You’ve seen the phrase dozens of times or more — at the bottom of a convention flyer, in the back of a progress report, or on the inside of a colorful, slick-covered convention memory book and probably ignored it: “This event is sponsored by Oregon Science Fiction Conventions, Inc. (OSFCI).” If you are reading this, you’ve probably take a few moments to wonder “What is OSFCI?”
OSFCI, a non-profit, tax-exempt, all-volunteer (no one gets paid anything) corporation, is the legal entity and umbrella organization under which Orycon and her sister events, GameStorm and CON, operate. The corporation provides year to year continuity for the repeating conventions, and a solid base from which floating events can be run. These events have included CascadeCon, Smofcon (1991), World Horror Convention (1996), Potlatch (1996 and 1999), Left Coast Crime (2002) and Westercon (1984, 1990, 1995 and 2001.)
With over 100 corporate members, some from as far away as New York and Boston, OSFCI is a diverse talent pool of convention-running experience. Members range from WorldCon regulars with years of experience to people who have just gotten their feet wet in the heady world of con-running. Membership in the group is easy. It’s open to anyone who has been on at least two OSFCI-sponsored event committee lists during the last four-year period. All you need to do to join is volunteer, work on the required number of committees, and then accept the invitation for membership. The corporation holds its annual meeting each May, where the year is reviewed, bylaws changed and members are elected to the Board of Directors.
The Board decides who will be the chair of Orycon, and other repeating conventions, and whether or not to sponsor floating events, such as Westercon or Potlatch. “Sponsorship” means that the event falls under the OSFCI’s tax-exempt umbrella, and may use the corporation’s post office box, bank accounts and bulk mailing permit, as well as being provided with insurance and a responsible legal entity in the unlikely case of a disaster. Occasionally, OSFCI will provide seed money for the development of new events or for bidding committees who wish to bring floating conventions to the area.
Although Board members often work on the events, the Board doesn’t run the conventions – the board’s role is that of overseer, ensuring that sponsored events operate within OSFCI’s tax-exempt status as well as that of mentor, providing a source of institutional knowledge and convention experience for the committees. Each convention has a liaison from the Board assigned to the committee. Each committee also assigns an ex-officio representative to the Board.
The Board is made up of up to ten people, elected to two-year terms (usually five at a time). The Board meets six times a year — January, March, May (after the Annual General Meeting), July, September and December — and everyone with an interest in its activities is welcome to attend those meetings.
OSFCI maintains the capital goods accumulated over the years for use by the various events. Convention committees have use of art show panels, computers, printers, a copy machine, hospitality furnishings, video and other electronic equipment. These capital goods minimize the equipment that needs to be rented or borrowed, allowing more of convention income to be devoted to producing the quality of events for which OSFCI is well-known.
As part of a being a non-profit, the general membership and Board of Directors of OSFCI feel a strong responsibility to give back to the community that supports the conventions. Often born from specific events, OSFCI sponsors two charitable funds and an award as well as making liberal donations to a wide range of other charities, museums, schools and libraries – all selected to help improve people’s lives and bring the wonderment and joy of knowledge and future to them. The corporation not only offers institutional contributions, but encourages individual ones as well, by maintaining a matching gift fund which matches donations made by OSFCI corporate members to qualified local organizations, such as libraries, museums, schools and the Portland Science Fiction Society, that promote science or science fiction.
The Funds and award are diverse, and provide valuable services to the science fiction community. Both funds are supported by donations, and in the case of the Petrey fund, auctions held at conventions. All donations go directly to the funds for distribution – OSFCI covers the operating and administrative costs of the funds out of general corporate monies. The Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund, OSFCI’s oldest fund, annually gives scholarships to students attending the Clarion and Clarion West Writer’s Workshops. The Clayton Memorial Medical Fund is a medical emergency fund for needy Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror or Mystery writers in the Pacific Northwest. The Endeavour Award, a juried book award is handed out annually at Orycon to the best science fiction or fantasy book published by a Pacific Northwest writer. The award includes an honorarium and plaque. OSFCI has also made donations to OMSI, charities, schools and public libraries. Information on the Funds and the Endeavour Award is available at www.osfci.org, or by writing to OSFCI at P.O Box 5702, Portland, OR., 97228.
So — now you know “what is OSFCI.” It’s you, it’s me, it’s us.