For discussion purposes only -- a work in progress -- Contact User:Tmitchell
When discussing the topic of Fundraising it is easy to think with too narrow a definition. At its simplest level the purpose of fundraising within OSGeo can be described as: securing funding to maintain, support and expand operational goals. This may happen by asking for money directly, writing grant proposals, holding events, selling merchandise and more. The process and delivery of a fundraising program can be very broad and include many seemingly unrelated tasks. The tasks may overlap strongly with other programs or initiatives, especially those that build relationships outside of the organization. This document seeks to help describe the current purpose and potential methods of fundraising for OSGeo, while at the same time helping to set targets and hone the inward and outward-facing messages.
Here are some of the terms and concepts that embody fundraising concepts common to OSGeo.
- Fundraising – securing funds for OSGeo purposes
- Donor – anyone who donates funding at any level and for any purpose
- Sponsor – a donor that gives according to a sponsorship program
- Community – the individuals who are members of OSGeo; the organizations that are represented by these individuals; sponsors; officers
- Targets – levels of funding being sought after within a certain time period
Purpose of Fundraising
For OSGeo, the purpose is for securing funding to maintain, support and expand operational goals. When discussing the topic of raising funding it helps to have an agreed upon purpose for fundraising. If the stated purpose is simply “get money” it will be less meaningful than funding something in particular or providing a purpose to would-be fundraisers. Changing historic patterns of giving may be the ultimate objective, but a clearer purpose inspires the process.
A new year is always good time to review the purpose of further fundraising. This review starts with two questions: what do you need money for and what do you want more for? After these questions are considered, then the various funding possibilities and targets will be discussed.
Cover Ongoing Costs
Perhaps the most obvious need is to continue to cover ongoing operational costs. This includes systems, staff, financial management, conference commitments, etc. Often this is the purpose of fundraising in the earliest years of an organization. When pursuing fundraising in a given year it is important to identify the minimal level of funding required to maintain operational costs.
In 2007 *update to 2010* the approximate ongoing operational costs were $150,000. This was mainly staff salary, benefits, travel and offices expenses, marketing/promotion, payroll costs and system hosting. FOSS4G 2007 and 2008 covered their costs through their own sponsorship programs, so funding was not required from general OSGeo accounts. FOSS4G 2009 required over $40,000 in seed funding which used about 25% of cash reserves. The 2010 event is not predicting needing any advance.
As time progresses there is usually a desire to deliver more programs or reach more areas. In the case of OSGeo this has meant increased budgets for committees or special projects. Some of these expanded program areas may become ongoing, recurring, operational costs eventually, or remain optional depending on how much funding is available.
For 2008, *update to 2010* the main expanded areas identified in the budget are primarily around Promotion – Web Development and Marketing. The increase will cost about $25,000. *update to 2010* For the purposes of this document it will be assumed that additional funds will help further supplement budgets for these committees.
Developing targets for 2010 and beyond would help for giving fundraising efforts a goal to reach and a sense of purpose.
When speaking of fundraising most people have very particular (and often very different) methods in mind. Therefore, a discussion about fundraising is not complete without reviewing the various methods used historically in the organisation as well as potential methods for the future. Naturally each method has its strengths and weaknesses as well as more complex dependencies.
General Appeals – Indirect Marketing
General appeals to wide audiences can be made various ways. The two most popular are through face-to-face presentations and through indirect marketing material such as websites, brochures, advertisements and mailing lists. There are also general appeals associated with conference events run by OSGeo, this will be covered later in the document.
Presentations are the most active form of indirect marketing. A presenter can provide the background of the organisation and information about particular projects, but it is common to close with a “how to get involved” discussion, including sponsorship possibilities.
Strengths - There are several strengths in this method, the most obvious being that a presentation can be done to many people at once during a short time period. It is also a strength to have a real, physical, speaker in front of the audience. With smaller audiences there may even be opportunity for them to interact with the speaker or have the speaker provide relevant guidance to them. In certain cultures and locations, physical presence is the primary way to build new contacts. Event organisers can help make sure the message and speaker is suitable and connects with the audience. Another benefit is that presentation content can be re-used by many people across various events over time and may be available online through event proceedings. Subsequent presentations can help improve the material and customise it for particular audiences.
Weaknesses - Presentations are not without their weak points. Depending on the venue or occasion for a presentation, it can be difficult to assess how many potential donors are/were in the audience. It is also difficult to know whether listeners are decision makers, project managers, users, etc. Acquiring an attendee list from event organisers can help give more insight (it may even help the message be tailored to the audience). It is also difficult to tell how many listeners appreciated the presentation and how many may be interested, need more convincing, have a couple questions, etc. This makes it important to work with event organisers or local committees to identify those you most likely connected with. Attendee surveys can help address this, as well as being able to do follow-up email to them directly. Local organisers can also help lead the follow-up and make the initial connection (this may be necessary in particular when there are language differences).
Indirect marketing material can be used to help potential donors find themselves (i.e. via web searches) or that community members, presenters or other related liaisons may distribute. Websites, online documentation and archived presentations that are findable through search tools can be an important way for interested parties to get more information about the organisation. Printed (or digital) material such as brochures also factor in along similar lines, though they may be more focused on being a handout at an event or meeting. All marketing material helps build the brand that potential sponsors will want to be associated with – if it isn't good quality then some sponsors will be turned off. Part of the material can also specifically mention funding opportunities for the reader.
Strengths – Widely available online or at events. Web searchability allows those interested in particular keywords to find the organisation which they might end up wanting to sponsors. Most of this approach can be quantified (# of downloads, # of printed brochures taken from a booth, etc.). Marketing material helps make the organisation look more legitimate than others who may have nothing.
Weaknesses – It is hard to know who did the downloads or took the brochure. It is difficult to follow when members or others share the information with a potential sponsor yet do not share information about that person back to the organisation for further follow-up. Localised materials, i.e. if it were all English-focused, can lead to a misunderstanding that the organisation itself is not global in scope. This underscores the need for effective translation.
Having a focused approach could mean having a focus on particular types of organisations or on specific organisations directly. Approaching specific organisations for sponsorship can be summarised into three categories, described below. Many times there will be overlap between them, or in different order, but the concept is the same.
Effective fundraising can only first happen when there is a clear presentation of OSGeo as a successful with supportable purposes. This work can easily go unnoticed as there is rarely, if ever, an observable link between a new sponsor and some incremental change made, for example, to a web page describing the foundation. As OSGeo grows it becomes more popular to talk about, to interact with and to understand. Signs of an active and meaningful community helps make the fundraising process even remotely possible. Marketing brings more interest, but also paves the way for more sponsors.
Identify organisations who would find benefit from sponsoring is the next stage. One of the great strengths of OSGeo is that it can appeal to a broad kind of sponsorship base. Aside from all the benefits of the software projects (programming, communications, planning, etc.) there are other projects that are building momentum around more general ideas (education, geodata, publishing articles, etc.). These different areas attract a very broad range of potential members/volunteers as well as sponsors.
Often the kinds of organisations interested in providing support are already engaged at some level within the organisation, or are actively seeking some way to learn from it. These are the easiest to be identified and then put into the queue to approach. Because there will likely be several in OSGeo (board or staff) that know the group, it is easy to have someone approach them.
The list then grows by adding more groups based on recommendations from members or other sponsors. These second level recommendations would, ideally, come from someone who can either introduce them to a contact in OSGeo or get the conversation started so they are ready for follow-up. The main point being that there isn't just a name on a list, but also another person who can help make the dialogue between OSGeo and the other organisation happen in a natural way. With this in mind, it becomes important to maintain positive relationships with a range of organisations, especially since previous sponsors should remain on this list annually. There is more discussion about relationships in another section, but it is mentioned here as a reminder that relationships are important in paving the road of understanding.
Continuing to grow the list after this only takes a little imagination from members, the board and even the general public that may know something about OSGeo goals. These recommendations may come from event-related history, groups with common goals, companies using OSGeo software, government or grant sources that support the same goals, etc. Some of these recommendations may start out as a guess that there could be interest, but after digging around it may be found that someone already has a relationship with that organisation – then the previous paragraph applies. Otherwise, the board or staff can start to make contact and follow-up with direct discussions. It may happen that a contact is first made aware of OSGeo through a General Appeal and the follow-up refers back to it so there is a context for discussion.
With the larger master list ready to go, someone can volunteer to approach the contact and get the discussion started. Keeping track of the volunteer and the status is key to tracking it over time.
FOSS4G events always have a sponsorship component. It is easy to regard these as merely conference sponsors when, in fact, they are significant contributors to OSGeo generally as well. At the very least, FOSS4G Sponsors help advance the marketing goals of OSGeo by covering the costs of an event that draws a large highly charged crowd together including potential sponsors who enjoy the experience. This ends up being a good General Appeal to an array of potential sponsors, who are ready for follow-up after the event.
On the other hand, when an event is highly successful, financially, it directly contributes to OSGeo's overall funding goals. The more sponsors that support FOSS4G, the better the result is for OSGeo fundraising. Sponsors for FOSS4G are also found using the various other methods described earlier, but there are a couple further complications that need to be considered.
The conference events that OSGeo puts on feed directly into its fundraising strategy. Any effort spent on helping to find sponsors or to publicise the event can be viewed as part of fundraising. If there was to be a commitment to increasing the financial contributions from FOSS4G as primary revenue, then it would be logical to have staff and the board help increase their focus on raising funds this way.
* training, round tables, high level meetings
Conflicts, Considerations & Options
- FOSS4G sponsors vs. foundation sponsors
Licensing OSGeo Brand
- govs committed to foss
Key Vertical Markets
- gov, infrastructure, bim, military, science, etc.