Software Freedom Conservancy

Helping Our Member Projects Raise Money

by Tony Sebro on January 10, 2017

Conservancy member projects depend on contributions from both individual and institutional donors to cover code sprint and conference expenses, pay for hosting services and hardware purchases, and fund strategic software development. Once a project joins Conservancy, Conservancy’s staff takes over the day-to-day responsibility of managing every donation directed to that project. In addition, we sit down with our projects’ leadership committees and help them execute fundraising strategies that go beyond posting a Conservancy-managed PayPal link on the project’s website. Here are some of the common fundraising initiatives Conservancy member projects use:

Grants

Conservancy’s status as a 501(c)(3) public charity enables our member projects to qualify for grants from foundations and other philanthropic donors who want the financial transparency and mission-centric focus public charities are required to have by US law. In 2016, Conservancy enabled member projects Bro, Buildbot, and Godot to receive grants from the Mozilla Foundation’s Mozilla Open Source Support (MOSS) program. Our member projects are using the grant funds to add new features, improve documentation, and add support for critical web standards.

A photograph of Walter Bender helping children at Turtle Art Day

Walter Bender helps teach a child at Turtle Art Day. Conservancy helped Sugar get a grant to fund the event.
Photo by Nalin Tutiyaphuengprasert Tukta under CC BY-SA 2.0

We also successfully helped member project Sugar Labs secure a grant from the TripAdvisor Charitable Foundation to fund the translation and internationalization of Sugar for use in locales around the world. Sugar Labs has also used the grant to fund Turtle Art Days — mini-conferences where developers and students meet to discuss and share “Turtle Art”.

Member Project Sponsorships

Several of Conservancy’s member projects — including Outreachy, phpMyAdmin, and Selenium — use sponsorship programs administered by Conservancy to raise money. Outreachy’s sponsorship program provides the funding for people from groups underrepresented in free and open source software to work as interns with participating free and open source software communities and organizations. phpMyAdmin’s sponsorship program helps fund contractors to work on security maintenance, bug fixing, and code base improvement. Selenium’s sponsorship program helps cover project infrastructure costs and developer travel to project-related events; it also provides financial support for Selenium’s official conferences.

Sponsorship programs allow us and our projects to publicly acknowledge the financial support we receive from corporate donors. Corporations who support our member projects appreciate these acknowledgments, and we’ve enjoyed the opportunity to build relationships with repeat donors who gladly renew their sponsorship over the years.

Roadmap Campaigns

Projects often seek to raise money to fund strategic development. A project may want to fund a developer to focus on implementing a new feature, or on solving a particularly difficult problem. In other cases, projects notice that their volunteer contributors have gravitated towards contributing to more glamorous, bleeding edge parts of the code base — meaning the core can use a little more love. Conservancy helps a member project’s leadership committee draft a fundraising proposal describing the tasks they’d like to accomplish, and the budget needed to accomplish those tasks. Projects publish their final proposals in the form of fundraising campaigns.

As an example, PyPy has used this strategy to fund work on multiple long-term tasks that together advance PyPy’s technical roadmap and further Conservancy’s mission.

Conservancy manages the donations generated from these campaigns, and works with our projects to spend the funds in a manner consistent with their campaigns’ stated goals and Conservancy’s nonprofit mandate.

Community-Driven Campaigns

Conservancy member project Inkscape launched a funded development program that will enable any interested community member to organize his or her own campaign to raise funds to complete items on an Inkscape-maintained “jobs list”. Community members can propose their own items to be added to the list. If a campaign organizer is able to raise sufficient funds for a particular item, Inkscape will then use the funds to retain contract software developers to complete the task.

Inkscape’s program is designed to broaden the pool of community members engaged in job list creation and in fundraising. It’s a novel approach for a Conservancy project, and we’re excited to work with Inkscape and see how the user and developer communities respond.

Affiliate Programs and More

Conservancy has helped our member projects raise funds in lots of other ways. We accept donations via eBay’s Giving Works program (which allows eBay sellers to donate portions of their sales proceeds to registered charities), and Amazon’s Associates program (as seen in links on the Git and Twisted project websites) — just to name a few. We work with our projects to identify and vet new fundraising platforms, and we’re willing to consider virtually any strategy that doesn’t run counter to our organizational mission or IRS rules.

Volunteers (and Donors) Wanted

If you’d like to contribute to Conservancy and/or one of our member projects in ways other than by software development, we could always use volunteers to help out with fundraising. Feel free to contact us with any fundraising ideas you may have; we’d be happy to start a dialogue. If you would like to support our member projects financially, visit the member project website of your choice and follow the instructions to donate. Conservancy will process the donation on our project’s behalf.

And, of course, Conservancy needs your help as well. We rely on the public’s donations to provide these and other critical services that help our member projects flourish. So, if you would like to contribute Conservancy — and all of our member projects at once — become a Conservancy Supporter today!

Tags: conservancy, Member Projects

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