ABZS process for developing a formal organization model

Members of the All Beings Zen Sangha met on the evening of May 23, 2016  to discuss ways to deepen and broaden the presence of the sangha by transitioning the sangha to a more formal organization. Attendees were Inryu Bobbi Ponce-Berger, Eric Jonas, Carlos Moura, John Flanagan, Mark Stone and David Sarpal.

Rev. Inryu provided a summary of the activities of the ABZS since its inception, stressing the increasing number and regularity of events. She also noted that the major expenses of the sangha are: (i) the calendar, (ii) monthly stipend for Inryu, and (iii) speaker fees.

Looking ahead, Inryu feels that the time is right to grow the sangha because of the increased activities of the sangha and the limited number of Soto Zen institutions in the area. In particular, ABZS could form a closer relationship with the Woodburn Hill Farm, which is now going through a period of transition. Possibilities with the WHF include having regular biweekly/monthly retreats, building a retreat center, or even eventually taking ownership. ABZS could also hold more local events outside of the Adams Morgan zendo, given that members are from across the metropolitan area. Attendees generally agreed with this vision and there was some discussion of the specifics of future involvement with WHF. Attendees also noted that a more formal approach would more evenly spread responsibilities across ABZS members and facilitate fundraising.

All agreed that incorporation of the ABZS as a non-profit is the best way forward. Incorporation in Maryland is the most practical, and John graciously agreed to be the local agent. He suggested using Sun Trust as the bank for the ABZS. The by-laws of the Silver Spring Zendo and San Francisco Zen Center by-laws provide natural models for ABZS. Inryu has drafted a statement of purpose based on the values of Soto zen. Regarding officers, ABZS could follow the SSZ which has a president, vice-president, treasurer, secretary and spiritual director. Attendees agreed that the membership rather than religious (which is more complicated upfront) form of incorporation would make sense at this stage.

The next steps for incorporation (based on the checklist for starting a nonprofit organization in Maryland) appear to be: (i) recruiting a board of directors, (ii) drafting by-laws (including mission statement) and a conflict of interest policy, (iii) filing articles of incorporation, (iv) obtaining a Federal employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS, and (v) holding an organizational meeting.

Attendees agreed to meet next on 6:30, Monday, June 27. Tasks were allocated as follows: (i) Carlos send out the SSZ documents (already done), (ii) Eric prepare initial drafts of the by-laws and a conflict of interest policy, based on the SSZ docs, and (iii) Mark look into filing the articles of incorporation and obtaining an EIN.

Prepared by Mark Stone