An invisible part of the Free Software Foundation Europe

In all organisations you have people, who do crucial work which is invisible to the public. But without them, the organisation would not function. In the FSFE, one of this people who takes care of a lot of invisible tasks is Reinhard Müller. After maintaining FSFE’s website, coordinating FSFE’s translation team, and taking care of our Fellowship database for many years, in 2007 he volunteered to be FSFE’s Financial Officer. With this post I want to offer you an insight into the invisible tasks performed by Reinhard.

Karsten and Reinhard working together
Karsten, with FSCONS shirt, and Reinhard, with Mach Dich Frei shirt, working Matthias Kirschner CC BY-SA

From 20 to 22 June, Karsten and I myself met with Reinhard in Lustenau/Austria to go through his current tasks. The goal was to minimise a single point of failure in our organisation. We want to make sure that Reinhard’s tasks could also be performed by someone else in the case he decides to do a journey round the world. So beside impressing us with the wonderful landscape, Reinhard gave us a detailed summary. Here a short overview of tasks he performs in the FSFE’s “Lustenau Office”:

  • Payment of invoices and archiving them: yes unfortunately we do not just receive donations, but also invoices. Reinhard takes care of that.
  • Checking our bank statements: this includes contacting individual donors asking them to become Fellows instead to minimise our administrative overhead, add donors above 480€ to our donors page to as well as checking our liquidity.
  • Paper filing for the accounting: for the cash books, our bank accounts, check if something is missing.
  • The accounting: together with aqbanking-tools and some nice self-written bash scripts, Reinhard merges all payments from the bank, the manually added numbers from the cash box, the credit cards, and others accounts into CSV files. In this process all payments receive the correct account number. (For me this is one of most advanced tasks, which Reinhard already documented quite well. I also learned a lot about accounting.)
  • Reporting taxes to the financial authorities: We have to pay tax for the merchandise (19%), the legal conference tickets (7%), plus in very rare cases services we sell (which is especially complicated if it is outside Germany). Reinhard calculates our taxes and reports them to our tax consultant, who again after checking reports that to the authorities. He has to finish this 1 month, and 10 days after each quarter.

I learnt a lot during those days while documenting those tasks, and I am very thankful that Reinhard does all those things for the FSFE in his spare time. Furthermore it was great to enjoy the sunny weather and the beautiful mountains.

Below, you can see Reinhard with the FSFE’s first t-shirt, ever. It has the Latin quote by Saint Augustinus written on it: “Omnis enim res, quae dando non deficit, dum habetur et non datur, nondum habetur, quomodo habenda est.” which translates to “For if a thing is not diminished by being shared with others, it is not rightly owned if it is only owned and not shared.” (Meanwhile we switched to English as the main language for our t-shirts.)

Reinhard with the first FSFE t-shirt in the Austrian mountains
Reinhard with the first FSFE t-shirt in the Austrian mountains Matthias Kirschner CC BY-SA

One thought on “An invisible part of the Free Software Foundation Europe

  1. I wouldn’t say he’s “invisible”.
    There’re some occasions where also fellows (in spe) come in contact with him and he’s always there to help them.

    But you’re right: To understand how important and helpful he is, you have to have a deeper insight in FSFE’s internal life. For me as an intern he was an anchor, a mentor (in financial questions) or simply a very nice person to talk to.

    Thank you Reinhard! (aka Schnitzelmonster, aka legendary Tshirt folder)