A Month in the Life of a DSF Board Member
I was honored to be elected as a Board Member this year for the Django Software Foundation, the non-profit that runs Django. In this post, I want to shed some light on what the DSF and DSF Board Members actually do.
I’ve written previously about How Django Works Behind the Scenes. The main takeaway is that there are two sides to Django: the technical side and the legal/financial/community side.
The technical side refers to Django’s codebase, which is open source. Any developer can contribute and discussion around the development of new features, security issues, and minor bugs occurs in the django-developers Google group. Currently, Django’s development is undergoing a transition away from Django Core Members to a new governance model led by a Technical Board, which you can read more about here.
The DSF Board handles the non-technical aspects of Django: legal, financial, and community. It does not control the technical direction of Django. This distinction is by design and very intentional.
The DSF accepts corporate and individual donations, which make up an annual budget of roughly $200,000 USD per year. The majority of this money is used to fund the Django Fellowship Program, which sponsors two paid contractors who work on triaging tickets, merging issues, and managing releases. The current Fellows are Mariusz Felisiak and my Django Chat podcast co-host, Carlton Gibson.
The DSF also grants licenses for DjangoCon organizers in the US, Europe, Africa, Australia and beyond. And it provides financial support to conferences and workshops that promote Django generally.
DSF Board Members
The DSF Board is voted on annually by DSF Individual Members, who are appointed by the DSF in recognition of their service to the Django community. If you know someone who should be considered for Individual Membership, you can nominate them here.
For 2020 there are seven members:
- Frank Wiles, President
- Anna Makarudze, Vice President
- James Bennett, Secretary
- William Vincent, Treasurer
- Kátia Nakamura
- Aaron Bassett
- Sayantika Banik
As President, Frank leads the meetings. This is his fifth year in the role, matching the unofficial precedent set by the first DSF President, Russell Keith-Magee, who held the position from 2011-2015. In 2021, a new DSF President will likely be appointed.
As Vice President, Anna manages nominations for DSF Individual Members and has played a large role in representing Africa and issues to do with Africa within the DSF community. For example, she has been a leader in helping to organize the inaugural DjangoCon Africa conference.
As Treasurer, I balance the books each month and manage expenses/donations. There is a lot of small, detail work involved with managing donations, especially grants from companies/corporations. I spend anywhere from 5-10 hours a month on these tasks, including a lot of emails. I am greatly helped in these efforts by DSF Assistant Catherine Holmes.
DSF Monthly Meetings
We meet on the second Thursday of every month via a video conferencing call. After taking attendance, the first order of business is the Treasurer’s Report on the balance sheet. After that, any immediate action items are discussed. For the most recent meeting, this included details around the annual JetBrains PyCharm sponsorship which raised $40,000 this year.
Next up is the Recurring Business section which covers grant awards, DSF Individual Member nominations, Corporate memberships, and general requests to the DSF. We use a Trello Board to track each of these tasks.
Then it’s on to Ongoing Business. Currently that involves logistics around the elections for the new Technical Board. And then any New Business, such as ongoing funding by the DSF for the Django Forum.
Finally, the largest bucket is typically a discussion of various matters that arise for private discussion, anything from annual approval of the Fellows contracts, fundraising efforts, conference logistics, new programs, and (rarely) disputes within the community that rise to the DSF level.
Each meeting takes about an hour and ends with action items for various Board Members. In the interim, we communicate via email if more immediate matters arise or there is information to share.
My Personal Goals
Personally, I have a several goals for my DSF tenure this year. The largest is to listen to existing Board members about the perennial issues and to learn from my fellow Board members about issues in their respective communities.
Additionally, I want to standardize the Treasurer role and create processes that can be passed down to future Treasurers, for example maintaining a DSF Treasurer Highlights spreadsheet for the Board that provides quick visibility on a monthly and annual basis of income/expenses.
We’ve already this year created an official merchandise store but it needs better promotion and placement on the DjangoProject.com website. If anyone wants to help with this effort by making PR requests within the source code repo, let me know!
A related effort is turning the unofficial Pony mascot into something official, an additional item that can be on merchandise. And probably we should add stickers, too. With all of this, sorting out how to make the process transparent and available globally is the challenge.
For fundraising, a major effort already has been setting up Github Sponsors for Django, now at 57 and counting. It may sound simple enough, but there’s still quite a lot of coordination required both with Github and within Django on such a matter. Frank Wiles and Mariusz Felisiak helped greatly on this project.
Looking forward, other projects in the works include having an official Django Survey of usage, similar to what exists for Python each year. This was last done in 2015 and filled out by 3,000+ developers. I believe it would help the development process to have such feedback on a more regular basis.
There are also several plans around having a DSF Grant Fellowship, or something similar, to support major new features on Django without having to resort to Kickstarter campaigns. Look for more info in the future on this front.
I hope this write-up provides more visibility into how Django itself is run and the work of volunteer DSF Board Members. These roles are unpaid so if you interact with my fellow Board Members, please do take the time to thank them for their work. And if you have feedback on the Django community, you can contact the DSF directly.
DSF Board elections are held annually. If you or someone you know would be a good addition to the Board, do participate in the nomination/voting process which occurs at the end of the year. It’s important that the Board represents the global Django community.