Ned Ludd wrote:
> What are some of the things you would do to try and
> accomplish this goal?
In order to raise money, we need a budget - a target to focus folks on. The
budget depends on where we hold the event, when, and what we do at the
event. We need to tackle that, and build a ballpark figure. It also
depends on how many are attending, and whether or not everyone needs
financial assistance to attend. There's a lot to do there - including
convincing Gentoo devs to attend (not taking that for granted!) - we'll need
to build a team to handle the work between us, make sure it's transparent,
and that we're planning an event that Gentoo devs will want to be part of.
There are going to be folks in the wider Gentoo community who can help make
this happen - we'll be looking to engage them, and get them involved too.
We're going to need folks on the ground in different countries, because part
of the fundraising will probably require meeting donors face to face.
Another important point, before we can set a budget, is scope. Should this
be a dev-only event, or should it also include something for Gentoo users
too? That would change the whole dynamic; the size & content would change,
the overall budget would change, and we could use attendee charges to help
assist Gentoo devs attending.
When it comes to assisting devs ... what are the rules to qualify for
assistance? Are they means-tested? Do they depend on what you do for
Gentoo, or how long you have been a dev? Should we run an 'adopt a dev'
sponsorship campaign, where we ask users to donate to assist a named dev?
Is there another assistance scheme we could use instead?
I am making a fundamental assumption here that we should be assisting devs,
so that they can attend. That needs looking at. Maybe we don't actually
need to do so. Maybe we shouldn't be doing so. I think we should, but
there hasn't been any sort of debate about this.
Once we have our estimated budget, we need to raise the money. Here, there
are issues to sort out. I'm unclear about the financial (and, tbh, legal)
situation of the Foundation, and I doubt I'm the only one. Even before we
start figuring out how to raise the money, we need to ensure that the
Foundation has the capability of handling the money, and the financial
controls in place to ensure that the money does not get mis-appropriated.
Actually raising the money ... we need to identify different sources of
money, and pursue the right strategy for each source. Some sources include:
- our users,
- companies that make money from Gentoo,
- companies that use Gentoo,
- the wider Linux community, who like our docs and our forums and
our willingness to help folks from other distros
- the media, and other folks who have things they could sell to
folks @ the conference
- foundations and trusts that exist to donate money to appropriate
- local and national governments and their agencies
- folks who don't use Linux at all
I'm sure that there are more that we can find.
We could just do what the local hospital does ... we put a big
target-o-meter in a prominent place, and appeal to people's conscience to
help it move up from zero to what we need. Has the advantage of being a
clear and easy-to-digest concept to sell.
Companies are traditionally tackled through the "sponsorship" approach. We
could just hope that companies sponsor our conference out of the goodness of
their hearts - it's worked for the UK conferences to date :) - but a more
successful approach would be to create a valuable package for a sponsor to
buy into. When I say "package", I'm not talking software. I'm essentially
talking marketing - taking their currency in exchange for giving them value
in return. It'll take us numerous iterations to get this one right, but
longer-term it'll be a more successful approach than simply handing round
the begging bowl.
The Foundation's legal status could have a bearing on the fundraising.
We'll need advice on exactly where we can accept money from, and in what
amounts. I know Freenode are affected by this; at this moment in time, I
don't know whether we are also affected by this or not. It's worth asking
the question of whether we should organise this directly through the
Foundation, or whether a separate legal entity would be more appropriate.
Speaking of which ... simply getting folks worldwide to donate to the
US-based Foundation misses out on some sources of funding. The UK (for one)
runs a scheme called Gift Aid, where tax can be reclaimed on money donated
to UK charities. Although it would create an administration overhead,
establishing a world-wide network of local Gentoo Foundations would
longer-term increase our ability to raise money. Such a network would also
allow us to cast a wider net, and apply for funding from sources within each
country, and would also make it easier for local businesses to donate to
their national Gentoo charity / not for profit.
Let me sell that idea another way. Imagine going to www.gentoo.org/donate/,
and being presented with a form for you to donate money. The first page,
there would be a dropdown box, allowing you to indicate which country you
reside in. When you select your country, we would take you to a second
page, which would be a localised donation form for your country, which would
take advantage of whatever tax breaks your country offered. We make sure
that the money goes into your country's Gentoo bank account, where the local
trustees become responsible for it.
Establishing this local charity network is a massive undertaking, and it's
unlikely to be in place in time for the 2007 conference. But it's worth
doing in the longer term, not only because we can raise more money than by
having a distant Foundation in the U.S., but also because a local charity
can also do local educational things with Gentoo - and that will keep
bringing in new blood to our ranks. It's not just about the money - it's
about building a global organisation to take Gentoo from the Internet and
into local communities. And without having to try and establish a
commercial arm, to compete with the other distros. We remain a community
distro, and we get to widen our community far beyond the propeller head ranks.
To increase the chance of success, we need Gentoo's PR machine fixing (work
has started on that today, interested volunteers should knock on frilling's
door), and that will probably have a knock-on effect on www.g.o's homepage.
We need to make Gentoo more accessible to the folks in the media, and we
need to improve the understanding that we are truly a community distro, and
all that being a community distro means. We need a PR machine that can
create the right associations in people's minds, so that they feel more
inclined to part with their money. We need a PR machine to "sell" Gentoo as
a concept, and as a movement.
One thing I haven't done yet is get in touch with the organisers of other
events. There are plenty of people who have been successfully running
international conferences for years; their experience and advice will help
us a lot too.
Why do I think I'm the right person to make this happen? (You haven't
asked, but it seems appropriate to include here). First, I'm proposing to
act when no-one else is. My apologies if I've missed it, but I'm not aware
of any existing trustee, or any candidate for this year's election, who is
proposing that we do this. From other open-source projects that I'm
involved with, I've seen first-hand that there is no substitute for folks
having met and spent time with each other to resolve communication problems.
I've never run a legally-formed charity, but I have repeated experience of
setting up and running volunteer organisations, and departments and teams
within commercial organisations spanning back 14 years. I have run my own
business. My roots are in free software. I've been maintaining GPL'd
software since 1994; first of which was to create dialog-0.4 specifically
for Slackware 2.0.1. (No, this does not mean that I'll be accepting bugs
against dialog ;-) dialog is the tool that manages the text-based UI for
nearly all Linux text-based installers; lxdialog included in the kernel is
derived from it.
I setup the successful Gentoo UK conference, which has now been running for
three years. I'd like to now take things to the next level, and create a
world-wide conference for all our devs.
I really believe that we can create an international conference - *if* we
want it enough - and make it a recurring event.
Stuart Herbert firstname.lastname@example.org
Gentoo Developer http://www.gentoo.org/
GnuPG key id# F9AFC57C available from http://pgp.mit.edu
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