Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

16 Mar 2021, 20:18 p.m.

MozFest 2021 Followup: Apply for Grants To Fund Open Source Work

This session was in two parts:

  1. a fifteen-minute video (a remix of the session I delivered at PyOhio, with five additional minutes of material)
  2. a one-hour discussion

The additional material in the MozFest video (slides, rough script) included:

  • a shout-out to the OpenHumans grant opportunity
  • more hypothetical budgeting details: Seven months of working full-time is probably enough time for a skilled Python developer to port a command-line tool for geology researchers from FORTRAN to Python. Or, if you split that money between a user experience researcher and a technical writer, again at $150 per hour, then they could work together for three and a half months, which is probably enough time to interview a bunch of your users, make a really detailed report on user needs to help your developers prioritize your roadmap, overhaul all of your documentation, and overhaul a lot of your error messages.
  • an overview of the kinds of information most funders want in grant proposals:
    • basic contact details, including the person or organization that will receive the money
    • a few paragraphs about the task you want to perform
    • the amount you're asking for, and a short description of what you'll spend it on
    • who uses your software? have some statistics here - download numbers, users on the mailing list, etc. -- but also this is where you talk about specific important or prestigious users and downstreams.
    • what goals will this accomplish? how it will make the world a better place? and why do people need this? why is it important?
    • what is your plan for how you'll do it -- how will you use this money? what's your proposed schedule? try to break things down so no chunk of work takes longer than a month; if your project stretches out over 6 months or more, try to break that up into 3 or more milestones, each of which is a few months' worth of work, to help the reviewer think about what you might get done if the project goes over schedule and you run out of budget
    • does this project currently get any other regular income?

    (Since funders are mostly asking the same questions, you can take a rejected proposal and lightly rewrite it to submit to another funder. Kind of like how I gave a version of this talk in 2020, then added some more material to share at MozFest in 2021.)

The discussion was lively and varied. We talked about several topics and shared resources, and wished there were a thorough aggregator of funding opportunities for open source work, bigger than the one that the PSF's Project Funding Working Group has put together.

Some funding opportunities people brought up:

And we discussed the question "how do you get a community going and solicit money when you don't have anything to show yet?" and the fear that people will steal one's ideas, and the problem of answering funders who ask you "how will you sustain this project after the funding ends?"

Some other resources people mentioned:

Thanks to everyone who watched or participated!