Gnome Foundation faces cash crunch over women outreach program

The foundation oversees the free and open source Gnome desktop environment

The Gnome Foundation does not have any cash reserves as expenses on a women outreach program had to be made ahead of actually receiving payments from sponsors.

As a result of a shortfall in the budget, the board of the foundation, which manages the free and open source Gnome desktop environment project, has voted to "freeze all expenditure which is not essential to the running of the Foundation."

The freeze affects sponsorship expenses which are unpaid at this time, but it does not affect the funds which the foundation holds for other organizations, foundation board member Ekaterina Gerasimova wrote in a post.

The Gnome Foundation launched together with other organizations an Outreach Program for Women in a bid to get more women to get involved in FOSS (free and open source software). The OPW program is organized by the foundation.

While payments to interns under the program have to be strictly timed, the incoming payments from sponsoring organizations are fluid, Gerasimova wrote in a FAQ.

As the foundation has had to front the costs of OPW, it is now facing a budget shortfall. It expects to tide over the crisis by July by keeping expenditure at the minimum while it regains some delayed revenue.

One of the priorities for the foundation is to follow up aggressively on unpaid invoices and subscription fees from advisory board members. It is also asking for donations and referrals.

The Gnome project released its Gnome 3.12 version in March with new features for users and developers. The project was started in 1997 by Miguel de Icaza and Federico Mena Quintero, who were then university students. Its first round of the internship program for women was introduced in 2006 and resumed in 2010. The stipends of US$5,500 are not limited to coding but also include design of user experience, graphic design, documentation, Web development, marketing and other tasks required in a FOSS project.

The foundation hopes to work out a solution with sponsors so that it will not have to continue to shoulder the responsibility of paying interns out of the foundation budget and wait for other organizations to reimburse it, which would enable the continuation of the outreach effort without undue consequences for Gnome in the future, Gerasimova wrote.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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