the European institutions.

Interesting article about smart homes in the Manager Magazine (unfortunately only in German available):
There I can read a lot of requirements for smart home solutions and openhab’s answer would always be “yes, I can” :smile:
Obviously openhab is on the right track. Well done guys, you had a good vision and I’m happy to be here.

Back to the topic of that thread: in terms of sponsoring the mentioned “Bundesverband deutscher Wohnungs- und Immobilienunternehmen” might be very interested in openhab. Instead of founding an own legal entity it might also be an idea to “merge” with an existing institution.

I would add:

  • international acceptance (legal entity is understandable/transparent for non-German Users/Supporters/Sponsors)
  • easy to manage (in terms of controlling rules, tax laws, general management)
  • easy management of memberships

Question of understanding:
How should meritocratic governance work? To be not misunderstood: I really like the idea of meritocracy but I have no clue how this can work? Who would you elect? The develops with the most code committ? The one with the most forum entries? As I said - have no clue how this can work.

That’s a very valid question and difficult to answer - I also don’t have a satisfying answer to it.
My hope would be that the members get an feeling of who is helpful in the community and vote accordingly. After all, it should be in the interest of everyone to have people on the board that are trustworthy and reliable.
Btw, who would be willing here to be a candidate for a board position? Feel free to contact me through a PM for now - I would love to find a team of committed people to work on the setup, these should also become the founding members.

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While reading the forum I saw this entry: OpenHab vs. FHEM and this brought me to the following thoughts:

Both a requirement and an opportunity:

  • With the new legal entity it should be possible to merge with/integrate other existing smart home platforms.

Since many of these platforms are based on volunteer work it should be considered that the new NPO organization can integrate/merge with other organizations.

Was anyone already in touch with other platforms and discussed possibilities of a merger? Since the general technical idea is more or less the same it might be worth to work closely together.

I think this strongly depends on the topic. I already got technical help from various people (thank you guys!!!) but that doesn’t say anything about how helpful they would/could be for the transformation and/or leading an organization. As you know - a good techie is not necessarily a good manager and vice versa. This is not meant scornfully, this is just stating somthing from my experience.

For sure: many people. But:

  1. the most important thing people are concerned about is how much time do thy have to invest. Leading and transformation is much less volunteer work, I assume that there will come up appointments, timelines and delivery dates (latest when it comes to a tax return (Steuererklärung) and
  2. that brings you from a “hobby” to a “job”. I think it would be really helpful if members with experience in leading NPO’s like a foundation or “e.V.” could give insights into their invested time and daily/regular to-do’s (kind of task lists, what has to be done, which type of work).

I actually doubt that - because you are completely right that this is a (mostly) unpaid job, an “Ehrenamt”, just like it is for your local sports club, and I assume people are aware of this. Regarding the amount of time, I think that vastly differs between different NPOs. My wife is active in 3 different NPOs, so I have some direct access to such statistics :wink: But just to give a number: When asking for “committed people”, my assumption would be to dedicate about 5 hours per week in average for the foundation (just management/organisation, you are right that these jobs are not about technical matters like code/reviews/etc.). So again: Volunteers, please step up!

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i’d like to add:

  • ability to apply for (legal, formal) non-profit status (ideally internally accepted state by financial authorities, “§52 Abs.1 AO” [Germany], “501© organisation” [US] (just wanted to point that out although it has been mentioned before, because such official certifications are necessary to apply for special community accounts (e.g. Slack, Atlassian)
  • legal entity which allows simplified bookkeeping and (in general) financial and legal requirements (which would be true for e.V.). Also a real non-profit status would help to apply for much cheaper bookkeeping and tax software (quite important for Germany).
  • ability to provide donation receipts “Spendenbescheinigungen”

that should better be discussed in another thread. Would you mind to follow-up on this? We should also discuss there which platform you had in mind when writing this.


as i am the “treasurer” of the openHAB UG i would confirm Kai’s statistics here. Although the work does not occur regularly but it’s more “season work” as you might imagine.

I am surely not the best example for continuous time invest but i’ll try to list some of the regular jobs:

  • browse new issues whether they correlate with the “how to contribute”. If yes, find investigate the problem yourself our find others (the maintainer) and kindly ask for help. Assign the issue
  • track progress of open issues
  • link issues, PRs (simply try to increase transparency)
  • same is true for PRs
  • review PRs
  • help moderate the forum and tag posts, move or split discussions and keep the discussion going
  • help testing nightly builds

to give at least some “insights”



Thomas E.-E.

He was referring to the openHAB vs. FHEM thread. I don’t think that this is a good idea, because from a technical pov, there are hardly any possible synergies, thus the communities are rather different and hence this would put quite some problems on the organisation. This could rather be a topic for a “Dachverband” in 5 years time then :wink:

@Kai let me please know when you re ready with the Foundation.
I would like to support. Would be interessting what a Member needs to do and how we can help.

BR, Mehmet

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Alright, that’s understandable. Since I was thinking about this idea I could see various requests from FHEM users. While a technical merger is not reasonable it might be worth to write a manual how a FHEM user can migrate to OH. I can imagine that lowers down barriers and attracts more users from that community.

Basically, I’m really interested in supporting OH - but, to be honest - in terms of time I won’t be a reliable partner. If you’re looking for someone who can take over non-time critical tasks - I’ll support the organisation wherever I can.

Well, writing a tutorial on how to migrate from FHEM to openHAB is nothing time critical, but it would help the openHAB community and thus is a perfect example of a task for the openHAB Foundation. :slight_smile:

Hello @Kai,

as already metioned I would be ready to support “ehrenamtlich” within in the Foundation. I like the idea of a Foundation, since it shows the motivation behind OH, a great nonprofit project.
And in Germany you can easily be scared by our financial tax and regulatory stuffs, if you aint a foundation (alot of overhead). So good choice :slight_smile:

@teichsta, thanks for the insides. It gave me an idea about how help can look like, and it seems feasable to me.

Taking around 5h per week is not too much, for a Foundation and helping others. So I can say Iam willing to invest and use private time for OH.

As already spoken with Kai, you can count me in. I will also try to help finding other motivated people around me.
Please give me a sign as soon we can step further with this. If you think about a live meeting it would be helpful to know where and which preperations need to be done.

Thanks and Greetings

FTR: We are looking for people just like you - the openHAB Foundation is set up!