(This is Part 2 of a 2-Part Series. Check out Part 1 here).
Setting Up Shop: Laws, Taxes, and Money
So you’ve done it! You’ve gone through all of this work and got the regent’s ring, the approval from the worldwide OWR to start your regency. That’s all there is to it, right? Job well done!
Unfortunately, wrong. Your work has just begun.
Though the OWR can trace itself back to the Antediluvian age, it is not itself a government institution and that means that you still have to cut through whatever red tape your own country has set for you to conduct real business and get real members.
My grandmother used to say, “You can do whatever you like so long as you do it by someone else’s rules.” This holds true in setting up a regency within a local state or province as well. The example here will primarily consist of what is necessary for the US because that is my experience. State, country, and city laws differ but mostly, this is the record of the hoops I had to jump through. If you find yourself elsewhere, I highly recommend that you refer to either OWR members near you or even better, a lawyer.
The OWR has two aspects to it: by the standards of the day, we are a religious and educational institution. In order to gain legal and financial protections, which is incredibly necessary in today’s world, you’ll need to set up a corporation (most likely non-profit) to create a framework for being recognized as a valid institution by the government.
I won’t go into the details about why this is necessary but you can email us if you have further questions. Suffice to say, please do not proceed to accept membership for individual members without completing this step. In some regards, this step is most important.
For non-profits in the US, setting up your corporation comes in two steps. The first is registering with the secretary of your state and the second is registering with the IRS under Section 501-C3 of the tax code. The former is usually pretty easy, consisting of roughly (it’ll differ by state) a $200 filing fee and filling out Articles of Incorporation. These articles are similar to the constitution you prepared in the above steps but more legally-worded and are set up for local government use. If in doubt, get a lawyer to help. We sure did.
The latter, registering with the IRS, is a herculean battle which will cost you both tears and treasure. The filing fee just for the IRS to consider your application is $600 and the forms one has to fill out are so mired in legal jargon that they’re barely legible to anyone who isn’t a lawyer. Most of the time, organizations like ours need to employ a CPA or a lawyer to achieve this and that can raise the price substantially, sometimes by more than $1500.
If the time you had to wait to become an acolyte wasn’t a barrier enough to stop you from forming a regency, the sheer financial burden of navigating the non-profit bureaucracy will be. If you’re lucky enough to start out as an auxiliary regent in a satellite regency, this step is made infinitely easier. You can just operate under the auspex of an established regency that’s already taken these steps.
Depending on the will of the original regency’s council or regent, you may be able to grow your satellite regency to a point where you can justify independence. If this is the case, then you would already have the people and therefore the financial resources to make 501-C3 registration a reality.
In extremely rare circumstances, a 0%-interest loan or grant from a more established regency may be offered to your fledgling project. Given how tight money can be within these regencies, it is far more common that the founding members would be solely financially responsible for getting their community off the ground.
In the process of registering for your non-profit status, you would’ve received something called a tax-ID. This tax-ID will come in handy for two reasons: one is if your regency should take on a paid employee and the other is any time you need to open a bank account. A bank account in your regency’s name is critically important. Today more people prefer to pay with card or check than with cash and your regency needs a way to receive these funds, secure them in a safe place, and track incoming and outgoing money.
While not financially expensive, opening a bank account can be another painful hurdle to get through. We’ve all had the experience of opening an account in our own name. With individuals, this consists of fifteen minutes and a signature. For a corporate entity, especially a non-profit, you’ll need all the paperwork from when you incorporated as a non-profit and any paperwork showing any changes taken place since with the signature of all your founding officers.
If you’re an auxiliary regent much of this will be set up for you by the central council of your main regency. In this situation, tradition holds that the satellite regency will hold its own bank account in its local area but one of the officers of your central regency will be a co-signer on the account along with you to track incoming and outgoing funds (most likely the treasurer).
As a final note to the finances, depending on the laws of your state, you may need a DBA. The Order of the White Road is a worldwide institution with the rights to which the worldwide OWR owns. Individual regencies can call themselves pretty much whatever they’d like but its tradition to piggy-back on the brand name. For instance, our regency name is “The St. Louis Regency of The Order of the White Road.” This naming schema is not uncommon.
However, you’ll need to know that in most states, getting a DBA doesn’t copyright your name but just legally entitles you to advertise under it. Copyrighting is yet another step of both time, money, and patience that we won’t cover here.
Finally, to the Exciting Part: Growing Your Community
At this point, your journey to starting a regency has probably been a year in the making and that doesn’t account for the time it took to become an acolyte. After all of this hard work, one expects to finally get to the good part: opening your doors and seeing the members flood in. This, unfortunately, is more often than not an oversimplification of a labor of love which will go on much longer than every step we have thus far discussed.
Growing an OWR regency, like everything the Order teaches in life, is a matter of balance. Unless the regent or founding members are independently wealthy, they must figure out a way to balance life, family, career, and a growing but fragile community.
To compete in the Marketplace of Ideals today is something that takes multitasking and a plethora of skills, the vast majority of which you never thought you’d need. The building of websites, the knowledge of all sorts of advertisements, graphic design, and the rapport with people that enables you to speak with them on their level. And still yet, we haven’t mentioned being able to navigate the American occult community or raising the funds to achieve all of this.
As I said above, in all likelihood, your officers and you will be completely financially responsible for the upkeep of your regency. When each membership can start at $25 a month roughly (each regency has the right to set their own price), and it takes four members to make $100, how exactly a fledgling regency figures out a way to pay $1000 for rent is just part of what comes with the territory.
The advantage to new regencies is that as the Order expands its online infrastructure, much of its classes and core curriculum are already taken care of and is one less thing they have to think about. This means that a new regency has to think about how to expand in their area without a building, a place to hold rituals, or even the basic use of classrooms on a regular basis. Buildings are expensive and meeting halls are even more so. And yet no one is going to know you exist if you are just meeting in members’ homes quietly without efforts to expand.
Division of labor and constant motion is needed to work this problem out. Expectations need to be tempered to understand that progress will most often come slowly. The At-Will system guarantees that people can leave when they want and the Order’s holistic system offers the best occult education out there but can also sometimes be intimidating to students who are simply dabbling in the occult.
Even though the OWR is a secret society, it is necessary to announce its existence to the public in order to grow. At the same time, you hold an obligation to protect the identities of all of your members. Another challenge to growing your regency will be figuring out how to navigate this seemingly contradictory principle.
An effective strategy is to go to trade shows or spiritual festivals (pagan, Celtic, etc) in your area. But to do so also adds to your cost, from the equipment to space itself. Furthermore, getting volunteers can be difficult, especially at the beginning of a regency. Beyond the fact that you have a limited number of hands anyway, you may have to accept the fact that some people don’t want to be seen publicly associated with their organization.
Open houses are another effective strategy to invite the general public to hear about the OWR but how to advertise them without spending too much and where to hold them when you have a budget are both balancing acts which just add to the challenge.
Even once you start to get members, you’ll have the issue of their learning needs. As a regent, alongside all the responsibilities as yet mentioned, you’ll also be responsible for assigning mentors, approving ranking tests, and resolving disputes within your regency council (this last one can sometimes be the hardest of it all).
All in all, growing your regency is by far harder than getting it.
With all of this said, this frank insider’s look at the sheer workload of a regent can dissuade some from starting a regency and cause would-be members to adopt the belief that the OWR is just all politics. But to adopt these opinions is to miss the point entirely.
All the work that regents–indeed, your own regents–put in to make our communities vibrant, living things is what makes the OWR so beautiful. A mosaic tapestry of different opinions and customs, united by the dream of finding spiritual beauty and truth. All of it finding its source like fountains overflowing in the officers and leaders of individual communities around the world who somehow find time to run their own lives while walking the White Road for themselves and simultaneously caring for others who wish to follow after them.
The fact that some people will read all of this and still be motivated to start their own OWR communities is itself a testament to the love and dedication that individual members offer as a sacrifice on the altar for all of our members’ spiritual education and development.
Some people might read this and ask, “Why would you ever do it?”
I lived it. And I’m here to tell you that it’s worth it every time I get up in front of a class of students and see their eyes expand with amazement when they begin to uncover the true secrets of the universe.
Being a teacher in the OWR is to give away a part of yourself to others. Being a regent, it is even more so. It’s like having children. One sees the parts of themselves (their knowledge and wisdom) that they’ve given away blossom and multiply as they watch their community grow, become strong, and ever more complex. The labor is a labor of love. This document is merely fatherly advice on what it’s like to be a father or mother.
In short, it is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do and yet something you wouldn’t trade anything for.
Hail seven and blessings.