The deadline for GUADEC 2019 sponsorship is tomorrow, Friday, July 5th. That means you still have a whole day to apply if you haven’t already 😉
This week, I had the opportunity of helping some GNOME newcomers apply for travel sponsorship, and I wanted to blog about some of the questions that came up along the way. I hope this helps anyone else who is trying to better understand how to apply for sponsorship under the new travel policy.
How to Apply for Travel Sponsorship
Philip Chimento and I helped rethink the travel policy this year as part of our term on the board. It was recently adopted and has a few important changes. Here’s a quick summary of the new process and what you’ll need to do to apply.
- Read the GNOME Travel Policy. Make sure that you can receive money through one of the payment options that we provide, otherwise, you won’t be able to be reimbursed.
- Fill out the Application Form (you can copy and paste the template on the wiki page into an email).
- Send screenshots of your flight and hotel price search along with your application form to firstname.lastname@example.org (you can do the price search on Kayak or Expedia, for example. Take a screenshot or save a PDF of the 1st page of results). Here’s more info on how to do this.
Remember that low-cost flights often make you pay extra for a checked bag, so make sure you include the baggage costs in your request. Here’s our policy on allowed baggage.
Note: Organizers will often book entire hostels, dorms, hotels, or homes for GUADEC and some of our other large GNOME events. Sponsored individuals are typically expected to stay there and will get a pre-paid room for the duration of their stay instead of a reimbursement for lodging. Read more about this in the FAQ below.
- Determine if you need a visa, and if so, request an invitation letter.
- Take photos during the event, if possible, and blog about your experience to help tell more people about what you did and learned at the event.
- After the event, you have 6 weeks to file a reimbursement report. You’ll need to include receipts of your expenses and a link to your blog post. Here is more info on what’s expected.
FAQs and Troubleshooting
Who can apply for sponsorship?
Anybody who is interested in contributing to the GNOME community is encouraged to apply! You do not need to be a Foundation member; however, Foundation Members and event speakers get preference.
We have limited funds available, so if you’re not a Foundation Member, make sure to let us know why you’re excited about attending, how you’ve contributed or participated so far, any relevant participation you’ll have at the event (Volunteering? Attending a hackfest, workshop, or BoF?), and how you might participate in GNOME beyond the event.
How do I know if event organizers provide pre-booked accommodations and what happens if they do?
If you are traveling to one of our main conferences, it is likely that event organizers will have pre-booked accommodation for conference participants. Sponsored individuals are expected to stay there and will be given a pre-booked room instead of reimbursement for lodging.
Event organizers will typically post about pre-booked accommodations on their website. For GUADEC 2019, for example, the pre-booked options are listed on the GUADEC 2019 website.
In your travel sponsorship application, you should list any special requests that you have for the pre-booked lodging options (e.g. requests around accessibility, single sex rooms, etc.). Accommodation of those requests is not guaranteed, but the travel committee will take your requests and preferences into account.
You can read more about lodging options and expectations in the “lodging costs” section of the travel policy.
Can I extend my travel dates so I can do some sightseeing after the event?
Yes, you can extend your travel dates, but the GNOME Foundation can only reimburse you for the actual dates of the event + travel days.
This means that screenshots of flight and hotel comparisons that you send with your application should only be for the event + travel days.
If your request is approved, you can then book your flight for whatever dates you want, but you will only get reimbursed up to the amount that the travel committee approved you for.
Read more about this here.
What if I can’t afford to pay for my own ticket?
The GNOME Foundation normally can’t directly pay for people’s tickets and only reimburses people at the end, but with this new travel policy, exceptions can sometimes be made.
Please add any requests like this to your application, and the Travel Committee may contact you about it since these requests are decided on a case by case basis.
Flight prices have gone up since I sent in my request, what do I do?
We saw this happen a lot in previous years, so we are trying out this new policy to help. Check out the “expired airfare” section of the travel policy for more information.
The visa application process is confusing — help!
I’ve heard this a lot, and I commiserate with those who need to apply for a visa to travel to our events!
Here are some tips that might help:
- Book cancellable flights and hotels. In some cases, you may not have to actually book flights and accommodation before your visa is approved. Instead, you can just provide an itinerary of your trip. Make sure you understand your visa requirements before trying to book something.
If you do need to provide booked flights, try using a local travel agent. They can usually put a hold on tickets for some days — usually a couple of weeks. This means the tickets will be booked, but not paid for. You will have to pay the travel agency a nominal fee for their services. Make sure to talk to the travel committee about this before you engage with the travel agency and see if they can reimburse you the extra amount, if needed.
For hotels, there are some sites like booking.com that let you cancel without penalty up to some days before the date of the trip. This is great, just in case your visa doesn’t get approved, you decide to stay somewhere else (like the pre-booked location that the event team might organize), or in case your travel plans change a bit as the travel dates get closer.
- Request an invitation letter. As mentioned above, you can request an invitation letter for GUADEC 2019. The local team is the only group who can help you get a letter, not the travel committee.
- Financial stability requirement: Generally visa applications will require you to present your bank statement for the last 3-6 months. This is done in order to assess your financial stability and make sure that you have enough of a financial buffer to bear additional expenses in the foreign land if needed.
If you are a student, you can submit an attested letter from your parents/guardian, specifying that they can cover addition expenses (if any). If you do this, you will need to attach your parent/guardian’s bank statement in your application and specify this in your personal cover letter.
- Talk to the travel committee. The travel committee is a group of volunteers who really wants to help improve this process for the GNOME community. If you have specific questions, or face challenges along the way, make sure to contact them.
A huge thanks to Umang Jain, a member of the Travel Committee, for helping me create these tips!
I still have more questions, who can I ask for help?
The travel committee can help you answer more specific questions. Here’s how to contact them:
IRC: #travel (here’s how to use IRC… it’s basically what we use to chat)
Riot: #travel (that link will help you join the correct channel via Riot, a chat client many of us use. Thanks for creating that link, by the way, @Carlos Soriano!)
Ok, that was a lot of information, but I hope it helps!
See you in Greece 🙂