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GNOME Foundation: RFC: Foundation Administrative Employee

May 28, 2001, 02:04 (3 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Havoc Pennington)

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Subject: rfc: foundation administrative employee
From: Havoc Pennington <hp@redhat.com>
Date: 27 May 2001 17:51:25 -0400

Hi,

The board of directors would like to move forward with hiring a
full-time administrative employee for the GNOME Foundation. We're
giving this issue a high priority because an excellent candidate for
this position happens to be available right now, and we don't want to
miss the chance to hire him. For obvious reasons (the candidate is
currently employed elsewhere) I can't post his name.

Would like to bring this issue up for discussion before we make a
final decision. 

This employee would have several duties.

* Administration (surprise)
 - accounting, financial records, accepting and disbursing funds
 - the annual IRS audit for nonprofits, tax returns, etc.
 - help organize GUADEC each year, provide some continuity there

* Shows & Conferences
 - organize attendance (booths, T-shirt sales, volunteers)
 - decide which to attend in light of marketing plans
 - get people to volunteer to speak; be sure we have speakers
   at important conferences
 - investigate speaking opportunities outside the standard "Linux show 
   circuit"

* Advocacy
 - In our candidate's words, ensure we develop "a concerted marketing
   effort.  Not representing a single company or two, but the whole
   platform.  Work with the marketing committee, companies and
   volunteers on promotion year-round.  Develop a strategy."

* Fund raising
 - We are hiring on a "you raise your own salary" basis. Our candidate
   has an excellent track record in fund raising, and feels he could 
   pay himself and go on to develop a substantial fund for supporting 
   GNOME.

* Fund spending
 - We aren't raising money just to look at it, so it would be used for 
   example:
    - to have events, such as "hack-ins" where we get 30 people in a
      room for a week to hack
    - getting people to conferences who couldn't attend otherwise
    - brochures, stickers, etc. at conferences
    - computers for hackers that need them
    - getting good conference booths instead of ".org ghetto"
    etc.

* Advisory board communications
 - Be sure we're communicating to member organizations what they can
   do for GNOME and what GNOME can do for them. 

Caveats: We are all very concerned about avoiding the Open Group
  situation.  We do not want a foundation that has its own misguided
  interests competing with those of the hackers or the member
  organizations. This is the primary risk people have identified.

  There are several factors that help out here:

    1) there's no revenue source (i.e. license fees) to support an
       autonomous GNOME Foundation in the absence of good will from
       those the foundation serves
    2) our board is elected by contributing hackers and makes
       decisions in the end, so hiring anyone else would 
       require their buy-in
    3) we have a strong volunteer base and depend on that to get
       anything done; our administrator would handle a lot of details
       such as bank accounts and calling conference organizers that
       are hard for a distributed bunch of people on the internet to
       deal with, but ultimately we are still depending on 
       volunteers and member organizations to help out with 
       shows, write code, write docs, do the web site.

  Another risk is that we won't be able to raise enough funds to
  support an employee. Because our candidate is willing to take
  responsibility for raising the money to support himself this is
  mostly a risk that he's taking rather than a risk the foundation is
  taking.

  To minimize risk, we're currently tossing around the idea of hiring
  him for a 90-day trial period, and then reevaluating after that time
  to see if both he and the board are happy with how things are going,
  before making a longer-term commitment.

So, please comment. I think everyone on the board recognizes that
there are substantial risks here. However, we think there could be
some big benefits to having an excellent presence at
shows/conferences, having more in-person meetings between the GNOME
contributors (hacking events, summits, etc.), having someone with an
accounting clue watching the books, having someone respond to
inquiries in a timely manner, active evangelization to
people/organizations who may not be familiar with GNOME, etc. A lot of
these things are slipping through the cracks at the moment.

Given that we have a candidate we really like who's available now, it
seems like a good moment to take the plunge.

Let us know what you think about this step.

Havoc