Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) Sustainability Fund

The FOSS Sustainability Fund helps to ensure that free and open source software projects and the communities that sustain them have the resources and support needed for long-term maintenance, security, and community well-being. Ensuring a diverse, vibrant, and sustainable FOSS ecosystem is critical to OTF’s commitment to support the development and maintenance of anti-censorship technologies, and ensures that all users have better access to privacy and security tools. This Fund supports established FOSS apps, tools, and core infrastructure in the areas of maintenance, operations, and community.

Key Questions

There are a few questions we always ask ourselves when reviewing a FOSS Sustainability Fund concept note. These are some of the most important:

Does the proposed effort fit within OTF’s remit?

This is the first and last question we ask; review our mission and focus areas for more information about OTF’s remit. When it comes to FOSS technologies, OTF is focused on anti-censorship, anti-surveillance apps and tools, and secure network and communications digital infrastructure.

Is the proposed effort cost effective?

Due to rising demand, we are forced to turn away hundreds of applicants each year, many of whom present ideas which hold promise or potential. In an ideal world we’d support many more, but with demand far outstripping our budget, competition for OTF funding has grown. Therefore, projects that aim to achieve cost-effective, collaborative solutions are most welcome, with any overhead or administrative components either eliminated or kept as low as possible. All line items should be necessary, appropriate, and directly relevant to the proposed effort. Whenever possible, cost sharing is strongly encouraged and is viewed favorably by OTF.

Does the proposed effort have plans for sustainability beyond OTF support?

Rather than providing ongoing core funding, this Fund invests in a project’s current and future sustainability. We pay special attention to applications that emphasize activities investing in a project’s long-term stability. We’re interested in seeing a variety of income models and sustainability efforts beyond OTF funding.

Does the project consider both the technical and social aspects of sustainability?

OTF supports the long-term sustainability of FOSS from a holistic perspective, considering both the technical and human elements necessary for project health and longevity. Each project must consider balancing operational and community needs versus technical needs when considering their priorities for their long-term sustainability. We support a project’s maintenance, operational, and community development activities. See the Fund page for details and examples in these priority areas.

Does the maintenance of the FOSS project directly benefit users affected by surveillance and censorship in repressive contexts?

What is the real-world applicability of the proposed effort? Projects supported by OTF should not be overly theoretical in nature. If the proposed effort stands to directly benefit a specific user group, tell us about them, and why this FOSS project’s sustainability is critical to continue supporting those users. We prioritize projects that put their users front and center.

Important Considerations

  • Ideal applicants seek funding for between $150,000 and $400,000 for approximately 24 months.

  • The Fund is available to all internet freedom FOSS tools, apps, open standards, protocols and libraries, that have come into shape from inception to development, and are seeking to work on the sustainability of the project beyond initial release.

  • Applicants must meet the following qualifying conditions to be considered eligible:

    • Release: Software has been released for at least 3 years.

    • Updates: The project pushes updates at least 4 times a year.

    • Development: Active coding towards the software has occurred in the last 2 years.

    • User base: The project has a substantial base of active users, if it is an app or other user-facing tool.

    • Keystone technology: OTF aims to support projects with many dependencies, to maximize long-term impact in the broader FOSS ecosystem.

  • Individuals or organizations* (for-profit or nonprofit) of all ages irrespective of nationality, creed, or sex are encouraged to apply.

When to Apply

The FOSS Sustainability Fund solicits concept notes on an annual basis. Refer to the Fund’s web page for its status.

Review Process

  1. Concept Note Submission and Review: Once the solicitation closes, we review and respond to all concept notes submitted. During the initial concept note review phase, we may reach out to ask some clarifying questions.

  2. Concept Note Determination: Once we’ve had the chance to review your concept note and ask clarifying questions if needed, we’ll then contact you via email and let you know whether your concept note has been invited to submit a proposal or if we are unable to provide funding (after we review all concept notes). If we’re inviting you to submit a proposal, we’ll specify a date by which you’ll need to submit that. If we’ve declined your concept note, we’ll provide you with feedback on why your concept was not approved.

  3. Proposal Invitation: If invited to proposal, you’ll have the chance to expand beyond the high-level overview you shared with us in your concept note. The biggest difference between your Concept Note and proposal will be the level of detail around your project’s planned activities and budget. Ideal applicants are specific and cost-conscious in these areas, while drilling down on details. You can expect us to contact you with follow-up questions or comments to solicit additional clarifying information; we do this for just about all of the projects we end up supporting.

  4. Advisory Council Review: OTF’s Advisory Council is made up of a diverse array of subject matter experts who understand various relevant fields and issues as they relate to Internet freedom. In their capacity as Advisory Council members, they provide strategic guidance to OTF, including by reviewing proposals. They are subject matter experts who have a vested interest in OTF funding decisions and are uniquely positioned to bolster our project oversight capacity, expertise, perspective, and accountability. At least two reviews from Advisory Council members are required before a proposal can move forward.

  5. Proposal Determination: Upon successful review by the OTF team and Advisory Council, we will inform you whether your proposal has been accepted or declined.

  6. Legal Review: Approved proposals are reviewed by our executive, legal and financial departments. If you reach this stage, an OTF Program Manager will be assigned to work with you on completing this step.

  7. Contract Issued: Once a contract has been approved, it will be issued to the applicant to sign and return. Note that each contract includes standard provisions for U.S. Government funded agreements.

  8. Project Oversight: An OTF Program Manager will be assigned to assist you for the duration of your contract. All OTF-issued contracts provision for consistent and diligent oversight that go beyond the minimum accountability safeguards and requirements. Please note that payments are only made once OTF determines that contract deliverables have been satisfactorily completed.

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