Minutes, 2010-10-07

Minutes, 2010-10-07

The Climate Code Foundation
Board Meeting, 2010-10-07, Sheffield

Present: Philippa Davey, David Jones, Nick Barnes

The Board met to discuss funding arrangements. Nick Barnes has done
some thinking about this, and presented his thoughts (summary attached
to these minutes).

The Board agreed that we should seek between 120K and 500K GBP
annually. This amount should ideally be spread over multiple donors
in industry, research, NGOs, and governmental and intergovernmenal
agencies. We should look for the following kinds of funding:

– some general sponsorship to pursue our objects: amounts of 5K-25K
annually from any one sponsor.

– sponsorship linked to events, such as workshops and conferences. We
should consider the possibility of an annual Climate Code Workshop.

– payments for specific activities, such as training and consultancy.

We should not at this time look for these types of funding:

– single-sponsor donations of more than 50K annually: these might make
us beholden to that sponsor, and very vulnerable to change.

– individual contributions of under 100 GBP; these will cost more in
administration than they are worth.

Additionally, in early approaches to large potential donors, an
initial seed-money donation of 30-50K could be sought, to pay our
start-up costs and give us a little breathing space for broader

Nick should devise a sponsorship system with several levels
(e.g. silver/gold/platinum) at differing annual amounts, with suitable
badging/cross-PR acknowledgement (e.g. on the Foundation website, at
conferences and workshops, etc).

Nick has made a tentative list of representative potential sponsors.
He should spend some time extending this list. He should ask advisory
committee members for recommendations.

The board is concerned that, as a new organisation, our initial
approach to a potential sponsor will be difficult: who are we? why
should they give us their money? what will we do with it? To address
this, we need to develop:

– a network of contacts: everyone working in climate science should
know who we are.

– a “sales pitch”: why should an organisation be interested in us?

– a “business plan”: concrete activities which we want to conduct,
with approximate costings. What additional results would we achieve
this year if we had another 20K?

The board asked Nick to continue work on all of these, enlisting the
other members where appropriate.

Funding the Climate Code Foundation
Nick Barnes, 2010-09-22

I estimate that the Foundation needs at least two full-time people, in
order to succeed: one whose main focus is on technical matters
(e.g. writing code, writing papers), and one whose main focus is on
management, fund-raising, PR, etc. At present these roles are
occupied by David and Nick respectively, with some administrative
tasks undertaken by Philippa, who are self-funding but have very
limited ability to do that into the future.

To continue with two full-timers, beyond their ability to self-fund,
the Foundation will need an annual income of at least 100,000 GBP.
This is based on a salary of about 35K – low for the field – and
includes NI and pension contributions, some minor office costs
(although not an actual office), and overheads (e.g. a little travel).
It doesn’t include enough for international travel or for subsistence:
at this level we would need visited institutions to fund that
themselves. 120,000 GBP would be more comfortable – it would allow us
to pay a part-time administrator/fund-raiser, and/or an intern, or to
rent office space – and should be regarded as a sensible floor.

I estimate that we could usefully spend up to about 500,000 GBP
annually. This level would allow us to have 7 or 8 FTEs, including an
administrator, at an average salary of 40,000 GBP, with office space
and some overhead costs (e.g. computers, travel and subsistence).
Beyond about that scale, it is not clear what work the Foundation
would be doing, or whether it would be getting value-for-money.

Here are some possible funding strategies:

S1. find a single large non-profit, trust, foundation, or other
benefactor who will fully fund us.

We already attempted this for OCC, before forming the Foundation. It
has the advantage of being low-overhead: not many ‘customers’ to
satisfy. It has two major disadvantages: first that benefactors on
that scale are hard to find, and secondly that it puts all our eggs in
one basket. After a year we have to go back to the same people for
more money, and we are vulnerable to a change of heart, of personnel,
or of financial climate. This was emphasized in the ICOADS talk at
the workshop: that project got a lot of strength from being
multi-agency and multi-national.

S2: a number of benefactors who will write us smaller cheques to
pursue our objects.

I imagine setting up a “sponsors” system, and shopping it around to
large institutions, companies, agencies, non-profits, and so on.
Often these systems have multiple levels, e.g. silver/gold/platinum,
for different amounts of money, e.g. 5K/10K/20K. Consider that 6
‘platinum’ sponsors would foot our whole bill for a year, so we only
need one of those every couple of months.

Possible sponsors: Big corporations: IBM, Sun, Google, Deutsche Bank.
Climate bodies: Met Office, WMO, NCDC, etc. Science communication
bodies: Royal Society, Royal Institution, Nature, Science, BBC, etc.
Open-knowledge people: OKFn, Shuttleworth, OSI, 4iP, etc. Non-profit
organisations with an interest in this direction: Grantham Foundation,
Smith Family Foundation, etc.

For comparison see http://python.org/psf/sponsorship/

An academic associate was pretty favourable about this idea: he has
experience doing this for conferences, and says that once one has any
sort of inside contact in a large company, hitting them up for numbers
on this sort of scale is not hard.

Suggested benefits for silver/gold/platinum sponsors? Obviously they
get their name on a page on the website. Platinum sponsors probably
get a little logo on the home page. Possibly they get some sort of
governance/oversight seat if they want it (see below).

S3: benefactors linked to general activities

Another specific suggestion from an academic: Regular Climate Code
Workshops, with sponsorship. Again, multiple levels (the 5K-20K range
was suggested when talking about this in particular). It is not
uncommon for organisations (e.g. user groups) to fund all their
activities on profits of workshops and conferences.

Workshops are a good idea anyway. Provide some training
(e.g. mini-carpentry), some war stories, some talks on code
publication, lightning talks. Workshops could be general or could be
focussed on a specific software project, especially inter-agency
projects. For single-project workshops, we could run code sprints.

S4: surplus from providing specific activities

This amounts to selling services which address our objects, at high
prices, such that the excess can be used to pay us for unfunded
activities. For instance: a one-day visit, 2K; a week of training,
5K. Of course the reason for the price level would be made clear to
the clients, and they could also be labelled as some sort of sponsor
or supporter. (And in fact, 5K isn’t a bad price for a week’s worth
of training).

S5: providing other activities

If we can pursue our objects by billing out our skills at a sensible
day rate, then that is a good thing. For instance, charging
institutions for a week’s consultancy. Or appearing on grant
proposals. I don’t think this is going to work for all our funding,
but I can certainly imagine getting some work this way.

A related idea, much cheaper and certainly to be pursued in parallel,
is a web page giving sound-bites, references, commendations, and
messages of support from diverse people and organisations. And
another listing press and blog coverage. Again, the immediate goal is
to boost our credibility for potential benefactors. Once we have any
benefactors, their existence also adds to this weight, but we should
tap them for testimonial quotes.