I want to re-open the thread about unincorporated nonprofit associations I began last fall here, here and here. To recap, there's a uniform act that covers about a fifth of the U.S. population that provides some of the legal cover to unincorporated nonprofit associations that corporations have, thus opening a door for cheap, easy-to-organize entities for nonprofit purposes. There are actually two forms of the act, but most of the states (and including the District of Columbia) that have passed one have passed the less detailed, older version.
Well, D.C. may soon get the newer version -- described here -- as a part of a long-deliberated omnibus bill ("District of Columbia Official Code Title 29 (Business Organizations) Enactment Act of 2009") currently under the Mayor's review. It's B18-0500 if you'd prefer to search for it yourself, but the D.C. legislation browser doesn't have a landing page for the legislative history. Download the PDF (1.8 Mb) of the enrolled legislation here, and begin at page 390. I can't wait to read the ten pages related to unincorporated nonprofit associations.
Idaho and Arkansas, which have the older act, have also introduced the new act for consideration, and Pennsylvania and Nebraska have introduced it fresh.
I'm reading two works in tandom: Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations (you might have seen him on The Colbert Report earlier this month) and Yochai Benkler's "Coase's Penguin, or Linux and the Nature of the Firm" (The Yale Law Journal; full texts available through link). Both concern technology-empowered participation and networking as an alternate mode of organization from the classic dichotomy of market and firm. And by firm, you can also read church. I'm reading them for their insights about church organization.
I'm getting language that reinforces my gut feelings about how churches (particularly new ones) and the Unitarian Universalist Association are burdened under the fixed costs of their own existence. More about that when I've finished and digested them.
But Shirky has a passage (p. 58) that suggests that professionals aren't made to recognize seismic changes as a characteristic of their professionalism:
Much of the time the internal consistency of professional judgment is a good thing -- not only do we want high standards of education and competence, we want those standards created and enforced by other members of the same profession, a structure that is almost the definition of professionalism. Sometimes, though, the professional outlook can become a disadvantage, preventing the very people who have the most at state -- the professionals themselves -- from understanding major changes to the structure of their profession.
So, in an aside to the ministers out there, what do you think? I think he makes a good point. Feel free to comment.