Update from the board

Dear members,

It’s been around 6 months since we were joined by our new Executive Director, Holly Million, and the board and I wanted to update you on the Foundation’s current status and some exciting upcoming changes.


As you may be aware, the GNOME Foundation has operated at a deficit (nonprofit speak for a loss - ie spending more than we’ve been raising each year) for over three years, essentially running the Foundation on reserves from some substantial donations received 4-5 years ago. The Foundation has a reserves policy which specifies a minimum amount of money we have to keep in our accounts. This is so that if there is a significant interruption to our usual income, we can preserve our core operations while we work on new funding sources. We’ve now “hit the buffers” of this reserves policy, meaning the Board can’t approve any more deficit budgets - to keep spending at the same level we must increase our income.

One of the board’s top priorities in hiring Holly was therefore her experience in communications and fundraising, and building broader and more diverse support for our mission and work. Her goals since joining - as well as building her familiarity with the community and project - have been to set up better financial controls and reporting, develop a strategic plan, and start fundraising. You may have noticed the Foundation being more cautious with spending this year, because Holly prepared a break-even budget for the Board to approve in October, so that we can steady the ship while we prepare and launch our new fundraising initiatives.

Strategy & Fundraising

The biggest prerequisite for fundraising is a clear strategy - we need to explain what we’re doing and why it’s important, and use that to convince people to support our plans. I’m very pleased to report that Holly has been working hard on this and meeting with many stakeholders across the community, and has prepared a detailed and insightful five year strategic plan. The plan defines the areas where the Foundation will prioritise, develop and fund initiatives to support and grow the GNOME project and community. The board has approved a draft version of this plan, and over the coming weeks Holly and the Foundation team will be sharing this plan and running a consultation process to gather feedback input from GNOME foundation and community members.

In parallel, Holly has been working on a fundraising plan to stabilise the Foundation, growing our revenue and ability to deliver on these plans. We will be launching a variety of fundraising activities over the coming months, including a development fund for people to directly support GNOME development, working with professional grant writers and managers to apply for government and private foundation funding opportunities, and building better communications to explain the importance of our work to corporate and individual donors.

Board Development

Another observation that Holly had since joining was that we had, by general nonprofit standards, a very small board of just 7 directors. While we do have some committees which have (very much appreciated!) volunteers from outside the board, our officers are usually appointed from within the board, and many board members end up serving on multiple committees and wearing several hats. It also means the number of perspectives on the board is limited and less representative of the diverse contributors and users that make up the GNOME community.

Holly has been working with the board and the governance committee to reduce how much we ask from individual board members, and improve representation from the community within the Foundation’s governance. Firstly, the board has decided to increase its size from 7 to 9 members, effective from the upcoming elections this May & June, allowing more voices to be heard within the board discussions. After that, we’re going to be working on opening up the board to more participants, creating non-voting officer seats to represent certain regions or interests from across the community, and take part in committees and board meetings. These new non-voting roles are likely to be appointed with some kind of application process, and we’ll share details about these roles and how to be considered for them as we refine our plans over the coming year.


We’re really excited to develop and share these plans and increase the ways that people can get involved in shaping the Foundation’s strategy and how we raise and spend money to support and grow the GNOME community. This brings me to my final point, which is that we’re in the run up to the annual board elections which take place in the run up to GUADEC. Because of the expansion of the board, and four directors coming to the end of their terms, we’ll be electing 6 seats this election. It’s really important to Holly and the board that we use this opportunity to bring some new voices to the table, leading by example in growing and better representing our community.

Allan wrote in the past about what the board does and what’s expected from directors. As you can see we’re working hard on reducing what we ask from each individual board member by increasing the number of directors, and bringing additional members in to committees and non-voting roles. If you’re interested in seeing more diverse backgrounds and perspectives represented on the board, I would strongly encourage you consider standing for election and reach out to a board member to discuss their experience.

Thanks for reading! Until next time.

Best Wishes,
President, GNOME Foundation


Hej Rob, thanks for the update, transparency is always welcome!

With the news of GNOME receiving €1M in funding by the Sovereign Tech Fund recently, it can seem unsettling that the Foundation is hitting its reserves level already. You might want to clarify that the Foundation is only acting as a fiscal sponsor to a community-led initiative that the Foundation will probably learn from, and that this money is exclusively dedicated to fund maintenance and development of GNOME? I can imagine how confusing it could be from afar to read about the STF news and this post shortly after :slight_smile:

Looking forward to the strategic roadmap Holly and the board have come up with. I wish Holly the best of luck: open-source communities can be difficult to manoeuvre in, but the financial situation of the Foundation is probably going to be the biggest challenge ahead.


My thought process came to that same conclusion as I read Rob’s post. Thank you for providing that clarification. :slight_smile:

Thanks @thibaultamartin you raise a very good point! The funds committed by STF to support the GNOME project are targeted just towards the development objectives agreed during planning of the project. It actually functions as a services contract rather than a grant, and almost all of the money will be spent directly with contractors in the community doing the work. The Foundation gets a small fee towards operational costs - which were factored into our break-even budget for the year and allowing us to kick off some much needed recruitment around admin/ops which we should be able to update on shortly - but the vast majority of that 1M EUR is being spent directly on development as intended! One element of the strategy is to set up a more permanent fund and initiative and for raising and spending funds directly on project development.


Hi everyone,

Thank you to everyone who has read and provided feedback on my message - we appreciate the community’s support and engagement in the Foundation’s financial well-being. Based on the feedback received over the past few days, I wanted to provide some additional detail:

  • We’ve spent our surplus reserves knowingly and intentionally, because that’s what they’re for - if people have given us money in previous years, it’s because they wanted us to spend it on GNOME! We’ve been able to sponsor things like travel, internships, Flathub and Gtk4 development by spending down these funds, as well as smoothing a drop-off in donations and sponsorships during the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 which impacted our usual events calendar.
  • Our fiscal year runs October - September. This year we’re expecting to break-even, meaning our income is expected to match our expenditure, and we should start and end the year with the same reserves. The budget for the year covers all of our usual core activities: events, infrastructure, travel, marketing, fiscal hosting of GNOME related projects, operating Flathub and administration of the STF 1M EUR project.
  • From an abundance of caution, the reserves policy says we should keep 12 additional months of staff salary and expenses to keep doing those core activities without any further income, which is an extremely unlikely emergency scenario. We are not expecting income to drop-off and so there is no anticipated need to tap into on these reserves, as we are sustainably matching expenses to income.
  • The reason we’re hoping to raise more funds is our ambition to do more for the community - the strategy has a number of exciting initiatives we’ll be launching over the coming months and explaining how people can support. Stay tuned!