RFC 80: NumFOCUS relationship and sponsorship program


Even Rouault (with content from Chris Holmes)


even.rouault @ spatialys.com



Last modified:





The GDAL project will apply for Fiscal sponsorship to NumFOCUS, under the "Grantor-Grantee" model


GDAL's funding model to date has been using the overhead of new feature implementation to support the maintenance activities. While this is a common open source funding model, it is no longer sustainable given the maturity that GDAL has reached. Undirected financial resources will give the project the ability to target challenges that have proven too big or too structural to otherwise attack.


The GDAL project has determined that joining NumFOCUS for Fiscal sponsorship will help address those challenges. NumFOCUS will receive donations given by sponsors of the GDAL project.

GDAL is well aligned with the requirements for a project to join NumFOCUS, most of them are inherited from being an OSGeo project:

  • Be scientifically oriented.

  • Be open.

  • Be kind.

More precisely, GDAL will apply for Fiscal sponsorship under the "Grantor-Grantee" model. It is described at https://numfocus.org/projects-overview and put inline below for convenience:

The Grantor-Grantee Model is a "lightweight" option for fiscal sponsorship,
for when a project is in need of an entity to receive and manage grant
funding. In this model, the project remains a separate entity responsible
for managing its own tax and liability issues. NumFOCUS ensures that the
project will use the grant funds received to accomplish the ends described
in the grant proposal, in alignment with our purpose as a 501(c)(3) public
charity in the United States.

Funds donated to GDAL will be earmarked to it (minus the commission received by NumFOCUS for its operations, typically 15%, to be confirmed).

The project has already submitted a first document presenting what GDAL is and why it wants to join NumFOCUS:

We now need to formally apply through their application form so that the application is passed to the NumFOCUS board for approval.

The proposed answers to that application form are at: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1bc5jdpCe1axdyBHxbJnun7e0DTyDoZI_eFYgJYnOhB8/edit

A Pre-approved Grantor/ Grantee Agreement will also have to be signed by 3 members of the GDAL PSC.

General use of funds

This topic will be refined in a further document, but we will underline here the general principles.

Funds obtained through NumFOCUS should be used in a way that is for the general good of the project, as well as its key open source dependencies (such as PROJ, libgeotiff, libtiff, shapelib, etc.).

The tasks candidate to funding will be along (non-exhaustive list):

  • ticket triaging and fixing,

  • code contribution review,

  • continuous integration maintenance and improvements,

  • monitoring of mailing list,

  • addressing reports raised by security monitoring infrastructure,

  • documentation improvement,

  • software releases,

  • co-operation with other funded developers (in particular onboarding),

  • reports of those activities

More generally, all tasks that are needed for a project to strive on the long term, but are typically hard to get directly funding from, as not being directly tied to a particular feature. It is expected that new features and improvements will go on being submitted as code contributions by the interested parties in capacity to develop them, or through service providers they might hire for that purpose.

Sponsors will not be able to direct particular developments, nor receive priority support through the sponsorship program. For such purposes, they may use community support or refer to service providers, as for other GDAL users. However, we will offer a way to sponsors to give feedback, as detailed afterwards.

GDAL Advisory Council

The GDAL Advisory Council is a newly forming group that is tasked with ensuring the project is evolving to meet the needs of its largest supporters. There will be periodic meetings with the advisory board, GDAL PSC members wishing to participate, and persons benefiting from funding, providing a forum to give feedback on the latest GDAL work. Board members will also be expected to share how they are using GDAL in their organization (in as much detail as is possible, understanding that some can only talk in general terms). Though the GDAL PSC owns the decision making around how the sponsorship money is allocated, the advisory board will provide key input on the maintenance priorities of the sponsors.

Our hope is that these sessions can also lead to new feature development in GDAL through joint funding initiatives between top sponsors, providing more structure to the way GDAL features are funded today. This ideally leads to more cost-sharing as organizations will be able to be more strategic when they know what everyone else is interested in. These efforts will be above and beyond the core maintenance sponsorship, but the Advisory Council will be a key forum to enable it.

The Advisory board will have an email list, with members of the GDAL PSC on it, and will meet on a periodic schedule, to be determined as the group forms. It will consist of one representative from each of the Gold sponsors, one representative for every three Silver sponsors, and one representative from Bronze sponsors.

Acknowledgment of NumFOCUS and sponsors

The GDAL website will be updated to have a page dedicated to the sponsoring program, acknowledging sponsors and NumFOCUS, providing a detailed FAQ on what the sponsorship program consists in and a "sponsoring prospectus" that can be used by candidate sponsors. A work-in-progress version of this update is available at https://github.com/OSGeo/gdal/pull/3681

Impacts on OSGeo relationship

GDAL and will continue to remain a OSGeo project for all other concerns than NumFOCUS-related sponsorship.

Voting History

+1 from PSC members EvenR, KurtS, FrankW, MateuszL, DanielM, HowardB and NormanB