[Debian-sponsors-discuss] Debian fundraising thoughts.

Tollef Fog Heen tfheen at err.no
Sun Mar 10 21:22:03 UTC 2013

]] Stefano Zacchiroli 

> > 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?

To me, this sounds too complex.

> 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".

What (high-level) benefits are companies after when they donate to
Debian?  I can think of a few items, but I'm sure I've missed some too

- exposure/goodwill («we are a silver sponsor of Debian»/t-shirt
  branding/company X are good guys since they sponsor us)

- validation that their kit works with Debian/is used by Debian

- internal motivation/give back to Debian (in particular for companies
  that use Debian internally)

In addition, there's some murkier ways to sponsor, like letting
employees fix bugs or work on packages during work hours, but trying to
keep track of that will basically be impossible, I think.

> 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
>    YMMV.

I'm not sure how much of a problem this will be in practice, and as you
say, we can balance this a bit by making sure Debconf is only a slice of
the pie.


> > 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.

I'm not sure it's a good idea to introduce the term «supporting member»,
it's too easy to get mixed up with our other terms and you'll get people
confused about whether supporting members get voting rights and such.
Maybe it's just a matter of putting a different label on, in which case,
I think it makes sense.  If we can get it going, I think it can be a
somewhat parallel process to the whole bigger sponsorship process, since
expiry and such isn't really something that will come up for the other

> > 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.

Agreed, donors will donate in whatever currency and we'll cope.

> 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
> http://www.freebsdfoundation.org/donate/sponsors.shtml
> 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.

I think their setup is simple and that is a lot of the appeal:

  The Foundation gratefully accepts donations from individuals and
  businesses, using them to fund and manage projects, sponsor FreeBSD
  events, Developer Summits and provide travel grants to FreeBSD

The important word here is donations, which is slightly different from
sponsorship.  The limit of what the donors get back is limited to their
name and logo (if their donation is large enough).

I like simple.  It's easier to explain, to understand and makes it
easier for the donors to choose the appropriate amount.  It also means
we don't have to spend too much time managing sponsors, we can keep most
of our attention on making Debian a success.

Tollef Fog Heen
UNIX is user friendly, it's just picky about who its friends are

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