Grant opportunity: Open Technology Fund

I found a call for proposal from Free and Open Source Software Sustainability Fund | OTF, which aims to support the long-term maintenance of established FOSS projects and the communities that sustain them. The submission date is May 17, 2024.

The eligibility criteria are the following

  1. Release : Software has been released for at least 3 years.
  2. Updates : The project pushes updates at least 4 times a year.
  3. Development : Active coding towards the software has occurred in the last 2 years.
  4. Userbase : The project has a substantial base of active users, if it is an app or other user-facing tool.
  5. Keystone technology: OTF aims to support projects with many dependencies, to maximize long-term impact in the broader FOSS ecosystem.

Depending on how one defines "keystone technology" and "dependencies", OpenRefine may or may not qualify. Checking other projects supported by the OTF, K9, FileZilla, and Divvi Up would be the closest to OpenRefine.

I am interested to hear from the community if you think OpenRefine quality and, if so, how we should approach it.

But, in your recent update from the Advisory group, I added up that we haven't spent nearly $80,000 that we have "in the bank" because of various reasons, but seems its just lack of contributors to take up the challenges we offer?

And here we are asking for more funding? Worried if we would even spend it within 2 years. My further worry is that we are not addressing some long standing feature requests, where a lot of activity is potentially blocked because of 4.0 gotchas, and then lack of developers wanting to take up learning more about OpenRefine's internals for the various reasons we have all talked about in the past. OpenRefine is "not" an easy to get into platform to make things happen and I still strongly feel this makes us lose a lot of new contributors and those that do initially contribute, do not stick around. We were extremely lucky to be gifted with @antonin_d , and more lucky to have @tfmorris come back and help when he can.

So... does this fund allow us to:

  1. Use the funds to help us market OpenRefine better to pull in contributors?

  2. And at the same time, also use funds to make OpenRefine easier for contributors to come to grips with OpenRefine internals, make them easier somehow?

    • A.) more and better Javadoc and comments would be low hanging fruit I'd think,
    • B.) but also just technology architecture documentation that offers more categories for the areas of OpenRefine internals)
    • C.) ???

Yea, looks like the OTF Sustainability fund is exactly for sustaining projects (not for new features - that's the Freedom fund, which is different).

So I'd say we definitely have problems to address under 2 of their categories they mention (and what I wrote about above...) and I've BOLDED those that I think aligns in my mind.


Operations activities run the gamut of things needed to ensure a project remains operationally active. These activities include both the technical and social elements, and center around improving contributor productivity, open source viability, and project stability. Examples include:

  • Refined contributor workflows
  • Project management
  • Accounting
  • Code optimization and styling
  • Improve licensing
  • Aligning with open source principles
  • Testing infrastructure
  • Updating documentation
  • Creating and following a sustainable business plan
  • Software evaluations
  • Long-term strategic planning


People are at the heart of any successful FOSS project. These community activities center around the health and wellbeing of the contributor base, and the engagement of and responsiveness to users. Examples include:

  • Ecosystem wellbeing
  • Community management
  • Governance
  • Organizational health
  • Improving diversity
  • Growing contributor base
  • Improve user feedback loops*
  • Contributor and user communications
  • Language localization*
  • Visuals and website
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Thanks for sharing your insights, @thadguidry. With the current wave of grant applications, I am looking to secure financial resources for 2025 and 2026. The USD 80,000 that we currently have available is not enough to cover the salary of a full-time developer for an entire year and we owe some visibility regarding funding to paid staff.

I think we have made great progress in growing the contributor base, with 41 contributors in the last 12 months, including several who contribute regularly. I believe the work regarding the mission/vision and the playbook will help onboard and retain more contributors. As pointed out in your second message, the OTF grant can help sustain that effort past 2024. It can fund a lead developer to prepare releases, review PR and triage issues, and potentially a community/project manager.

As a next step, I am keen to conduct a survey among previous contributors to understand why they are no longer contributing.

My suggestion is to apply for the OTF grant focusing on the point highlighted by @thadguidry. I can draft it based on my answer to the previous applications.

Regarding the budget we need for the coming year, I went back to looking at the unsuccessful EOSS-6 grant application, which includes a budget for general maintenance of the project.

If we discard activities to develop new features or add capabilities, we have the following:

A developer position, part-time (0.5 full-time equivalent) budgeted at USD 90,000 per year to

  • maintain the OpenRefine GitHub repository,
  • triage tickets,
  • review pull requests,
  • publish releases,
  • respond to security advisories,
  • participate in internship programs.
  • perform some bug fixes and light new feature development

One project manager, part time about 10h/week budgeted at USD26,000 per year as defined in the previous job posting.

Some extra for occasional contractors, travel, and recurring Barcamp: ~USD20,000 per year

That's a total of USD136,000 per year.

Adding a 15% CS&S management fee represents about USD 160,000 of new cash per year.

Just to be clear...So for 2025... you want to raise USD 136,000 ? And to try to do so with the OTF grant?

I will prepare an application to the Free and Open Source Software Sustainability Fund for USD 160,000 to include CS&S management fees.

@thadguidry I very much welcome your push to recruit more :slight_smile:

On my side I would like to gradually sunset my paid OpenRefine work, to free up some of my time and make more room for others. I don't plan to disappear overnight but for now my goal would be not to take more contract work from OpenRefine beyond the reproducibility project. There's plenty more things I would like to do in OpenRefine but I think to grow the team it's helpful if I take a step back and leave more space for others to take initiatives.

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Earlier today, the OTF conducted a webinar to respond to questions about their grant opportunity. Based on their discussion, it seems that OpenRefine may not qualify for this grant as the OTF is looking for protocols, libraries, and standards that align with their mission (listen to the answer). Furthermore, the fund will be highly competitive with only a few projects receiving a share of the USD 1,500,000 available, so the selection process will be rigorous (listen to the answer).

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