Open Source help and ideas wanted!

I’ve been working on a several different projects related to sustainability and governance in nonprofits, trying to explain larger concepts and build up some worthy datasets in some specific FOSS areas. There are so many good ideas, and so little time and coding that I have to give. So I realized… I should just try asking for help!

The appeal of open source for me is that I can contribute when I have time/energy/expertise, and when $real-life gets in the way, I can step back. The other appeal is everything’s in the open, so even if no-one answers, I might as well detail a few tasks I’d love help with figuring out – or even better, building!

FOSS Foundations Metadata Directory

Inspired by the FLOSS Foundations Directory, I wantstemed to start storing some structured data about the non-profit foundations that provide services to much of the open source ecosystem. This, the FOSS Foundation Metadata directory! I’ve currently collected basic organizational data on 50+ notable foundations out there, like board size, where incorporated, links to common kinds of policies, and the like. While there are various other listings of foundations or projects out there, few are structured data and none really track the legal, corporate, and funding details I’m working on. Similarly, while there’s plenty of academic research on community governance, it would be great to explicitly quantify governance models at foundations and major projects, to help see how they differ.

For US-based nonprofit foundations, we can fairly easily get top-level finances through IRS 990 filings. ProPublica’s nonprofit explorer (yay!) makes it easy to get core 990 data, which I’ve organized and incorporated some rough finances into the metadata directory. There’s a lot more visualization we can do here: while 990 forms are high level – total contributions/total revenue and the like – they are an apples-to-apples way to compare funding and expenses of US nonprofits.

Where does funding come from? Sponsorships, mainly: I’ve also reviewed and categorized the sponsorship prospectuses of many foundations to quantify both donation levels, as well as benefits provided for sponsorship levels. Once we can get a broader cross-section of foundations around the world represented, it will be some very interesting data. And thanks to Duane O’Brien who’s done some historical research of FOSS sponsorship prospectuses!

Help Wanted!

There’s interest from practicioners and researchers alike looking at sustainability here. But we need more time in the day – or more contributors! – to keep building out both our data coverage as well as linting, visualizations, and the like. If this is a topic that interests you, please head over to the GitHub Issues page and jump in! We could use help with setting up OpenAPI for the researchers and, as well as linting, basic visualizations, and especially helping to add new foundations and categorize existing ones in new ways. For example, we have several metadata fields for policies, including links to Codes Of Conduct, as well as where a COC link is shown (i.e., is it prominent?).

Do You Work With Nonprofit Finances?

If so, let’s chat. In another life I’m involved with a hyperlocal nonprofit news website, so I’ve been relying on ProPublica and various scraping tools to help build up some pictures of local news organization finances. While ProPublica is great for top-line fields in 990s, it takes work to XPath your way into the guts of 990 schedules. The Giving Tuesday project seems to have a magic data lake project coming soon that might solve all these issues for us – but I’d love to have alternate perspectives on how to extract and analyze IRS 990 data at small/medium scales.

Also – are you a European or other non-US country nonprofit expert? How do you analyze finances across different organizations? While US 990 forms aren’t perfect, at least they’re (reasonably) consistent, and are easy enough to analyze at scale. Are there any similar broad based ways to gather nonprofit finances elsewhere?

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Briefly, Shane is: a father and husband, a friend, a geek, a Member and director of the ASF, a baker, an ex-Loti, a BMW driver, a punny guy, a gamer, and lifelong resident within the 495 belt. Oh, and we have cats.

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