- What is the situation?
- Why had this happened?
- Does this affect organizations for whom GNOME handles funds?
- What is the board doing to fix it?
- How can you help?
- When will this be resolved?
- What is the board doing to make sure it does not happen again?
- What is the Foundation financial year?
- Where is the 2013 annual report?
What is the situation?
The GNOME Foundation had a temporary lack of reserves due to processing the funds for the Outreach Program for Women (OPW).
Due to a very fast and generous response from the Free software community, the foundation now has over three months of operating costs, which is more than enough time for the pending invoices to be paid. Thank you to everyone who has donated!
Why had this happened?
The GNOME Foundation is the lead organization for the Outreach Program for Women (OPW), and is responsible for managing the program's finances. The OPW has proven to be extremely popular and has grown quite rapidly both in terms of the number of interns and the number of participating organizations. However, as the program grew, the processes did not keep up. The changes were not tracked effectively from the point when other organizations joined the OPW. This impacted not only our ability to manage the OPW administration, but also to keep up with the core financial tasks of the Foundation -- tasks which already needed the full attention of the Foundation's employees and the board.
As a result of these issues, we have only just now finalized our 2014 budget. In the meantime, we made assumptions based on previous years' incomes and expenditures, and we authorized expenditures for this year based on those assumptions. Those assumptions proved to be more optimistic than reality. In addition, while our outgoing payments to interns must be strictly timed, the incoming payments from sponsoring organizations are very fluid, thus we have had to front the costs of OPW. Fronting these costs has resulted in a budget shortfall.
Does this affect organizations for whom GNOME handles funds?
No, the freeze and the budget shortfall do not affect organizations for whom GNOME handles money and donations. These organizations should not experience any changes or delays.
What is the board doing to fix it?
Primarily, the board is working to bring in the funds that are needed to continue the work of the Foundation. This includes:
- Invoicing our Advisory Board members for their annual subscription fees
- Invoicing our conference sponsors
- Following up on unpaid invoices more actively
- Taking on the Executive Director's administrative and fundraising duties
- Invoicing the OPW sponsoring organizations for the upcoming round immediately
- Increasing our general fundraising efforts for the Foundation and its events
- Some of the OPW administrative workload is being shifted from Foundation employees to the OPW organizing team
The board recognized the fact that the Foundation should not spend what it does not definitively have. As a result, after much discussion and deliberation, the Board voted on 2014-04-08 to freeze Foundation spending which is not essential to the running of the Foundation. By keeping expenditures to a minimum while some delayed revenue is regained, the board aims to have things back to normal within a few months.
How can you help?
If you have thought about donating to the Foundation but never got around to it, then this is the time when it will help the Foundation most. The Foundation accepts Paypal, check and bank/wire transfer donations. You can also support the Foundation financially by using the using the GNOME referral link on Amazon.
The Foundation is also currently looking for sponsors for GUADEC and GNOME.Asia. If you know of any companies, especially in France and China, that may be interested in sponsoring our two biggest conferences, please reach out to those companies or tell the board about them.
The OPW is also currently looking for more people to join the organizing team. Please contact the organizers for more details.
If anyone is familiar with Guile/Scheme, the Foundation would benefit from a custom printable invoice stylesheet for GnuCash. Contact the board for a PDF of what it needs to look like.
When will this be resolved?
The situation has already improved as some 2014 Advisory Board fees and outstanding OPW invoices have been paid. The board expect more to be paid within the next 4 weeks. If there are no unexpected issues and no delays, the freeze should be lifted by July.
What is the board doing to make sure it does not happen again?
The board is examining the issues associated with administering a multi-organization OPW with two internship rounds per year. This includes:
- Documenting OPW processes
- Sharing the invoice tracking duties between the board and OPW organizers so that unpaid invoices can be followed up more effectively
- Efficient invoicing for each OPW round by a team of board and community members, to ensure that invoices are sent out no later than a week after internship acceptances are made
- OPW invoice due dates will be agreed upon with each organization with the goal of having the sponsorship payments come in before the first intern payments are due out
- All invoice payments will be tracked on a weekly basis
In addition, the board will track the time spent by the Foundation administration on handling OPW and will re-examine whether the administration fees, which are currently $150-400 per intern after the cost of payment transfers, are sufficient for the increased demands on the administration's time.
As the Foundation cannot continue to shoulder the responsibility of paying interns out of the Foundation budget and wait for other organizations to reimburse us, the OPW organizers will be communicating with the sponsoring organizations and the board expects that a solution can be found which enables the continuation of the outreach efforts without undue consequences for GNOME in the future.
The board are also looking into ways to improve the tools and processes we have in place. Furthermore, at least two individuals should be able to fulfil all administrative duties at any given time. One of these will be the administrative assistant, while the second will normally be one of the board members or an officer. These duties should be shared out between all board members or officers.
Beyond this, the current board strongly recommends that future boards enact spending freezes if the annual budget or monthly budget update is one month late.
What is the Foundation financial year?
The GNOME Foundation financial year starts on October the 1st and ends on September 30th. For example, the 2014 financial year started on 1st October 2013 and will end on 30th September 2014.
Where is the 2013 annual report?
The annual report is normally published at GUADEC the following year. For example, the 2013 annual report will be published at GUADEC 2014 in August. If you want to help write articles for the report, get in touch with the engagement team.
You can find the financial figures that will be used for the 2013 annual report at Foundation/FinancialSummary.