[Debian-sponsors-discuss] Debian fundraising thoughts.

Stefano Zacchiroli leader at debian.org
Sun Mar 10 10:51:06 UTC 2013

[ I'm adding auditor at d.o to Cc. I forgot to invite them to the list when
  Brian created it, but I do think their input on this would be very
  valuable. People, please consider subscribing to this list and peruse
  the list archives, which are available on alioth. ]

On Mon, Feb 25, 2013 at 01:47:56AM -0500, Brian Gupta wrote:
> I've been on and off involved with DebConf fundraising since DC10, and
> have some observations and ideas that have developed over the years.
> (I brought this up to Zack, and he encouraged me to get together with
> like minded folks and see what we can come up with, hence this list,
> and this discussion.) Please consider it a starting point for
> discussion, and feel free to add any ideas you might have.

Hi everybody, thanks Brian for starting this initiative and sorry for
being late to the party! I'll be more reactive in the future.

> 1) Although DebConf is the largest "line item" on the Debian budget,
> my sense is that we need to have a coordinated fundraising sponsorship
> effort/team, that incorporates fundraising for DebConf, as well as
> other initiatives.

Absolutely, for several good reasons, some of which have already been
mentioned in this thread.

> 2) I'd like to see Debian Fundraising efforts start looking towards
> recurring revenue streams, so we don't have to do a mad scramble every
> time we need money (e.g. - every year for DebConf.) Yes, this will
> take many many years to accomplish, and we will likely never
> completely replace our annual fundraising efforts with recurring
> revenue streams.

I'm not so sure that it will necessarily take a long time to accomplish,
at least not due to *the companies*. We do have people willing to
"invest" in Debian. That much is clear. It's "just" a matter, for us, to
decide the best internal structure where to "put" their money. If we're
quick and determined on that, it can even happen in, say, 1 year.

> 3) "Fundraising drives" with matching contributions from sponsor
> grants, seem to be an effective component of many fundraising efforts
> for other organizations.

As we've discussed in a recent DPL helpers IRC meeting [1] I agree
matching funds are a good idea. I see them as a small/medium-sized part
of a larger puzzle of fundraising initiatives though.  If you need more
specific feedback on that part, please raise it here.

[1]: http://meetbot.debian.net/debian-dpl/2013/debian-dpl.2013-02-12-17.59.html

> 5) I feel like those sponsors who are sponsoring DebConf are really
> sponsoring Debian, and as such, should be recognized as such. One
> thing I have observed that seems an interesting model here, is that
> the Linux Foundation has Platinum, Gold and Silver memberships, with a
> fixed annual set of dues, that do not change. One of the benefits of
> becoming a paid Linux Foundation member is discounts on sponsorship of
> their conferences. I think this is a great model, and wonder what it
> would take to do the same for Debian?

I agree that is a great model to start from, but I'd like to expand the
discussion a bit.  I think that part of the problem we have is
that---especially for large companies---DebConf is the only sponsoring
opportunity in Debian that gives well-defined benefits.  It's not clear,
and it varies enormously from occasion to occasion, which benefits
companies would get by donating to Debian "outside DebConf".

I'd love a model with yearly subscriptions a-la Linux Foundation and
clearly defined benefits attached to each level. A possibility is then
to have, as part of those benefits, the benefits that we *currently*
have for DebConf fund-raising. To be more concrete, here is an example:
"level silver is 10k$/year, if you're at silver you'll have your name on
t-shirts of the yearly DebConf" (numbers and benefits are just an
example and probably wrong).

I see at least 2 problems with this model though:

1) Companies might have the feeling that the benefits they get from
   being, say, silver Debian "member" vary from year to year, depending
   on the location where DebConf will take place (I guess they'll have
   the feeling they "gain" more from being silver the year DebConf is in
   New York City than the year DebConf is somewhere else).  I *think*
   this problem can be ignored if we properly advertise membership, so
   that the year-round benefits somehow shadow the DebConf benefits, but

2) We need to reassess the DebConf budgeting model. Currently, DebConf
   team is basically on their own to raise enough money to have a
   sustainable DebConf. That was a need a few years ago, when I became
   DPL, because it wasn't at all clear that DebConf was a sustainable
   event in the long run. These days things are *much* better and look
   bright in spite of the crisis, so this is something we'll have to
   reconsider anyhow.

> 6) In the light of recurring revenue, I'd like to see if we can setup
> something like the FSF has, where individuals can sign up to give a
> small amount every month that gets charged automatically from their
> credit cards.

As a matter of fact, we (partly) already have this! Via SPI, people
could decide to split their Debian donations on monthly rates. The
problem is that we do not track who is a "supporting member" that way
and who is not. As a result, we can't do anything of the usually
virtuous stuff such as sending reminders about membership expiry, etc.
Some work is needed there, but I do think it'd be worthwhile to do.

> 9) Need to figure out what to do about sponsorship coming in from many
> countries and currencies. I feel some rationalization here would make
> life easier for sponsors, as well as fundraising teams.

Honestly, I don't think that is a big deal. It currently is, because
fund-raising is mostly focused on DebConf, and rate changes can make the
difference between having enough to make a sustainable DebConf and not
having enough. If we do fund-raising more "professionally" I'm confident
we can raise enough not to have to worry about this.


About all this, I'd also like to point out that I've had very
interesting discussions on this topic with Tollef, who AFAIK is
subscribed to this lit too. His dream fund-raising setup, last time we
discussed this, was similar to The FreeBSD Foundation one, see

It doesn't seem *that* different from what we're discussing here, but I
encourage Tollef to chime in and point out differences, issues he has
thought at, etc.

Stefano Zacchiroli  . . . . . . .  zack at upsilon.cc . . . . o . . . o . o
Maître de conférences . . . . . http://upsilon.cc/zack . . . o . . . o o
Debian Project Leader . . . . . . @zack on identi.ca . . o o o . . . o .
« the first rule of tautology club is the first rule of tautology club »
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