A variety of factors prevent infrastructure projects from applying for funding.
Many factors, such as the lack of fundraising roles, organizational structure and differences in communication, keep infrastructure projects from applying for, or receiving, funding. They vary according to the project type and funders need to understand these differences in order to counterbalance them.
- Of the four different project types, only organizations are likely to have received substantial funding. FOSS projects need resources to apply for funding, and structure to manage a grant. Compared to other project types, organizations are better equipped to handle funding – which will often cement their structure.
- Aside from the organization, FOSS project types tend not to have the resources to navigate lengthy application processes. This feeds into why they believe funders do not understand how they work.
- Funding is usually framed in a way more easily applied to application layer projects. Infrastructure projects have to create hypothetical use-cases to fit the scope of a grant.
- Funders work under a set of values that can be at odds with the values of the community.
“We have no policy on how we handle money.”
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By choosing what kinds of work to support, funders send a message about what kinds of work are valuable. When working with projects in which essential management roles already exist, support them to the same degree as the developer positions. Refrain from focusing solely on developer positions. At the same time, avoid filling non-coding positions with people from underrepresented groups; this can reinforce the idea that coding is performed by higher-status people
Fiscal sponsors can be put in charge of financial administration; incorporate this into project overheads. Fiscal sponsors are mostly a North American phenomenon, uncommon in other parts of the world. Organizations on their way to becoming fiscal sponsors in their respective legal and tax system should be supported so as to make it easier for FOSS infrastructure projects outside the USA to comply with funders’ requirements.
By designating a specific contact person, funders can build stable relationships with their grantees.
If grantees do not make use of external offers of support, one reason might be the absence of a trusting relationship. Personal introductions and recommendations can help build this.
Explicitly support maintenance. Avoid focusing solely on innovation.
Support second and third implementations. This will help level the playing field and foster a healthy dialogue around standards.
Be aware of how your demands on grantees can unintentionally filter the projects you support (e.g. by supporting those with the requested structures rather than the projects that need your support most).
Be transparent about your demands on future grantees, both during the application process (paperwork, legal status, response time), and during the grant period (reporting, availability, communication).
Avoid a drawn-out application process. A two-tier process in which applicants get quick feedback on their chances for success can help. For each step, communicate clearly how far along in the process the applicants are, and what the next steps will be.