best way to support Free Software financially?

Daniel Pocock daniel at
Mon Sep 30 10:44:49 BST 2019

On 29/09/2019 10:11, John Rooke wrote:
> Daniel,
> Just a comment on your market model
> On 29/09/2019 00:23, Daniel Pocock wrote
>> Imagine you need a surgery.  Will you choose:
>> a) the doctor with the lowest number of dead patients?
>> b) the doctor with the lowest price?
>> c) the doctor who makes you feel good and always has young interns of
>> the opposite sex at the reception desk?
>> When it comes to charitable giving, many people choose (c), not (a).
>> Emotions win over logic.
> 1.  The implication that a) is always preferable to c) is misleading. 
> In fact a) may deliberately focus on non fatal illnesses in order to
> improve their score, while c) may be the most skilled surgeon on the planet.
> In other words, markets depend on information and information is never
> complete.

I agree that was a very simplistic example, it was intended to get
people thinking about the case of donating to not profits so please
don't become too stressed about the simplicity of the example.

> 2.  Regular subscriptions are convenient and allow organisations to
> forward plan.  To put it in the jargon of economics, they reduce
> transaction costs.

That is both good and bad.

When organizations forward plan, they often plan to pay salaries.
Paying a salary and benefits is sometimes useful but isn't always
synonymous with meeting the organization's goals.

Every non-profit and every government does this to some extent.

In the end you sometimes have a situation where there are a queue of
brothers and sisters waiting their "turn" to get a job doing nothing.  I
know that sounds extreme but that is how it works in some parts of the
world.  Some free software organizations have already been accused of
nepotism and cronyism recently but it looks like it happens in patches,
it is not universal like in many organizations in Greece.

> I would suggest that the questions to ask are:
> 1.  Is my current pattern of giving delivering value, i.e. are the
> benefits delivered greater than the costs incurred (costs, of course
> would include any perceived misbehaviour that you may be financing);
> 2.  Is there a more cost-effective pattern of giving I could adopt?

Previously many people assumed the Fellowship representatives would help
monitor organizations and answer those questions.  Now it seems to be
down to every individual donor to monitor things personally and
hopefully share their observations to help other donors make the best

> Factors to consider might include:
>   * directly financing development v. financing political activity
>   * the political effectiveness of the organisation / excellence of the
>     software
>   * social/political activities of the org/indv not directly relating to
>     software freedom
>   * how much time have I got to dedicate to the decision-making process?
> Currently, I will go on financing FSF and FSFE, but I wait with interest
> to see what ideas emerge on this list.

Thanks for all this feedback on the topic

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