Someone recently contacted Spokes to say, “I’m thinking of starting a worker self-directed nonprofit. Can Spokes help me?”
A worker self-directed nonprofit? I’d never heard the term. I know about public benefit nonprofits, mutual benefit nonprofits, and benefit corporations, but this inquiry required some research!
The Sustainable Economies Law Center describes a self-directed nonprofit as a sort of cross between a worker cooperative and a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Specifically, it defines a worker self-directed nonprofit as,
a nonprofit organization in which all workers have the power to influence the programs in which they work, the conditions of their workplace, their own career paths, and the direction of the organization as a whole.
In general, a worker cooperative is “democratically managed business that is owned and controlled by the workers.” California corporation code has specific provisions for the formation of a for-profit worker cooperative. California code also has specific, separate provisions for incorporating as a nonprofit. As far as I have learned, California code does not include explicit provisions for something called a worker self-directed nonprofit.
I have lots more to learn on this subject, but it’s intriguing to think about how one might structure a nonprofit within California’s current code that might mimic or embody key features of a worker cooperative such as election of the board of directors. More to come on this topic, but in the meantime, check out these resources: