501(c)(3) FAQ

Update September 2018

Final resolution from the Board regarding 501c3 / c6 discussions – 501c3 summary

UPDATE: August 6, 2018

The Member Committee has released its recommendation to the board and the membership survey results!

UPDATE: April 20, 2018
The Member Committee to examine/discuss the 501c6 to 501c3 has come up with a member survey. The SURVEY is now closed. Please take a few minutes to fill it out if you would be so kind. Your participation in the survey will help the committee make their recommendation to the board.   SURVEY

March 19, 2018

To the members of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers: The RMFW Board of Directors thanks you and sincerely appreciates the feedback you’ve provided regarding the organization’s move to a 501(c)(3) IRS status. We dropped the ball on soliciting adequate feedback before making this decision, and we’re working to correct that. We respect your perspective – and as such we have suspended all activities needed to make the move to a 501(c)(3) organization.

Given the feedback we’ve received, The Board of Directors will be forming a committee to further analyze and discuss the organizational options available to RMFW before we take any additional steps forward in any proposed transition. We’ll be actively seeking participation from the membership to ensure all voices are represented. More details are forthcoming regarding the committee and how to join so please watch for that information.

Thank you for your commitment and passion for RMFW.
RMFW Board of Directors


FROM – March 13, 2018

Recently the RMFW Board voted to migrate our IRS status to become a 501(c)(3) organization. The process is still ongoing. Below is a letter from the Board of Directors to the membership, which we hope will answer any questions you might have. We’ve also listed answers to questions that arose during the lengthy discussion by the Board about the change.

“The definition and mission of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers is: a non-profit, volunteer-run organization dedicated to supporting, encouraging, and educating writers seeking publication in fiction.

As a non-profit, we have operated as a 501(c)(6) trade association, but our Boards of Directors past and present have long-considered transitioning to the classification of a 501(c)(3) charitable organization due to additional tax benefits , including exemption from sales tax.

On Monday, March 5, 2018, after extensive analysis and discussion, we finalized a vote where the Board of Directors has opted to pursue the status of 501(c)(3).

What does 501(c)(3) status mean?

  • Our mission will not change – we remain dedicated to supporting, encouraging, and educating writers seeking publication in fiction
  • RMFW will save on sales tax for all sponsored events
  • RMFW will be eligible to apply for grants and similar funding
  • RMFW may be able to attract donors and sponsors in support of our programs and events
  • RMFW will qualify for reduced prices on services needed to run the organization
  • RMFW members may be able to claim membership contribution as a charitable donation for tax purposes [Please note: this is only after 501(c)(3) status has been approved by the IRS which will happen later this year], or continue to claim it as a business expense depending on the member’s circumstances. Please discuss with your tax advisor to determine which is applicable to you.
  • There are limitations to the types of activities we will able to engage in, such as lobbying and business operations unrelated to our charitable mission.

While our definition and mission does not change, we do have to make some changes to be in compliance:

  • Members will be called “supporting members”
  • PAL and IPAL will remain, however, the groups will be open to any member interested in traditional or independent publishing
    • The groups become non-exclusive, a requirement of 501(c)(3) status
    • Any RMFW member, published or non-published, may join either or both groups and learn from the experience and expertise of those members who’ve published along either or both publishing paths
  • Regarding this PAL / IPAL change, it is important to note:
    • Published authors will still be recognized and congratulated with PEN awards at Colorado Gold
    • WOTY and IWOTYs will still be selected and honored each year
    • Each group will keep their representative on the Board of Directors

What happens next?

  • The RMFW website will be updated to reflect the changes outlined above
  • Once completed, our official application to the IRS will be filed
  • RMFW will be informed if our application was approved by the IRS in approximately 4 – 7 months

The Board of Directors understands that change can be challenging, and sometimes uncomfortable. Please know that the Board gave this serious thought and consideration before making this decision, and this choice would not have been selected if the Board didn’t believe it positively served the organization. The Board is committed to best practices for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and its members.

Please feel free to reach out to any member of the Board of Directors with any additional questions you might have.

All members of RMFW are welcome to attend our regular Board meetings. The next is scheduled for May 5th at 1PM at the Sam Gary Branch of the Denver Library system.

Thanks much for your time and attention.”


Additional FAQ

Are there still unique advantages to membership?

Yes! Members will continue to be eligible for discounts registering for our educational events and conference, as they have in the past. Members will also be eligible for advance registration for popular events, like the Retreat. Members will be able to submit publications and enews for promotion. Once the designation change is approved, you will be able to count your membership as a charitable contribution. We are continuing to research additional ways members will receive additional perks within our new structure – while continuing to expand RMFW’s educational and promotional reach.

Wasn’t RMFW already a non-profit?

Yes, RMFW is a 501(c)(6) non-profit, a designation meant for trade associations, and we will remain a 501(c)(6) trade association until and if our application for 501(c)(3) status is approved. As a trade association, RMFW is not eligible to be tax exempt from sales tax or other benefits listed in the letter.

Why am I now a supporting member and not just a member?

As a charitable organization, people can choose to support the organization in a number of ways one of which is through membership. Therefore, RMFW’s members will be supporting members. Using this terminology is a requirement for 501(c)(3) status.

What improvements to programs and education does RMFW hope to see through this change?

There are a number of ideas and options for us to consider, but nothing has been finalized or even confirmed as a possibility. We are in brainstorm mode — if you have ideas or suggestions, please add them to the comments. We’d love to hear them.

Why are the costs of CO Gold conference going up if we’re saving money?

Our application hasn’t been approved, nor are we certain it will be approved, so RMFW continues to operate as a 501(c)(6) which means there are no savings gained from the potential move to a 501(c)(3).

When you say grants, do you mean members can apply to receive grants?

No. The intent is that RMFW can apply for grants that assist charitable organizations in their programs, operations, etc.

When you say RMFW will benefit from reduced prices on services, does this mean members will see prices go down, or better offerings?

This is yet to be determined. The Board works to support the mission of RMFW, and will always consider the best way to do that, whether it be through keeping event pricing low, bringing on new or improved programs, or other actions.

What do you mean my non-exlcusive?

Non-exclusive means RMFW welcomes everyone, members and non-members, to partake in our events, programs, workshops, etc. RMFW will not hold “members only” events or programs. Should the issue arise, members or the public who engage in activities contrary to the mission and programming can be excluded from the community.

When can I deduct my membership fee as a tax-deductible donation?

Not until after our application is approved by the IRS, notification of which, if we are approved, is not anticipated until approximately the third quarter of 2018. You should also consult your tax advisor for best practice in this regard.

Can I write off all of my event registration fees?

Please consult your tax advisor.

What happened to the PAL and IPAL professional organizations within RMFW?

They will continue to exist as interest groups within the organization. Please see the information about PAL and IPAL in the above letter. Additional details are coming from our PAL and IPAL Liaisons, Diane Jewkes and Stephanie Reisner.

Does this change anything with the PEN Awards?

No. PEN awards will still be given, and authors recognized at the CO Gold conference.

How do I apply for a PEN award?

The PAL and IPAL Liaisons, Diane Jewkes and Stephanie Reisner, are formalizing a new process and will provide information when finalized.

How will RMFW support its published authors?

PEN awards will still be given, and WOTY and IWOTY awards will still be given. Additional information will come from our PAL and IPAL Liaisons, Diane Jewkes and Stephanie Reisner.

Will RMFW still be able to promote my member news, new book releases etc. in the newsletter and social media?


Does this change anything with the Colorado Gold writing contest?


Does this change anything with the WOTY and IWOTY awards?

No. WOTY and IWOTY awards will still be given and honorees recognized at the CO Gold conference.

35 thoughts on “501(c)(3) FAQ”

  1. To the Board: Because this vote disbands our professional organizations, I think this move should be opened up to a vote from the entire membership, as all of the membership (current and future members) will be affected.

    Frankly, I am stunned that after ALL the work that has been done to build up and support our professional members the Board has chosen to eliminate that support without even consulting any of the members. When I was on the Board only a few short months ago, the fact that PAL and IPAL would be disbanded was never part of the discussion.

    Had it been, I would have withdrawn my support of the change to 501(c)3 immediately.

    I am asking that there be open discussion with the membership-at-large before this change is applied for with the IRS. Please make it clear that PAL and IPAL as we know it will be eliminated, not simply “remain…” in any form that resembles what we currently have now. Because in the statement above, there was very little attention given to exactly how much WILL change if this reclassification is approved. Please be open and honest about what we as members are giving up.

    We deserve better.

    Lisa Manifold

  2. “Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW) is a non-profit, volunteer-run organization dedicated to supporting, encouraging, and educating writers seeking publication in commercial fiction.”

    This mission – as written – excludes literary fiction authors.

    Ref: Writers’ Digest University

    “Literary Fiction vs. Commercial Fiction

    To the writer of literary, or serious, fiction, style and technique are often as important as subject matter. … Commercial fiction, however, is written with the intent of reaching as wide an audience as possible. … Commercial fiction is sometimes called genre fiction because books of this type often fall into categories, such as western, gothic, romance, historical, mystery and horror.”

    I’m sure that’s not the intent and likewise sure that the phrase has been part of RMFW’s stated mission from the beginning.

    If we’re reorganizing the mission to comply with the stipulations of 501(c)3, perhaps it’s time to recognize that fiction is fiction regardless of what kind of stories we make up or what our path in publishing might be.

    I suggest:

    “Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW) is a non-profit, volunteer-run organization dedicated to supporting, encouraging, and educating writers seeking fiction publication.”

    See: http://resources.writersonlineworkshops.com/resources/definitions-of-fiction-categories-and-genres/

    • Hi, Nathan.

      Back when RMFW began, it was a chapter of Romance Writers of America. Then people who wrote other types of commercial fiction joined, and the organization split off from RWA. They were very careful in writing the mission statement to say that we are an organization that supports those who write commercial fiction.

      In the 1990s, I attended Iowa Writers classes in the summer (the classes anyone can go to). Some of the instructors had graduated from top MFA programs said that genre fiction is poorly written and filled with cliches. I told them that genre fiction has conventions that meet reader expectations, but much of it is very well written. I was very happy to scurry back to RMFW where commercial fiction is praised and promoted.

      I have a friend who went to the same college as me. He is a very successful thriller writer, but they won’t feature him in the alumni magazine because he doesn’t write literary fiction.

      I am a quilter. We have two types of guilds for those who create traditional quilts and those who create art quilts. The members of those organizations have very different goals. Traditional quilters like creating and following patterns; art quilters tend to create unique, one-of-a-kind quilts.

      Same thing with commercial artists and fine artists; I met many commercial artists when I wrote advertising, and they felt that the fine artists disdained the commercial artists.

      Deleting the emphasis on commercial fiction from our mission statement is as huge a change as becoming a 501(c)(3) organization, and I’m not sure how many members would welcome it.

      Alice Kober, long-time RMFW member who has always loved commercial fiction.

  3. I’d like to say that no one on the board was trying to push through anything under cover of darkness. This was a hairy topic and we all wrestled with it mightily. We discussed it at length. I was operating under the assumption the board represented membership and we were duty-bound to come to a decision.

  4. I tend to agree with Lisa on this one. The fact that PAL is essentially being disbanded is enough to make me rethink my membership in RMFW. As a 30 year member, one of the great things about RMFW was the help the published authors offered in helping those of us coming up reach our goals. In return, we afforded those authors a special place within the organization. We put some of the membership dollars toward a directory, sought them out as presenters at conference and blushed with pleasure upon receiving our PEN Awards. It was a sort of coming of age moment. I wish the membership had some input, though with the direction RMFW has taken in the past few years I doubt consulting the membership would have changed the outcome.

    The traditional members who began this organization have bowed with the times. We have accepted, if not embraced, the formation of iPAL, to recognize the indie-pubbed authors and to acknowledge the changing publishing industry. In the past 10 years we have moved to a place where we must submit proposals to offer our expertise, and graciously step aside when rejected for some who have no experience, yet tapped to speak multiple times. We have quietly served on committees, judged contest, and mentored, with little reward except for knowing we’re giving back.

    As with many of our superstar authors (who we failed to acknowledge)–and NOT by any means counting myself as a superstar–after 30 years of service to RMFW and 20 years as a traditionally-published PAL member, I think it’s time to fade into the sunset. I will forever cherish my memories of serving as Critique Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, PAL Chair, VP, and President; of judging contest; of editing the anthology; of co-chairing and chairing two Colorado Gold Conferences; of serving on countless WOTY committees, bylaws committees and policy committees; of being awarded the Jasmine, named Writer of the Year, and dubbed a “Guiding Member.” Peace out!

  5. I’m not an overly active member. I live 300 miles away, so its hard. But I do put in the expense of time and money just to be able to brainstorm with my peers and hear what they’ve learned about industry shifts. If the unpublished want to sit and talk with me I welcome it in the common areas, at the bar, during meals even in a room after hours. To not have the designated time and place to speak with other professionals ONLY … it basically defeats the purpose of attending.

    The focus has always been for the new writers, that’s great, but its the published writers who bring in the needed experiences to give the new writer a hand up. Without PAL/IPAL what is there?

    Those “advanced workshops” that I paid extra for weren’t at all advanced, the only general workshops that are helpful now are the ones dealing with technology and very few of those are offered. There is no contest for published authors to enter. We get ONE PEN award and if we happen to be a member that is active enough we might get a WOTY/IWOTY but only if our names are very well known by the membership….

    RMFW wants my money, wants me to promote them, wants me to pay EXTRA for workshops that MIGHT be helpful but they want to take away the only truly helpful thing they offer me, time with my published peers???? ummm … yeah, No. I think funds might be better spent with RT or even with RWA who at least has contests for the published. And if I really feel the need to attend a conference there is always one somewhere, likely for less money. I already drive 5 + hours to see you…

    Sorry, but this change is telling me I should go pound sand….

    Marie Hall
    Aspen Gold Winner, Erotic Romance
    Blushing Books
    Worship Series
    Master and Command Her Series
    No Sugar Added

  6. I’m a professional writer and I was always proud to be part of a professional organization — one that had a goal of helping members realize their dreams of eventual publication.
    If the organization now wants to focus on education, that is fine for them to do. But this, to me, means they’re no longer interested in authors once they have been “educated.” (And yes, we can all, no matter what our published status, learn new things. But let’s face it — the majority of educational activities are aimed at newer writers. That’s the ‘market’ for conference, so to speak.)
    Yes, PAL has not been that active, and maybe I’m just nit-picking semantics. But to me there’s a difference between a charitable organization devoted to educating writers, and a non-profit, professional organization. The fact that the board voted to do this, knowing that doing so would mean RMFW could no longer promote particular author’s work or do anything that gave special groups — such as published authors — any perceived privileges — tells me they prefer to focus on what may well be the majority of members — the unpublished. And there is nothing wrong with that. But it also doesn’t give published members a very good feeling about sticking around.

    Cindi Myers

  7. I’ve heard talk of the move to a 501(2)3 for a couple of years now. I heard that it would save us a bundle on sales taxes – great! – but might cause a problem with the book sale – bummer, but there were ideas of how to deal with that. But never did I hear that it would require us to dissolve Pal and IPal and put all of our eggs in the education basket. I think this radical redirection requires another look and I’m truly surprised that there was no consideration of putting it to a vote of the membership. We do elect officers…but honestly how long has it been since more than one office was even contested.

    I have enjoyed being part of an organization that epitomized “pay it forward,” enabling professional authors to share their learning and experience with those aspiring to this great work of which we are all a part. But to me, the delight of our conference and other events is not only the teaching, but also sharing experiences/market knowledge/publishing information/good-and-bad news with fellow professionals, and I would be very sorry to see that left behind. My home’s distance from Denver, my writing schedule, and other commitments prevent me being as active in RMFW as I would like, and without the sense that this organization can provide the professional connections I value, it would be even harder to commit the time.

    Carol Berg

  8. It was a goal of mine to earn my way into PAL, and it has been an honor and source of pride to be part of a professional organization with such wonderful, supportive authors.

    I would point out that this move to a 501(c)(3) reduces PAL and IPAL to pointless redundancies. If PAL is demoted from a professional organization to a club for anyone interested in traditional publishing, and IPAL is demoted from a professional organization to a club for anyone interested in indie publishing, . . . Isn’t that called Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers? The practical move would be to retire any pretense of PAL and IPAL altogether. They would no longer have anything to offer authors beyond what is already offered by RMFW.

    Please be clear that I am quite sad about this change in organizational structure, as I believe it will inevitably lead to a fundamental shift in the nature of RMFW and the benefits authors can enjoy. I just see no point to PAL or IPAL continuing if they are not actually professional organizations rather than clubs “open to any member interested in traditional or independent publishing.” We already have RMFW for that.

    I don’t know how much RMFW will save in sales tax, but I do know I hate to lose the professional organizations and the unique benefits they have provided to the PAL and IPAL members.

    That being said, I think of many board members as friends, and I know you are all doing your best to do right by RMFW at large and not just the published authors. I’m sure our interests are small in comparison to the majority. I appreciate the time and consideration you are putting in on this matter.

  9. I’ve been back and forth about this for a very long time (since I was president, if fact). There are some really nice things about being a 501(c)(3), such as sales tax savings and the possibility of grants and so on. There are also drawbacks, those being partly why I shelved the process back when I was president – and that was even before the more in-depth analysis of recent years came into focus: the loss of PAL/IPAL being one.

    That concerns me deeply. I love belonging to a professional organization focused on my passion, writing. I’m not sure being a charitable educational organization means the same, especially for members like me. I mean, we do have a focus on education for writers now, but we also focus on supporting and advertising writerly successes, and that’s key, IMO. It’s why I’m an active member of RMFW – because I support that mission. I give my time and such expertise as I have toward that mission. Education alone – what’s in it for me? Not a lot.

    I understand there are work-arounds for the book sale at conference, but my understanding is that the other work-arounds discussed for such things as Blue Mailer and anthologies are in fact *not* tenable. At least that’s what my attorneys explained to me in the way-back years when I was investigating this same issue of 501(c)(3). I also question whether some components of being a charitable org rather than a non-profit can be/will be met every year. While it’s unlikely the IRS would investigate, if ever it did revoke our standing, we would be completely hosed. All that’s needed to trigger such an investigation would be some disgruntled person (say the one former member we actually blackballed?) making a complaint.

    Whatever happens, we need a thorough discussion for the members, with the members, and then a vote of the membership. Included in that discussion must be finances – how much we’d save, who would write grant proposals, how broke we are (or aren’t), what loss of PAL/IPAL would mean financially AND educationally (and we are talking loss), and the like. If the majority decides, for monetary reasons, to change our mission, that’ll be something to think about for each of us afterwards.

    I’d like to thank Diane for sending me this link – I somehow missed it in her original email, which is why I posted on the Yahoo chats yesterday.

    Susan Mackay Smith

  10. I would echo many of the comments already posted. It seems like this is a done deal that very few had a voice in. That is true in any form of representative government, but changing the entire mission and focus of the group should have been discussed with all the members.

    I’ve always appreciated the value found in conference but over the years have noted that proposing workshops became so very cumbersome that I quit even trying. And there seemed to be a focus more on classes for new writers and not more advanced courses that those of us who have been writing for years and even those of us who are published can benefit from.

    If PAL and IPAL are equally opened to anyone, then there is nothing for beginning writers to put up on their wall as goals.

    I also am a member and former board member at Pikes Peak Writers who is a 501-C-3 group with the mission statement that RMFW will have when this goes through. At least they are free to join.

    I am due for renewal but think maybe I won’t. Paying for membership in a professional organization is one thing – paying for a charity organization with very few benefits – well maybe not.

    I am truly grieved to see some of the amazing fellow authors above saying they will move on. Perhaps we’ll need a facebook page for former RMFW MEMBERS where we can keep in touch and, for now, grieve.

    Jax Hunter (Jax Bubis)

  11. Hold on, everyone. Please stick with us on this. The board very much wants to hear your opinions and quitting now is not going to help the organization. This isn’t a done deal and we can work to clear up misunderstanding. Please stay on as we delve deeper into this issue and what we, as RMFW, want to be going forward. I’m glad to see the passion here, but don’t walk away until this thing is settled and we know for sure the impact of change or staying the same.

    • I’m struggling with this change because I don’t understand what problem the board is trying to solve by implementing it.

      I’ve heard some of the proposed benefits but I have no idea why we’re even considering it.

      • Nathan, it would save us a considerable amount on taxes (at conference and other events) which was one reason. And since our primary mission is education, we could apply for grants and have more money for education and things. The membership voted to change the Bylaws in 2015 (I think that is when) to have the Board look into it. But clearly we all need more information (including the Board).

  12. A big part of why I joined RMFWs was to get involved with IPAL as an an organization for professional authors. There are countless other organizations in Colorado that embrace all writers, published and unpublished, and as membership chair for the Colorado Independent Publishers Association, I am quite involved with many types of writers and love it. However, there are so few organizations that give professional, full-time writers/editors their own space. I’m disappointed this one is changing.

  13. I’ve been a member of RMFW and PAL member since about 2012 when I moved to the Denver area. I have very mixed feelings about this change in organization status, partly tangled up with my feelings about how useful RMFW has been to my career in some ways, and in other ways that it hasn’t been as useful as I hoped. I’m not a “joiner” by nature, which is why I seldom post on the lists, although I do read them. I get my writer socialization time mostly with my critique groups.
    I received my PEN last year, having had no idea since 2012 that it was a thing or that I had been eligible the whole time, rectified when someone reached out to me. It was nice to get it, but it felt like someone dropped the ball when I signed up in the first place.
    I think Colorado Gold is in general an excellent conference for mystery and romance writers, one of the things RMFW does pretty well. But I’ve been feeling less and less that it’s useful to me as an experienced, professional author and freelance writer. It’s fabulous if you’re just starting out. For pros, not so much. Most of the sessions I attended at my previous conference in 2016 made me think I could just as well have been teaching them. This reduces the sole benefit for me to basically networking, along with the opportunity to pitch.
    PAL membership is a way of distinguishing the pros from the not-yet-pros. It’s a bit of an ego-boost, a status marker among peers as having reached a certain level of achievement, but if I had to say whether being a PAL member has been useful for my career… not much there. Do the visiting editors and agents to the conference take note of the extra PAL badge ribbon? I doubt it. Do the newcomers? Maybe.
    So how do I feel about the change to a 501(c)(3)? I’m on the fence. I clearly have much less emotional investment here than many who have spoken out against it, but their arguments to the negative are persuasive. What I am responding to, negatively, is the way it has been handled and the subject broached. It sounded very much like “We’re going to do this thing.” and people started jumping up “Hey, wait a minute now!”
    I do, however, appreciate the fact that the board has put the brakes on and is listening to what people are saying.

  14. I had no idea that PAL and iPAL would no longer be allowed if we changed to the 501(c)(3) status. If you have published authors leaving RMFW over this, the organization loses a lot of its appeal. It’s easy to find classes and organizations with unpublished authors. It’s a lot more difficult to find a writing organization like RMFW where published authors are so willing to mix with the unpublished. I have learned a great deal from published authors over the years. In fact, the knowledge they shared with me helped me get my job as a fiction buyer for my library district.

    I also am concerned that we can’t disallow the memberships of individuals; in the past, there were a guys who were persistently creepy toward women at meetings and critique groups and via email. They would have loved to sue us when we told them they couldn’t be members.

    I recognize that being on the board involves many hours of work and want to thank everyone who has served and is serving now. When conflict arises, it can feel a bit thankless. But this decision affects all of us.

    I’d like to see all the pros and cons of changing to a 501(c)(3) need spelled out so members can completely understand the ramifications. Then, membership should have a chance to vote on this.

    Alice Kober, 2017 Guiding Member who has loved RMFW for many years.

  15. This message is being posted multiple times to ensure it reaches everyone. Please share.

    To the members of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers:

    The RMFW Board of Directors thanks you and sincerely appreciates the feedback you’ve provided regarding the organization’s move to a 501(c)(3) IRS status. We dropped the ball on soliciting adequate feedback before making this decision, and we’re working to correct that. We respect your perspective, and as such we have suspended all activities needed to make the move to a 501(c)(3) organization.

    Additionally, the Board of Directors is forming a committee to further analyze and discuss the organizational options available to RMFW before we take any further steps forward in any proposed transition. We’ll be actively seeking participation from the membership to ensure all voices are represented. More details are forthcoming regarding the committee and how to join so please watch for that information.

    Thank you for your commitment to and passion for RMFW.


    RMFW Board of Directors

  16. On the topic of “commercial” fiction: that word was deleted from our P&P in 1997. A review of the Bylaws in 2015 led to official removal of that clause from the mission statement. We will get the changes made–thanks for catching it!

  17. Let me speak up as an unpublished writer. The most compelling reason I have for renewing my membership is to support my goal of being eligible for IPAL, and my primary reason for going to Colorado Gold at this point is to identify and connect in some way with active IPAL members whom I hope to emulate. I *do not* want to be eligible to join IPAL merely because it’s been opened up to anyone who wants to join. That would totally remove the value of IPAL to me. If the board goes forward with this and we reach a point where PAL and IPAL are open to anyone, I will not be renewing my membership in RMFW or paying to attend Colorado Gold. I hope the board will move forward with a serious revisit of this plan.

    • This is a bit off-topic, Gina, but how can we help you? How do we connect? Are you on FB? Feel free to reach out to me (my email is easy to find). Let’s see if we can sort this connection problem for you and all the other unpublished authors in RMFW. Getting connected – whether it’s to PAL or IPAL or members who just want find their people – is critically important to sustaining the membership.

      • Well I sent you a FB friend request just now. You and I have circulated at several of the local SFF cons.

        If you ask me, the best events RMFW has are the retreat and NovelRama. Why? Because they hold space for me to sit down and write, and connect with others in a small, intimate setting. That setting is key for me. I am very over with most writer panels and classes. When I go to cons anymore I either drop in for just a few hours (Barcon) or get a hotel room so I can spend most of the con holed up with my computer without day to day interruptions. Then I miss out on some of the connections.

        SO – hold space for me and help me find small, cozy settings to meet with others?

        The most worthwhile panel at Colo Gold that I have attended in recent years was the workshop where Betsy Dornbusch gave us time in workshop to actually write or work on queries and get on the spot feedback from her a few years ago. I would love to see a room at the conference where writers could write with others as if it were a mini-retreat.

  18. Like Jax, I am also a former board member of the Pikes Peak Writers (PPW) which is a 501(c)(3) organization. I volunteered at the PPW Conference many years and actually ran their bookstore for a couple years. So I’m a little baffled by the mention of “book sale problems.” Yes, you must still collect sales tax as a 501(c)(3) organization and you can still sell books on consignment agreements, which is probably no different than today. You can still pay a bookseller for the books they ordered from Ingram or Baker&Taylor. The PPWC also has a separate book signing but it is limited to conference presenters only–which is probably how RMFW will have to limit theirs, instead of adding randomly selected PAL/IPAL members who want to participate. I won’t be happy about that change.

    Regarding a sense of COMMUNITY: I do admire the PPW and their ability to organize a successful and commercial conference, which is their main mission. Unfortunately, “PPW membership” would probably be defined as paying to attend or volunteer at the conference. Going to 501(c)(3) allowed them to do away with yearly membership fees, but for me that also did away with the feeling of being a “continuous member” of an organization that supports local writers. While conference attendees may be able to form long-term friendships at the conference, I feel that after volunteers go home and attend the lessons-learned meetings, organizational memory of the “membership” is wiped out except for the fact they paid for a previous conference. PPW did away with their newsletter a while ago and the blog is entirely educational, so there is no organizational recognition of “members” (if you can identify them) who get their first contract or publish their books and, for me, there’s not much feeling of community.

    The feeling of community and support is why I joined RMFW in 2008 and have tried to get to most of the RMFW conferences. That’s when I got my first contract and when I attended the CO Gold for the first time, I was amazed at the level of professional support I felt. Hey, this was an organization that really celebrated and supported their own members when they got published! They even continued to support those members through advertising (RMFW Mailer to local booksellers/librarians) and promotion in their newsletter. Hey, they even had a newsletter that published such announcements throughout the year!

    Some of you know that I’m the one responsible for putting out the RMFW Mailer for years, but have since passed it on to Janet Fogg. I’m proud of the quality and effort that has been put into that Mailer and the curating of the list of booksellers/libraries that it goes to. I’m happy about the Board’s past decisions to expand the Mailer to include non-fiction and self-published titles by PAL members and IPAL members, once that organization was formed. But I know, having been on the board of a 501(c)(3) organization, that the Mailer cannot continue if we reorganize under that non-profit section. The very idea of “membership” may also have to go out the window and, with it, any sense of community.

    I guess some money might be saved in not paying sales tax for supplies and sundries, but I hope that savings will be worth the sense of community you’re giving up in changing from a trade/professional organization that supports its members to a non-profit that services, instead, ephemeral attendees at your events. I, personally, will not be happy about that change, either.

    • Wow, Laura! I didn’t know your history with PPW. Thank you for sharing. Your post illustrates a lot of what I feel will be lost by reclassifying our non-profit status. Once gone, that sense of community does not come back.

      This is it, folks. Laura’s post is it in a nutshell. Add to that, we won’t have our professional arms anymore, so a further sense of community is lost.

      I’m not seeing where a shift in our non-profit status makes up for all that will have to go away.

  19. Hello All,

    I have to admit, I’m rather disappointed to see the downshift of IPAL and PAL on the table. It was one of the main reasons I joined the organization. There is something prestigious and exciting about working your way toward a more “exclusive” group of published authors as opposed to being in the aspiring category. Inviting anyone to join really detracts from what I consider an important defining characteristic of this org. There are few professional organizations that make this distinction and it’s a valuable one. It does add perceived value to the group and attracts new members who want to call themselves a member of IPAL and PAL.

    The other issue with the downgrade, is it means that on the boards or in the programming, you may potentially drive out more professional authors. I say this because it’s wonderful that the aspiring would gain so much by their inclusion, and pros are often happy to help them out to a degree, but it would radically change the discussion. It means all the value is placed on the incoming and the newer, striving writers and there’s very little added benefit for the published who need different kinds of information. They will just go elsewhere for that, I can assure you. I’ve seen it before, often.

    In addition, I’m not sure what the tax break situation would look like, but wouldn’t the inclusion of all writers into PAL and IPAL therefore mean there would be dozens and dozens of PEN awards given at each con? I assume this would radically drive up the cost of the PEN awards and possibly negate some of the tax break benefits. Just another practical thought here.

    Additional thoughts/questions. Coming from a world of education, I can assure you that obtaining grants is a difficult and unwieldy process that requires a professional grant writer who can mitigate the language properly, and knows where to look to find the grants in the first place. It requires an inordinate amount of paperwork and data gathering. I think it’s wonderful that RMFW might be open to this possibility, but I’m curious as to who has the time and, more importantly, the skill to undertake this task. Will this person be paid? If so, we once again dip into the tax break benefits for a zero-sum game.

    This is a wonderful organization, one for which I fly halfway across the country every year to take part in because I enjoy the people and the wonderful programming so much! In particular, I’m always proud to tout how it is so professional and there are opportunities for beginners and also pros. I fear the pro angle would be drastically diminished, in the end, by reducing the wonderful “accomplished status” an author receives through IPAL and PAL. That said, I’m open to discussion and look forward to seeing what happens here.

    • One of the things that seems to be rising to the top in these discussions, regardless of any status change, is evaluating the focus of current programming and how much it offers established, published authors versus aspiring authors – which is actually in-tune with the mission *as stated* “The mission of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers is: a non-profit, volunteer-run organization dedicated to supporting, encouraging, and educating writers seeking publication in fiction.” The pivotal words in there being “educating and seeking.”

      To be 100% clear, I’m not saying it *ought* to be that way at all – established authors have been clear in comments that RMFW has been a unique resource for them versus other groups because it does offer them support and resources. But it looks like there is room to see where some of the focus has come from in resources aimed at aspiring authors and if we’re balanced there. Change or no change, it seems like it’s really worth it at this time to look at our programming and the conference and evaluate the balance and if it’s equally serving everyone who participates in the organization. If we do remain a c6, it looks like there’s room to talk about networking and lobbying and actually taking advantage of the privileges we’re paying for by owning that status. We don’t currently have in our mission, “Professional support / advancement / networking for published / established authors” and perhaps this is an oversight.

      I think it’s worth including in the conversation that it runs pretty true to course that the more sophisticated a resource (ie a person teaching a class, an event, a publication), the more expensive it is. Pretty much everything RMFW does is supported by volunteers who donate their time. Folks that generous become more rare as they become better established, and people are more willing to pay them for their time. We are fortunate to have so many amazing people who are established who are willing to do this, and they are truly why RMFW is as amazing as it is. But if we did want to make sure our programming offered something really valuable to those at a higher level, and expand our “faculty” so to speak, it might incur additional cost. If advanced education is identified as an important resource that’s lacking, we should find a way to do it – again, regardless of status change or not.

  20. The good news is that as a c3 RMFW would still be able to promote supporting member news through the enewsletter and social media, which there are no plans to discontinue if there were any changes or even if there aren’t. I handle the enewsletter, and right now I get about one Member News submission a month, so there is room to grow and expand the program. Right now the enewsletter goes out to about 675 members, and another 1,200+ people on top of that who are not members. I have not noticed any abuse by non-members asking to be included in the member news. It would not be necessary to change content in any of the communications spaces to only focus on education. Professional advancement and supporting member news could absolutely be a core component.

    The Mailer is a critical program of the organization, and that would definitely be an important thing to carry on. An RMFW mailer could still go out in a format pretty similar to the current, and feature PAL and IPAL authors in the new iteration of the groups. Since this is a time of reflection, it might be worth considering expanding the Mailer’s distribution – though not its primary focus, which can still zero in on and promote upcoming supporting member publications.

    Yes – changes to sales in the bookstore format could actually be pretty limited depending on how the organization wants to handle it. c3s are absolutely able to sell products to raise funds to support programs, as long as they collect and pay sales tax. Think Women’s Bean Project here. I have attended book sales at events from other c3s in town, and I think simply to avoid extra work they outsource to cooperating book stores. RMFW could chose to do either in compliance with regulations.

    We will still be able to have an active membership component and identify supporting members quite visibly at the conference, in the enewsletter, printed and digital spaces. We are able to offer supporting members special benefits, and we are even able to have separate events where only supporting members are invited to network. RMFW already offers a substantial amount of programming and resources open to members and non-members, so we would easily be able to show balance in our educational offerings in compliance with c3 status.

    Unlike PPW, we would not be changing our mission to focus only on the conference. We would keep our focus on promoting and sustaining authorship and promoting and supporting published authors with regular, continuing programming and networking all year long. From an information gathering perspective, why did PPW chose to convert to a c3?

    Thanks so much.

  21. A few thoughts for the Board and yet-to-be-formed committee:

    I’ve served on the Board twice, most recently in 2015/2016, and during that time we studied migrating RMFW to a 501(c)(3). Financial benefits were our focus – and how extra funding could be spent to educate our members. I rather naively assumed that since we were already a non-profit, very little change in operations would be needed.

    Now that the changes, and impact of those changes, are better understood, I might first quote Spock: “Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Yet in this instance, based on the reactions I’ve read on the loops and Facebook pages, I fear the needs of the many, i.e., our members who are on a path to publication and seek mentoring, support, and guidance, will likely be damaged by less (or at least less enthusiastic) support from our published writers.

    Then there’s the needs of our published writers. I can’t discern any significant benefit for us, other than a potential increase in funding that might provide advanced educational opportunities. Others have already mentioned the potential loss of professional/trade association benefits, so I won’t repeat that.

    Therefore, to me, logic dictates that the losses outweigh the gains – for everyone. (Yes, I did just raise my right eyebrow.)

    The Board of Directors has always balanced fiscal responsibility with ongoing and increased opportunities for our members to grow and flourish. Sometimes serving on the Board is a joy, sometimes it’s boring, and sometimes it’s a stinkin’ PITA, so I want to again thank all of you. I imagine your email threads might have set a new record.


  22. I believe Janet has hit an important point on the head: “I fear the needs of the many, i.e., our members who are on a path to publication and seek mentoring, support, and guidance, will likely be damaged by less (or at least less enthusiastic) support from our published writers.”

    If RMFW changes from a professional org to an education org, many of our professional members will seek professional support elsewhere.

    It doesn’t matter how many ways we craft the narrative around all the ways things won’t change. It remains that this one change –no longer being a professional org– brings both perceived change and actual change, and as Heather also said – one impact will be in the professional members who might be disinclined to remain active in an org that has stripped them of their professional status.

    Reading the comments above from some of our longest-term and active published members (as well as those who seek professional status through RMFW) and those shared on the member email loop, this is a common thread among them all that is being brushed aside in favor of the an explanation of the shower of benefits and opportunities that may come if we’re a 501c3. But I think it is vital that the board and the committee address the comments from our professional members, because if the professional members leave, it impacts everyone.


  23. Hey folks! Diane Rubens Jewkes and I are forming the committee to discuss the 501c3 vs 501c6 with members of RMFW, including PAL and IPAL members, as well as unpublished members. If you are interested in being on this committee – please respond to this comment with your FB User Name and I will add you to the Facebook Committee group! Thank you!

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