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You are here: Home Bulletins Bulletins from 2009 Fall 2009 The importance of individual membership

The importance of individual membership

by root Contributions Published on Dec 18, 2009 03:28 PM
by Deborah Nicholson, Membership Coordinator

I'm sure you'll hear the assertion that "membership is important" more than once this season -- in the current economy every organization could certainly use money, but why exactly is membership so important?

For the FSF it provides funding to employ a small staff of twelve so we can support the efforts of thousands of volunteers all over the world, as well as providing the kind of autonomy that an organization subject to grant-making trends and corporate whims can't enjoy. Most importantly, as members you are the face of the FSF in your community.

We get a huge amount of work done for such a small staff -- we maintain the GNU General Public License (GPL), house the GNU Project, run the Defective by Design campaign and defend free software (and free software users) from patent abuse, secret formats and hardware that requires nonfree drivers. I find that I sometimes surprise our supporters when I tell them there are only twelve of us. The frequent visitors to our office are given the tour and I get the feeling that they don't quite believe us. Perhaps they suspect that we're not showing them the secret floors where the wizards and their minions work?

Membership is individual, personal and if you wish, it can also be private. Your decision to support free software is not subject to the desires of a group of shareholders. It is not a decision which is made with the eyes of the grant-making community on you. It is not even made with your employer's approval or disapproval in mind. Unless you are one of those happy folk employed at a free software company, where FSF membership demonstrates your commitment to shared goals, your coworkers may not even know that you're one of us.

I left the best bit for last -- the thing that we cherish the most about our members, is our members themselves. You get updates from us every week or so and so you know about the challenges to free software. Maybe you pass the news along to your friends and colleagues and spread the message of free software that way. Maybe you've helped a relative install Inkscape or GIMP and explained to them a little bit about free software as you worked. Nobody else in the free software movement has the easy opportunities that you do to have conversations with your cousin or your neighbor about user freedom, which is precisely why you are so important. You are already right there, in your community -- a card-carrying member of the Free Software Foundation -- you are the movement.

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