Nonprofit behind all the cool stuff you love seeks new board members

(Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

When it comes to promoting the creative, vibrant street culture and fabric of events that make Portland, Portland, Umbrella is arguably the most important nonprofit in the city. Why? Because they provide the financial and legal foundation for many of our most beloved traditions.

I’m talking about things like the upcoming Ladds 500, the World Naked Bike Ride, Pedalpalooza, Breakfast on the Bridges, Better Block PDX, Disaster Relief Trials, and more. As a registered 501(c)(3), Umbrella pops up to protect projects and events that would struggle to handle major legal details like event insurance, alcohol permits, tax ID numbers (to accept donations), mailing addresses, and bookkeeping, on their own.

Umbrella is possible thanks to its board members — generous, benevolent folks who understand the value of community-based street culture and want to see it survive and thrive. And now you have an opportunity to become one. That’s right, Umbrella is looking for a few good folks to join their board.

Being on the board requires attendance at meetings (once a month for an hour or two) and a minimum commitment of two years. You can learn all about what it entails here.

And yes, that makes being an Umbrella board member sound pretty boring. “But it doesn’t have to be,” reads the board description. “There’s something really wonderful about attending an event for a project that you have supported, and you look around and go, ‘Wow these folks are doing such cool stuff – I’m so glad we could help make this happen.'”

So maybe this is the next step in your involvement with the great events, rides, projects, and people you’ve met in the Portland transportation scene. If you’re intrigued, check out the application to join and make sure to fill it out by end of day on April 13th.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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FiscalFunSponsor
FiscalFunSponsor
1 month ago

Umbrella was formed to move Shift and WNBR out of fiscal sponsorship by City Repair. It had grown too big and become a bit risky (think Rabbit riding tall with a flaming jousting lance) and City Repair wanted it to grow into it’s own org supported and managed by it’s own community.

That move to the Umbrella fiscal sponsorship model solved a bunch of problems by taking care of 501c3 status and insurance for several projects at once. But it also imposed a structure which weakens the the projects and somewhat limits their ability to become full institutions.

For orgs like Shift or BonB which are run by active groups I’ve often wondered if they should maintain their own 501c3 status and be able to fully administer themselves. (Pedalpalooza should be in that camp but it is not run by committee). That would allow them to consider their own fate and fortune more organically, without having to go to Umbrella for approval or support.

What would the shape of bike fun be like if Shift in particular had been formed to be the primary entity instead of Umbrella and had a stronger board with clearer access to resources and more responsibilities. Pedalpalooza and BonB would probably still be part of Shift. Maybe bike fun would have paid staff running MCBF or something else of such magnitude. I suppose it’s pretty to think so.

On the balance Umbrella certainly performs a service but it isn’t without it’s warts. It does fine for small isolated annual events like Disaster Relief Trials or the Ladd’s 500. It has reasonable insurance rates last I checked which is a requirement for getting a permit from Portland Parks or PBOT for a suitable event.

That said if you are an isolated project seeking fiscal sponsorship you deserve to shop around. The City neighborhood orgs such as SE Uplift or NE Coalition are much more professional, which makes sense since they have paid staff who are full time public servants. Plus there are better rates to be found for fiscal sponsorship than Umbrella’s 10%.

FYI – Bike Play is not an Umbrella project.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago

The City neighborhood orgs such as SE Uplift or NE Coalition are much more professional, which makes sense since they have paid staff who are full time public servants.

One quibble about an otherwise excellent post: SEUL/NE Coalition staff are NOT public servants. They are employees of a non-profit funded by and with contractual obligations to the city, but which serves its own agenda.

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
1 month ago

FiscalFunSponsor – yes I agree with Watts. Mahalo for a great peak behind the bikeyness curtain for all the important but boring stuff! (Speaking as a former non-profit board chair and executive director.)

[Oh, and yes, thinking of Rabbit and flaming joisting brought a tear to me eye and a smile to my lips during my lunch break…and a bit of terror as any ED renewing our GL policy. ;-)]

Cap'n Pastry
Cap'n Pastry
1 month ago

I’m confused – what exactly are Shift and Breakfast on the Bridges being constrained from doing by Umbrella?
My memory from the early days of Shift was that a large number of us actively resisted going the 501(c)3 route . Granted that was in a time when WNBR was in the dozens or hundreds (& bless the folks who keep that torch burning) and Multnomah County Bike Fair could be planned in one meeting with the aid of Kiran’s magic binder.
BonB buddies, have you been yearning to approve by laws and hold monthly meetings, beyond the al fresco kaffe klatches, that is?
Umbrellistas, I doff my bike cap to the folks who are willing to handle the paperwork so the rest of us can enjoy More Bike Fun ™.