Kushal Das

FOSS and life. Kushal Das talks here.


How to get funding for your new users group?

Over the years I met many students who want to start a new Users Group in their college, sometimes it is a Linux Users’ Group, sometimes it is related to any other particular technology. They all have one common question: how to find funding for the group? In this post I am going to talk about what did we do for Durgapur Linux Users Group, and how are we managing currently.

The domain name and the whole back story

Back in 2004 when I started the group, I started a page in Geocities. For the young kids, Geocities was a service from Yahoo! where you can create static HTML pages and was one of the easiest ways to have a website. After a few weeks, I found another service which was providing .cc domains for free. So, we moved to dgplug.cc for few months. Meanwhile, we kept searching for a way to get our own domain name. We found one Indian provider where we could get a domain and some space for around Rs.750 annually. That was the cheapest we managed to find. It may not sound too much money for a year, but in 2004 none of us had that much money. We could not even raise that much money among all the regular participants.

I called my uncle Dr. Abhijit Majumder (Assistant Professor, IIT Bombay), then a Ph.D. student in IIT Kanpur, if he could help me with Rs.1500 (for the first 2 years funding). He generally supported all my crazy ideas before, and he also agreed to help this time. But then the question came how to get the money. Online money transfer was not an option for us. Luckily during the same week, my college senior Dr. Maunendra Sankar De Sarkar (he was an M.Tech student in the same institute as Abhijit) was coming down to Durgapur. He agreed to pass me the money in cash and later collect it from Abhijit after he goes back to Kanpur.

Even after we found the way to fund us for the first time, we got a new problem. To pay the domain register we have to use a credit card or use HDFC’s cheque. I started asking around all of my Computer Science department professors if anyone can help. Finally, with the help of Prof. Baijant we managed to deposit the cheque to the bank.

For the first two years, that was the only point for which we required money. For the meetings, there was no other expenditure. We never provided any food or drinks in the meetings. If anyone wanted to eat anything, they did that after the meetings by paying for themselves. Not having any recurring costs was a huge benefit. I would suggest the same to everyone, try to minimize the costs as much as possible. Though in a big city it is much easier to get sponsorship from different companies or organization for the meetups, remember it is someone’s money. Spend it like it is your own money. Find out what the bare minimum requirements are, and only spend money on those.

How do we currently fund dgplug?

Before we answer this question, we should identify the expenses. Because all of our meetings happen over IRC we don’t have any recurring costs for meetings. The only things we are spending money for are:

  • The domain name
  • The web hosting (we use Dreamhost for static hosting)
  • Various bots (running in containers)

After I started working, I started paying for the first two expenses. The containers run beside my other containers in my personal servers, so no extra cost there. Among dgplug and friends now we have many volunteers who are working professionals. We know that we can manage any extra cost that comes up among ourselves. For example, this year, during PyCon India we gave a scholarship to Trishna so that she can attend the conference. We had a quick call, and the funding was arranged in a few minutes. We also had group dinners at a few previous PyCon(s), and provided lodging for women student participants, that was also handled among the group members.

But all of this never came from the start. It took time to grow the community, to have friends who take dgplug as important as I do. We still try to cut costs wherever possible. If you are starting a new group, and try to spend as little as possible, many members from the existing communities will notice that. The group will be in a much better shape to ask for any required funding when it is really necessary. People will help you out, but first, the volunteers have to earn the trust from the community. That comes from work done at the ground level. Be true to yourselves, and keep doing the good work. Good things will happen.