[OSGeo-Conf] Underwriting FOSS4G events

Steven Feldman shfeldman at gmail.com
Wed Aug 19 02:34:03 PDT 2015

I agree that it is time for OSGeo to formalise our commitment to ‘underwrite’ a FOSS4G (Global or Regional). The reasonably loose understanding that has worked in the past is probably past it’s time.

Thoughts on the process:

We need a clear statement from any FOSS4G seeking OSGeo’s financial backing
Initial advance(s) required and timing
Potential loss through cancellation at different stages
Potential loss if conference goes ahead but attendance is less than target
OSGeo will confirm the maximum level that it will underwrite
OSGeo will need to set aside a reserve to cover the maximum underwritten losses of all FOSS4G events that it is supporting. This will probably limit our ability to underwrite multiple events and may require the Conference Committee to select between competing regional events if there are several applications
It would probably be prudent for the Conference Committee to require a member to join the LOC with financial oversight of expenditure, forecasts and risks.
The Conference Committee will need to continuously review financial risk and may require changes to the financial and operational plans of an event.
The LOC will need to accept that OSGeo will not accept unlimited financial liability for their event, any losses exceeding the maximum level underwritten will need to be borne by the LOC or insured locally.
The LOC agrees to remit xx% of any surplus to OSGeo to support future events and other OSGeo activities (I would suggest at least 85% but no doubt this could be a subject for discussion across the community but it should be standard for all events)
OSGeo will need to draft a legal agreement with the LOC that sets out these terms

Sorry if this sounds very formal but if OSGeo are making financial commitments running into the $50-100k region which could be the case for a global FOSS4G then there needs to be some proper process and limits in place.

For info - FOSS4G 2013 in Nottingham received no advance from OSGeo (we were fortunate with the timing of our first payments and receipts of sponsorship). OSGeo signed the contract with the conference venue but we had no agreement with OSGeo to underwrite losses outside of the venue contract. We returned just over 85% of the surplus to OSGeo

> On 19 Aug 2015, at 07:37, till.adams at fossgis.de wrote:
> Hi Cameron,
> thanks for jumping into the theme ;-)
> What you expect could be done easily on the one hand, although final costs are not totally fixed yet - I think we roughly might hit them by 80-90% for our early stage now. I just would have to sum up the big cost factors such as conference center, caterer, PCO, ship for gala dinner, that are the big four I guess. Take this amount plus let's say 20% would give a quiet good overview about the full expected costs. But from then on, there are at least two scenarios:
> 1. What are our losses at what date before the conference if we do a full cancellation - which means no income (if we'd have to pay back e.g. the full sponsoring packages as well...)?
> 2. What are our losses, if just less attendees appear than our break even (around 600) tells us we need, but we are going run the conference anyway? That one is much more complicated, as we only might see, how many people really appear very short before the conference. Taking both together, we might come to a scenario, where running the conference, although we know, we will loose money, is better than cancellation (just from the financial point of view) - but who in the end decides that?
> Anyway.
> I've done a rough estimation about our pre-payments for Jeff month ago. I think best way is, when I talk to the "main cost factors" and ask them what their rates are, if we sign a contract and then cancel e.g. 6 month, 3 month and 1 month before (I am sure, that at least WCCB already passed this to me in the conditions). From that I can do a conservative estimation at what time(s) we will face maximum exposure with an uncertainity factor of some percents.
> Is it that, what you expect?
> I am sure, this is just an "if" discussion and will never get true ;-)
> Regards, Till
> Am 2015-08-19 02:28, schrieb Cameron Shorter:
>> Hi Till,
>> To answer your question, could you please provide details about
>> maximum financial exposure your conference will face (and at what
>> time(s) you will face maximum exposure). Ie, if a world pandemic
>> breaks out, or if there is a global financial crisis, or similar, and
>> you don't have expected (or any) attendees, what will be the amount
>> lost if you need to pull the conference?
>> The collective exposure of all FOSS4G conferences being guaranteed by
>> OSGeo should be less than OSGeo's budget set aside for such exposure,
>> at any point in time.
>> On 18/08/2015 5:29 pm, till.adams at fossgis.de wrote:
>>> Arnulf, @Conference-committee,
>>> thanks to put my thoughts in better words ;-).
>>> So, I agree to change my question into a proper request to the OSGeo Conference Committee (by copying Arnulfs words):
>>>> Dear Conference Committee,
>>>> the Bonn LOC in charge of organizing FOSS4G 2016 requests OSGeo to act
>>>> as financial safeguard for FOSS4G 2016. OSGeo agrees to cover potential
>>>> losses that could arise from a failure of FOSS4G 2016 (be it natural
>>>> disaster, economic crisis, lower attendance than expected, etc.). In
>>>> turn OSGeo will receive the surplus generated through the conference.
>>>> Note:
>>>> In my understanding this request should be discussed on the conference
>>>> list. Once a consensus has been reached by the conference committee the
>>>> outcome should be presented to the board as a motion. Last decision lies
>>>> with the board.
>>>> Note to the board:
>>>> In my understanding the whole issue is pretty simple. OSGeo's current
>>>> uncommitted financial resources totally allow safeguarding FOSS4G
>>>> without exposing the foundation to any risk at all. In return a
>>>> successful FOSS4G is easily earned money. Err: Made money. Plus it
>>>> serves the purpose of the foundation. Wow.
>>>> If OSGeo refuses to act as financial safeguard the surplus will also go
>>>> somewhere else.
>>>> Looking back in history we were pretty careless/reckless (individuals
>>>> signing and becoming personally fully liable). But as we mature we
>>>> become less audacious and this also involves financial "security" (and
>>>> may also be somewhat more boring...).
>>>> :-)
>>>> Best regards,
>>>> Arnulf
>>> Till
>>>> for the FOSS4G Bonn LOC

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