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Science Iowa minutes

January 4, 2022

5 p.m.


President Dan Chibnall called the meeting to order at 5:05 p.m. Also present: Treasurer Ruth Henderson, Secretary Tom O’Donnell and member Kate Garner of Des Moines.


Welcome and Introduction of board members – Board members introduced themselves.


Introduction of members in attendance – Kate Garner is a broadcaster at Des Moines radio Group who has a lifelong passion for science. She was involved with the first March for Science and helped it get publicity and coverage. She wants to reactivate and be more involved.


Approve the minutes of the November 29, 2021, meeting. See:


Ruth moved; Tom seconded. Approved unanimously.


Treasurer’s report – Ruth Henderson


One check to the Iowa Environmental Council for $100 for membership was issued and cashed. Balance is $1,327.67 in checking and $120 in savings. Ruth corrected the spelling for our mailing address in Ames. 


Old business:


Bank account and online donation options – Ruth Henderson


Ruth has explored the options and believes we don’t want business accounts for online donations. Venmo can’t do a charitable account, but it’s connected to Paypal, which charges lower fees for charitable accounts for nonprofits. We would need to set up a Paypal account tied to Venmo, which also would supply an immediate receipt. We can’t do this with a private Venmo account. Under the proposed arrangement, all money goes directly to the Science Iowa bank account. For a donation button on Facebook, we are considered a nonprofit but we need to fill out paperwork to be registered as such. We would be able to use Facebook Pay and have a donation button. We also can use Venmo and Paypal on Facebook, but it would need to go through business accounts. 

Kate asked if Paypal gives donors the option to cover the convenience fees for the nonprofit. Ruth said it does. 

The applications require names for a chief financial officer, chief operating officer and chief executive officer. The COO and CFO often are the same. Ruth will list it as such. 

In some cases, the account must connect to a telephone number. This is OK if it’s easy to change. Ruth said she thought it was.

Applications also ask for the name and contact information for our legal agent. That could be Ruth or Kaitlin Higgins, who is the registered agent with the IRS.

Kate said she’s studied 501(c)3s and the IRS merely needs someone to call if there’s a problem. 

Tom suggested listing Kaitlin and having her take the calls to forward to Ruth or another officer. 

Kate uses Paypal extensively and just downloaded the app. Paypal and the IRS just want us to be honest about the money and aren’t choosy about the contact’s identity or phone number. If you’re aboveboard when filing with the government and the financials all match, they don’t care about whether the contact matches on all the documents. 

Would the IRS care? If the numbers are OK, we’re probably not subject to a penalty.

Ruth noted that the website also has a page about where to send checks. She suggested changing it to her address. Kate suggested using a postal service feature that creates a faux P.O. box if Ruth doesn’t want to share her street address. Ruth will change the address.


Board resignation and replacement – Dan Chibnall

Dan reported on the board’s selection of Nathan Steimel to replace Bryan Bacehowski. 


2022 candidate survey (written report) – Tom O’Donnell

Tom submitted a written report included as an attachment to these minutes. He noted the suggestion he made to include one or two questions about the 2020 election. He and the other organizations are discussing how to bring this idea up to the signatories, either in advance or as part of their reviewing the questionnaire. He said even one organization objecting probably would be enough to block the questions on the survey.

Ruth agreed with the idea of election-related question, but noted that it’s politically charged, which means organizations probably will reject it. She said the organizers should ask the signatories up front to see if they’re agreeable.

Kate has a background in running campaigns. If the question is carefully worded, we could include it. It’s essentially asking candidates whether they believe in the basics of mathematics. It can’t hurt to see if someone puts the kibosh on it. She also noted that some candidates won’t respond to anything science-based, and the questionnaire responses likely will lean toward Democratic, independent and Libertarian candidates. 

Ruth supported posing the question ahead of time to see how organizations feel about it. Dan agreed.

Tom noted that any election-related question would be at the end of the questionnaire to avoid immediately alienating candidates.

Kate said that she has sat with candidates many times as they answer such questionnaires. She recommends keeping it short. Most candidates won’t go beyond 10 questions. She suggested perhaps focusing some discussions on topics rather than specific issues. One approach, she said, is to include the election questions on the survey when we seek input from organizations. Tell them we need to prune questions down to a specific number and ask them to choose which they’d most like to drop. That would result in a de facto vote on whether to have election questions.


501(c)3 status – Tom O’Donnell and board

Tom noted that the new status comes with rules that will change the way we operate. For example, we must have our organizing documents and tax documents available for public examination. This is tricky since we don’t have a home office or office hours. We should at least put them on the website.

Kate said she files all the FCC public information for the DM Radio Group. The agency has moved all filing online and documents are housed there through web links. This is now the only acceptable way to file with the FCC. She expects other agencies to do the same. 

Tom sent a PDF from an IRS webinar on maintaining nonprofit status and suggested all board members become familiar with it.


New business


2022 event discussion – Dan Chibnall

Dan suggested compiling ideas for events and activities for the coming year, presuming both that the pandemic persists and that it lifts. We could begin to launch them in the spring, summer and fall. One idea is to have a board retreat, perhaps in Van Buren County. 


Ruth said if we have some semblance of normalcy, we should do an Earth Day celebration. It could be outdoors if the pandemic is still active.


Tom and Ruth both suggested a version of the Science Festival Trail.


Kate noted that equinoxes and solstices have become big social occasions and celebrations. We could do different events around those times. We also could work with local brewers who launch beers in conjunction with these dates. Dan noted that Confluence Brewing does collaborations with nonprofits. We also could work with brewpubs to do science cafes.


Kate suggested using events to broaden membership and participation by attracting people who are seeking a ground-level way to get into science. She suggested lighter subjects such as the science of brewing, winemaking or other things built around showing people the background of things. We could do kid-oriented activities like a family day or night, perhaps with an outdoor science movie.


Dan will work on establishing goals and initiatives for the year and will send drafts for review, but many things depend on variables we can’t control.


Tom wants to be sure we motivate people to act.


Kate noted that every event gets touches with people, enabling petitions and other activities such as postcards. Candidates and politicians are most likely to respond to mail.


Posting meeting announcements for maximum impact – Tom O’Donnell


Dan will post meeting notices on Facebook with links to the Google form to register.


Next meeting: Dan will disseminate a When2Meet poll for early February.

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