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On Debian not using its money (was: Q to all candidates: SWOT analysis)

[I've moved this over to debian-project and only bcc'd debian-vote]

The post I am replying to is
https://lists.debian.org/debian-vote/2015/03/msg00033.html (and
https://lists.debian.org/debian-vote/2015/03/msg00031.html), but
there's a sibling discussion going on at

also sprach Stefano Zacchiroli <zack@debian.org> [2015-03-15 10:47 +0100]:
> I encourage DPL candidates to look at Debian reserves under the
> angle of "how many DebConf with close-to-nothing sponsorship would
> our current reserves allow us to do?". That, I believe, would set
> the discussion in a much reasonable mindset than "OMG, we've *a
> lot* of money which we're not using".

I'd like to also offer an additional perspective.

First, I don't think we should ever organise DebConf such that there
is a six-digit risk that Debian might have to cover, and if only
because the non-profit (and hence tax-exempt) nature of our assets
might make it difficult to just spend the money on a whole DebConf.

DebConf should always be well-planned/-budgeted and include
various emergency brakes (i.e. worst-case scenario planning), and
Debian's contribution or guarantee to DebConf should be capped and
ideally known very early on.

But the main point I would like to make is that we should (IMHO)
strive towards separating our assets (substance) from our income
(cash flow).

It'll be very useful to have a some funds sitting in various
accounts that can be used in emergencies and to cover liquidity
bottlenecks, the amount of which would need to be determined (and
would probably be less than what we have right now).

Recurring expenses, such as aforementioned DebConf guarantee, or
budgets for various teams, should come out of cash flow, not

So the problem is really not that we have too much money and don't
know how to spend it. Fortunately, we have conservative DPLs and
thinkers in Debian so that we were able to build up substance.

Our problem wrt money is IMHO that we don't have cash flow, i.e.
recurring, plannable, dependable income, which can be allocated to
budgets and necessary expenses, bypassing the substance which then
only serves as our backup.

The substance is one of the two things that distinguishes us from
a startup seeking cash flow. The other difference is that we already
have a very strong brand. It won't happen without careful design and
a lot of work on our behalf, but it should definitely be possible to
create this cash flow, especially if it were a project decision and
delegated to a few.

¹) https://www.debian.org/partners/

 .''`.   martin f. krafft <madduck@d.o> @martinkrafft
: :'  :  proud Debian developer
`. `'`   http://people.debian.org/~madduck
  `-  Debian - when you have better things to do than fixing systems
"i always had a repulsive need to be something more than human."
                                                      -- david bowie

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