Some thoughts on sponsorship vs grant applications
- Grant applications are somewhat like freelance jobs: people propose to work on something first in an application, and then work on that after that is approved. They get paid while (or after) they perform the work.
- Sponsorships are about recognising work that someone is already doing, and encouraging and enabling them to keep doing their thing.
- Sponsorships are about trust. Trusting people to do the right thing. Trusting that whatever they end up doing will be what's best for the project. Trust which they have gained because of their contributions so far.
- Sponsorships always come 'too late': it will start only once people have gained this trust and shown their work. This problem can be 'corrected' for by also stopping sponsorships 'too late': when someone stops doing the work that they were sponsored for, delay the end of the sponsorship for another N (one? three? six?) months.
- Applying for a grant means getting paid from the 'start'. The start of the specific work that's proposed at least. You'd probably need a good track record to show your qualifications to be able to get your grant application approved, however, which is something a lot of contributors will not be able to do when they're just getting started in a project.
- Getting a grant application approved comes with committing to do the work. The money is tied to the work that's still ongoing. Such expectations basically turn their volunteer work into a (second? third?) job.
- Sponsorship comes with no commitment. It's about work that has already been done, and is merely empowering and encouraging people to make more of it happen, not about expectations. Future decisions about extending any sponsorship are of course made based on whether more good work happened, but any sponsorship decisions and money received are not tied to ongoing and future work, but all based on past work. Even if a sponsee decides to completely quit the project, the money they're currently receiving is well deserved, as it relates to past work.
- Sponsorship enables creativity and flexibility. It allows people to follow their inspiration and do whatever they can be most productive at at any given time, without being tied to a particular proposal or job description. It creates space for the kind of fundamental work that's not easily described and often invisible, but very necessary to keep projects like this healthy. It empowers sponsees to explore many new ideas that have not fully formed yet, but can end up making a huge impact. This is critical for the success of innovative projects like Rust.
- Sponsorship gives people the space to grow. Sponsees have the space to also spend time on things they might not be considered 'qualified' for yet, allowing them to grow into new roles, making it possible for the project to adapt.