The Grant Committee: what we do and how we do it.
Fri, 02-Dec-2005 by
Curtis "Ovid" Poe
As many folks know, the Perl Foundation Grant Committee is responsible for awarding and managing grants to improve the Perl language and benefit the Perl community. What many don't know is how this works.
First, I'm Curtis "Ovid" Poe. You may have encountered me on Perlmonks or used some of my CPAN modules. I currently sit on the Perl Foundation steering committee and I'm the grant secretary for the grant committee. I was elected to the latter position after serving a couple of years as a grant manager. During that time, I oversaw grants for Maypole, Annocpan, PPI and many other projects. Without funding from the Perl Foundation, many of these projects may have been much smaller in scope or never existed.
You can also read a bit about our charter. This basically explains what we are, how we're chosen and the reporting we should handle. What you probably want to know, though, are our rules of operation. These explain how we actually award and manage grants. Because the grant committee is responsible for money, some of our rules are a bit stricter than others. For example, no sitting member of the grant committee may receive non-travel grants by the Foundation. This is to help avoid conflict of interest.
Grant applications are reviewed and voted on 4 times a year. When that time comes, I send out email to the grant committee letting them know of an upcoming round of voting and the deadline for votes. Each grant application is included in a separate email with a "voting slip":
[ ] FOR
[ ] AGAINST
[ ] ABSTAIN
If a grant is approved (by a simple majority but 2/3 of the members must vote) I notify the grantee and assign a grant manager. A few final details usually need to get nailed down and then we award half of the money up front and half on delivery. The grant manager generally has the final say as to whether or not a grant has been successfully completed. Sometimes the grant recipient does not complete everything but the money still gets awarded. This is to handle common situations where instead of writing an article for Perl.com, they write one for IBM Developer Works. Instead of attending OSCON and giving a presentation for their software, they go to YAPC::EU instead. Our main objective isn't to force someone into a rigid contract. Our main objective is to be fair.
And on a personal note, I find it a bit sad that some otherwise wonderful grants get rejected for common reasons:
- No grant amount listed.
- No evidence that they applicant is in contact with the maintainer of the software they want to work on.
- Worthwhile goal but the details seem fuzzy or unrealistic.
As for the touchy subject of "grant amount", grant awards are typically in the $500.00 to $5000.00 range. The higher the amount requested, the more likely the grant will be rejected unless the goal is very worthwhile and we have confidence the recipient can handle it (unfortunately, this means that unknown recipients are less likely to get awarded large grants).
Further, as a general rule of thumb, you can expect to not
earn market rate for a grant. While there are exceptions made, if you charge $120.00 and hour and your project should take two fourty-hour weeks, we probably aren't going to pay you $9,600.00 (120 x 80) unless it's for something extraordinary. We are spending money that people and companies donate to the Perl Foundation and we must be extremely careful about the conditions under which we award grants.
Well, that about sums up this introductory entry. In the future, I'll be posting more about our day to day activities. I hope this has shed a bit of light on what we do and why.