Consultation on fundraising strategy

For 2023, the OSMF Board has decided to target a balanced budget. Given our expected income and expenses, there is a gap of approximately 500K GBP that we need to fundraise for.

In the fall, we started planning for this by taking part in a workshop on fundraising strategy and operations Board/Minutes/2022-10 - OpenStreetMap Foundation.

What has been clear is that we need a diversified campaign engaging wide community for small amounts, and target larger asks to businesses and major giving from individuals. This needs to be organized and executed effectively – there is a lot of communication, outreach, development of new mechanisms for giving, etc.

We are considering contracting an experience consultant who is already engaged in OpenStreetMap community to assist us in this process. The usual set up for such is a small percentage fee of what’s raised. They would work closely with the Board and fundraising committee, as well as share details of process publicly in regular diary entries. All of this is designed in mind to make the fundraising campaign reflect how we work as a community. We think this is low risk, high reward, and that dedicated attention to fundraising is necessary to make it successful.

We’ll need everyone’s help as well – from getting the word out, creatively engaging potential donors, to making asks, to of course kicking in a bit of money too.

Please share viewpoints here, or if you prefer directly with We will receive your input over the next week until March 22.


One possible option there is to ask all OSM members, if they are able to, to contribute a very small amount e.g 1 US$ / GB£ / € each “month” (quarter / 6 months / annually).

A small amount such as that shouldn’t have a serious effect on anybody’s individual finances, but x 5 million members, should also make a nice amount!

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Why monthly donations are important for your NGO

The importance of monthly donations for non-profit organizations: Monthly donations can provide a consistent stream of revenue throughout the year, which is beneficial for non-profits of any size or growth stage. Recurring donors are more valuable to non-profits than one-time donors, and online recurring donations are convenient for donors and help with donor retention. The article lists six reasons why monthly donations are important, including increased revenue and the ability to plan ahead with a predictable income stream.

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Keep in mind that even many intermediate mappers have no idea of what is going “behind the scenes” in OSM, that OSMF exists, who they are and what they do. We have a problem of community awareness. It is pretty much possible for someone to rake in a few dozen mapping days without having their changeset even commented.
Maybe the local chapters could help by the way of institutionalizing the “welcoming committee” which already sort of exists with and mention the OSMF goals and needs in the welcome message.


Thanks we are going to look at setting up recurring donations.

And agreed, communication of what makes OSM and OSMF work is top priority for the campaign. Good idea to use welcome messages from local chapters to explain OSMF as well.


Thanks, Mikel.

One thing about that though - there are lots of charities that already ask for money that way, but I’ve seen many of them that ask for $50+ / month, which immediately turns me off the idea!

If you’re going to put this out to all members, please don’t set a high minimum amount - leave it at what people can easily afford without missing it from their daily finances, & stress that they don’t donate anything if they can’t afford it. As I suggested, a tiny amount like 1 $ / £ / € a month shouldn’t bother many people but will certainly add up in the long run!

If the international donation concept turns out to be too complicated, a work around may be to actually donate to your local country chapter, which then passes it on? e.g. I donate to Oceania, they get to keep “5%” of the proceeds & pass the rest to Head Office?


Remember, one can join the OpenStreetMap Foundation. It costs £15 per year (~ 1 GBP per month), and that money goes to the OSMF. :slightly_smiling_face:


Briefly looked at the link, but didn’t find most crucial things:

  • What is the budget breakdown? The sum is very high given that it is maintained by free contributors, you need to give good breakdown.
  • How we can follow that this budget is spent properly?
  • What changes in the maps we will see if this money will be collected? Do you actually see who are the current users and how to expand OSM usage?
  • Is there a possibility to get back part of this sum from businesses that gain money on the data? If you are providing services based on OSM data and gaining money on this data (smn like Citymapper) then they definitely need to pay. I know that in other countries there are organizations that resell raw downloaded OSM data. Simply download it and sell. Shortly speaking my point is to discuss who are main consumers and what services they provide based on OSM. They must either contribute back or pay some portion of the fee for the data if this is a commercial usage.
  • What benefits / perks each tier of donaters will get. Maybe you may get a free post card for 5 pounds per year, invitations to local gathering for 10 pounds, free lectures on geo spatial tools, free ticket to a conference where OSM is presenting smth.

I couldn’t find a consolidated budget anywhere either and that should be fixed. Board/Minutes/2023-02/Budget - OpenStreetMap Foundation (really not easy to locate). Somebody from the board would have to give the definite answers on the first set of questions, but everything that has been communicated to date indicates that the current plan is to continue as is, and the funds are required just for that (which from a ballpark pov adds up: 2.5-3 FTEs, hosting, accounting and legal, CAPEX).

The simple answer to this is “no”. Outside of perhaps a moral obligation to contribute if you are making heaps of money off of OSM, there is no (legal) obligation to do so (and for all practical purposes this can’t be changed).

A donation is not a purchase of goods or services.


I agree with this. Everyone will be able to donate an amount depending on their finances and also ask their family and friends to donate a small amount. As a college student, it is easy for me to find some people who can donate in some way and I will surely do that. It will add up if everyone does the same, telling their peers about it and asking for donations.

We definitely need to spread awareness about this. A mapper like me has no idea about the expenses and what it takes to run such a large OpenSource project.

Also, I think it would be great if we can provide some attractive digital badges or a certificate for donations which the donors can display on their social handles like Twitter. I have seen many organisations doing this, which greatly increases their popularity and helps in spreading the word.

Donation is very big industry which currently uses a lot of different mechanics:

Crowdfunding ( crowdfunder co uk)

  • People get perks depending on their contribution. This could be a name on the site, a dinner with an owner, a lecture on how project is organized, a consultation on your geo task and etc, or a huge thanks and mentions on the linkedin…

Good example is lunch with Elon Musk or Warren Buffett:
(google bid on charity to get a dinner with Elon Musk / Warren Buffet)
And basically you shouldn’t be very popular like this two guys, it is always cool to hear smn passionate about a project or an idea.

Patreon (patreon com):

  • Mainly promote access to some additional content. For example to participate as a listener on board discussions, accesses to some of the ongoing discussions with Microsoft or just more detailed insights from the board in a personal letter.
  • free tour with a guide along any city by local contributor.


Wiki fundraising:

  • I remember it as a most forceful. It shows a large banner on top of the page until the required amount of money is gathered.
    https://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/File:Fundraising_banner.jpeg
    By the way they actually provide a very good guide to fundraising:
    https://meta.wikimedia .org/wiki/Fundraising/2020-21_Report

Wiki endowment: (wikimediaendowment org / )
One of the major contributors are Amazon, Facebook and etc. Thus I wound’t strikeout partnerships with big organizations.

Roadshows in a same way that Investment Bankers do:
Basically you can go to all major data consumers and show them how the project became better in last year and ask for their help.

Targeted contributions:

  • More granular level, this is similar to Amazon MTurk. Propose each member to fill a list of tasks / good to have ideas that are missing on the map and then to vote for each task using their money (for example a task could be to draw all houses in Fulham, London). Then if smn will decide to do this task he will take all the voted budget.

That this is all sometimes thrown in to the same fundraising bucket is clear, but legally and financially they are all very different with different accounting and taxation consequences. This in turn depends on the domicile of both the recipient and donor, but the relevant UK definition of donation is:

A gift of money or other property that is voluntarily given and accepted without expecting or receiving something in return.  

See Glossary | Fundraising Regulator

One of the many reasons for moving the OSMF out of the UK is that it doesn’t seem to be viable to get a similar charitable status to other countries, in which donations are tax advantageous for both sides.

The OSMF already (obviously) has a number of active sources of funds, for example membership, which for corporate members is in a tiered fashion with some perks. It regularly organizes conferences that tend to turn a (taxable) profit. There is no need to invent any of that from scratch, what has historically been weak are non-earmarked donations that don’t have any donor imposed use restrictions.


Uff… Make more sense now. Thanks a lot for explaining.

I couldn’t find a consolidated budget anywhere either and that should be

The board approved this budget.
Please feel free to ask for a further breakdown of items if you need
details. I’ve made the degree of detail that makes sense to me.

I’m also happy for suggestions where to place more prominent links to
the document.

Sorry for the edit - Discourse got the mail answer wrong.

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Hi Roland, I actually did find it later in the minutes, it is just rather hidden there. Maybe a link in the financials section of the OSMF website would be in order.

Before I forget: the OSMF website is missing the 2021 tax filing (I assume the 2022 one will be available soon too), I suspect it would help interested parties understand how the OSMF finances have evolved over the last couple of years.

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If every penny and cent counts, then we should also consider adding ‘Github Sponsors’ to the list.

“GitHub Sponsors allows the developer community to financially support the people and organizations who design, build, and maintain the open source projects they depend on, directly on GitHub.” ( read more )

As I see - “GitHub Sponsors is now generally available for organizations.”
so maybe we can set to

I just wonder what the expectations the donors would have wrt how the donations are used, because with the exception of iD the OSMF does none of

As I understand it, money management is an existing problem in small projects. If some best-practice could be produced, it could help many small osm-related projects.

But anyway: is under OpenStreetMap github org
and just check the :
“We are currently not set up to receive small donations.”

imho: It’s possible that some companies’ employees can only provide support through the already (company) approved GitHub Sponsorship, simply because any other form encounters bureaucratic obstacles.

BlockquoteThe usual set up for such is a small percentage fee of what’s raised> Blockquote

This method of compensation is highly unethical in the US and is against the American Fundraising Professionals code of conduct.