Question to all candidates: fundraising

Over in one of the threads about the recent bylaw amendment, Rob McQueen wrote:

So, to all candidates: what would your priorities be in making the work of the foundation more compelling to prospective donors? Would your focus be on adjusting the Foundation’s strategy & initiatives, on communications with current and prospective supporters?

And, to the two candidates who are not incumbent board members: would you bring relevant knowledge, expertise, and connections in this area, which the current board may lack? What changes to the incumbent board’s approach to this problem might you advocate for, if any?


“Yes” - we have to do all three: Set up and deliver initiatives, talk about them, fundraise off the back of that.

One thing I want to make clear - there is a bunch of stuff that the Foundation does, and has done since day one, and I think should always should do - which is hugely valuable and necessary work to keep the GNOME project and community healthy. Running infrastructure, organising events, sponsoring travel and hackfests, etc. Through our existing sponsors, advisory board and regular donations we don’t cover the annual cost of this, but it’s not so far off that there’s a huge cause for alarm - we could make some savings, go through our reserves slowly while we figure something out, and/or lean on the board to try and bring some new advisory board members in.

However, that’s a very modest goal for what the Foundation can achieve. We probably couldn’t afford/justify an Executive Director in that scenario. I personally have more ambition that the Foundation should be a contributor to and an advocate for GNOME, rather than simply being an assistant/facilitator to the community. Right now we have cash in the bank (just less than $1M) so the choice is about how confident are we that we can set up some of these initiatives and use them to raise new funds - ie do we go big or go home.

I’m obviously hugely biased but the current sketch of initiatives at Evolving a strategy for 2022 and beyond (tl;dr - investment in newcomers & diversity, economic support via paid apps via flathub, decentralised apps for local-first computing) is what I think is a “pretty good start” for where the Foundation can set up or focus more on initiatives which meet a handful of requirements:

  • they are directly connected to contributing to and supporting the GNOME project, community and the wider and Linux desktop ecosystem
  • they all address a particular audience of people in the outside world who they can benefit
  • they each have an audience of potential funders to approach and we can articulate why GNOME working on this initiative is beneficial for their objectives
  • we’ve got existing track record in or around each area which we can use to demonstrate to potential funders that we’re likely to be able to deliver on scaling up / accelerating the initiatives
  • they speak to at least what I understand to be our shared values and objectives as a community

I would say this was a contrast to our Coding Education Challenge which met some but not all of these criteria - I think the Foundation executed it very well (and I’m very glad it brought @mwu to the Foundation team), but it kind of came and went and left some members wondering what lasting impact it had on GNOME itself.

Obviously the new board and/or the new ED might disagree and adjust some or all of these initiatives, reprioritise them, add or remove some, but the bottom line remains - if we don’t use our reserves to “bootstrap” to a stronger position for fundraising, the inevitable outcome is that we will go through our reserves and need to reduce costs further, and end up in a situation where all of the Foundation’s capacity will be used to deliver on the fiscal sponsorship / assistance / facilitation kind of activities. (I kind of think of this as “Initiative 0” which we fund “first”.)

An essential part of finding new backers is doing a better job of talking about the work we already do in the space - when it comes to funding, the perceived impact of our initiatives is seen through the lens of how good we are at talking about it. @Reginadata can maybe talk more about it as she has done some amazing work in this area speaking to potential corporate sponsors around D&I work, but some of the people she spoke to simply weren’t aware about how strongly the GNOME community and Foundation values and invests in diversity and inclusivity in our community, and there wasn’t a clear place to go, or material that we could give them, that brought together a coherent story about what we’re doing.

The happy cycle we’re hoping to bootstrap for is to get better at executing these programs, get better at talking about them, and get better at raising funds off the back of that . These skills and experience in the nonprofit space are what we’ll be looking for in the new Executive Director as we need to pick up the pace on all three, and I hope that some of our new board members might be able to contribute to as well.


Thanks for your questions.

I think that the GNOME community should work together to show to potential donors: what is the opportunity that GNOME software & its community contribute & bring to others. Yes! the GNOME software is the product our developers & contributors contributed. But we should also connect our developers & contributors to others, for example, our conferences (GUADEC, GNOME.Asia Summit, etc.) are great ways for our community to do outreach. We should invite local university & college students to join our events, and even sponsor some overseas students to travel and learn from our community.

From the response from Robert, I believe that the board is doing right in handling finance and made a good balance to spend the money. But I will keep my eye on the incomes & expenses in the upcoming term if I am elected, and share my opinions with the board.

I am not an incumbent board member. I will contribute from my experiences in a local non-profit making organisation (charity status) in Hong Kong, and organising tech communities & events in HK and Asia. So I got some experience to understand accounting statements, I&E, and reaching different local communities across Asia, and other global F/OSS communities (eg. GNOME, Mozilla, Python).

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Thanks for the very relevant questions. I’m not an incumbent Board member.

I actually think most of the work the Foundation is doing and planning is already quite compelling to donors, but we need to reach out to more of them. GNOME technologies are foundational to much of the use of Linux-based products in many industries and I’d like to use the connections in the industry I’ve gathered over the years to make this case to new donors.

There’s a really good case to be made to donors who aren’t invested in the Linux desktop that helping fund the GNOME Foundation to create solutions and innovate in the desktop helps even vendors of proprietary products, as well as the traditional FLOSS vendors we all know and love (and possibly already work for :-).

Getting a new Executive Director who can execute on these plans is essential, and I’d love to be involved in that search too.


Thanks @wjt for your question. I am an incumbent Board member. As highlighted by @ramcq, I carried out interviews with potential sponsors. One of the themes generated from that interview is Awareness. Some potential sponsors interviewed believe that we have had consistent sponsors as a foundation over time and are unaware of how strongly the GNOME community wants to invest in diversity and inclusivity in our community. This implies that we need to raise more awareness for the GNOME project as a foundation with known and prospective donors, including our diversity efforts. I believe, as a foundation we can take the lead in raising more awareness for diversity in our activities globally. This is one area I intend to support which cut across all three initiatives we have proposed.

Being part of the board, we have created initiatives that we believe will act as a channel for fundraising. The search for a new ED is to help expand these efforts or proffer other strategies. As a part of the governance committee, this is an ongoing discussion.

The GNOME project within the African space is still in its infancy. In building the GNOME Africa community, we could attract diverse sponsors interested in helping fund Linux Desktop through the GNOME Foundation.

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Thank you all for your thoughts!

I don’t want to distract from the topic, but I’d say it left many of us wondering what ‘the Challenge’ was actually called, as well as what the point/purpose/goals of the exercise were - or even how it related to GNOME. But of course that all happened under a previous board, so I don’t imagine our candidates have anything to say on this — just throwing tuppence into the void.