[Board] ED Position, Key Targets, Sponsorship

Tyler Mitchell tmitchell at osgeo.org
Mon May 9 00:50:40 PDT 2011

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Hi all, since our board meeting last week and a brief chat I had with Arnulf I've been taking some time to review what's on my plate.  Sorry for the rather long email, but some off list discussions suggested a need to review priorities for my position.  The question of the role of the ED, essentially a cost/benefit question, often comes up in the spring as sponsorship renewals slowly start to trickle in.

Rather than list out all the details of items on my plate from day-to-day, I thought it might be more productive to first review the current ED job description, then review some strategic target areas and finally discuss my fundraising strategy.

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First, the current job description:


Anytime we talk about budgets and expenses it is important to review this description to see what expectations may have changed.  I would appreciate a review of these items to make sure that my current task list is as on-target as possible.  This may be especially helpful for the newer directors who haven't gone through the cycle of reviewing priorities, budgets, etc. for the ED position.

After we've had a review of this, I can provide a list of everything I do, categorised, so you can see what removing certain parts of the job results in.  This is also important to do so you can see what the funding for the position goes toward.

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When we met in Barcelona, I presented some strategic vision ideas I had for OSGeo's future.  There I presented the primary target areas that I believe are critical to the maturity and future growth of OSGeo:


These are our key constituents for the future growth of OSGeo:  ACADEMIC, BUSINESS, OGC/STANDARDS, NGO/GOV

There was general agreement that these targets are worth pursuing.  I've made some progress but there is still a lot to be done to develop plans and enjoy broader enthusiasm from the board and elsewhere.  I'm looking for directors or members who are interested in working with me to co-develop plans for these key target areas.  Ideally a director or very engaged member who works in one of these target capacities already can spend a few minutes brainstorming with me.

Fundraising was the other topic woven through the discussions in Barcelona.  So, in addition to the job description items, the above targets and ideas, the board also desired that a significant part of my time be used for sponsorship & fundraising. 

It's worth taking time to review the above direction and I would appreciate some discussion on the matter.  Which areas are not of interest?  What, if any, changes in the core ED position should I expect or work toward?  Are there tasks that the board would rather take care of to free up time for me to work on other things?

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Now onto sponsorship.  Several of you have mentioned concerns about finances.  Without stepping on the treasurer's toes, I estimate that we currently have enough cash in reserves to fund to the end of the year.  Rough notes here:


Funding will be extended beyond that by outstanding sponsorship invoices, FOSS4G profits, drastically reduced travel expenses and GSoC donations.

With that in mind, here is my threefold approach to handling sponsorship, intended to be diversified for stability:

A. CURRENT SPONSORS.  Engage current sponsors to stimulate them to renew.  Keeping current customers should always be a priority.  This means making opportunities to meet with current sponsors to discuss their interests, questions and any needs I could help them with.  Every trip I make includes meetings with any nearby sponsors and supplying them with marketing material they can share with their colleagues and often involving a presentation or boardroom discussion.  Demonstrating the value of OSGeo (and hence the value of sponsoring) is foremost on my mind during these discussions.

B. NEW SPONSORS. Brainstorm and approach potential new sponsors.  Every presentation I make is geared toward 'selling' the benefits of being a sponsor and showing the value we are delivering in exchange.  At each event I speak at or attend, meeting potential sponsors is top of the list.  More often than not, local chapter colleagues help make stakeholder meetings happen so that we can have the discussion.  As part of this I put together the sponsorship packs to help make it easy to work together to pursue new sponsors.  Local reps, committee members, members at large and directors can help by providing leads to follow up with.  Leads can also be taken from past FOSS4G sponsor lists, attendee lists, by watching news items, etc.

C. FOSS4G SPONSORS. Aiming to bring in new sponsors for FOSS4G each year.  Many organisations can use their marketing budgets for events, but not as easily for organisational sponsorships, so this second pitch to these companies is important.  Sometimes it means gaining sponsors for both OSGeo and FOSS4G - but either way they are sponsors for OSGeo.  The past two years of "surplus" sponsors for FOSS4G has helped smooth over the lows from the OSGeo sponsor program.  Please note, this approach is not the same as intentionally setting highly profitable budgets for FOSS4G, but is a reflection of increased interest in sponsoring FOSS4G, so much so that it happily exceeds conservative budgeted revenues of the events.

D.  Related to C, I was to investigate the viability of holding (profitable) multi-purpose mini events in between FOSS4G annual events to help increase revenue, among our other goals.  For example, I've done this on a small scale along with OGC for the OGC-OSGeo Interop Day in Nottingham in June and I've discussed several others ideas like this with OGC and with GITA already.  I will also discuss it with some local chapters and other committees.

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I hope this overview of my personal fundraising strategy (in a nutshell) is useful.  I know there are lots of other options and approaches but based on our past discussions, these seemed to line up well and are simple to understand.  I welcome any further discussion on the sponsorship question and look forward to hearing any strategies that others are working on.  If we work together on a few of these ideas I believe we can confidently move forward fiscally and organisationally.

If you individually have time to chat about it, I think we could each come up with a few potential leads with organisations you may already know and that I'd be happy to follow up with.  Otherwise, I'll continue my strategy along with the other tasks.  I know I can't do it alone when all these things are rolled together, so I will likely start dropping some of the business admin or community support items so I can make more headway on the sponsorship strategies and the key target areas.

But that will mean I need to hand some things off which is always a challenge since everyone else is also busy.  It's always possible to tweak the scope of the ED position in general to make fundraising more manageable, but you will want to make sure the important parts continue to get done as effectively as possible, no matter who is doing them.

I can update you on the status of each of the above items as well, but wanted to first give this overview of the purpose and ideas we've discussed in the past.  So, I'm looking for discussion and some consensus on: job description improvements, key target area focus, sponsorship strategy.


Lastly, I've done a lot of reading on organisational cycles and related strategies for success (yes, I love this stuff!).  I believe we've hit the top of our initial growth curve and are struggling for maturity.  This is the make-or-break point.  Organisations either regroup and realign to enjoy revitalisation and further growth, or they fumble and start to decline and regress or even die.  A quick search found this illustration: http://www.quickmba.com/marketing/product/lifecycle/

A similar model is described, complete with exercises, here: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_87.htm
I encourage you to read this short article and assess where they think we're at.

We are unique as an organisation, but we are not so unique that common business growth patterns do not pertain to us.  I find that encouraging and hope you do too!

Hope it helps,
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