Notes from the Ethereum Foundation grant-making team

I had an opportunity to sit down with some folks from the Ethereum Foundation grant-making team. (Edit: the reason we were meeting was something else entirely, which I look forward to being able to tell you about soon! :grin: But after we’d settled that, another person who is responsible for Ethereum Foundation grants happened to arrive unplanned, and the discussion turned to this topic.) I told them about the upcoming ZOMG elections. They like Zcash and support it. I asked some general question like “How do you give out money effectively?”, and they sat up their chairs and started telling me their words of wisdom. The following is my recollection of what they said based on my notes — no editorializing on my part:

RFPs (Requests For Proposals) and targeted outreach where you pick domain experts and court them. It has higher risk of bias or self-dealing, but the quality of the people/teams you get into the boat that way is 10X the quality of the people you get by inbound.

Announce deadlines.

Targeted waves, like “We’re going to be funding $(THIS MUCH MONEY) worth of proposals related to particular focus area, the deadline for applications is a certain date.”

It’s basically marketing yourself. Most people have no idea that the money is available. People forget. You have to have a marketing department.

(I — Zooko — asked how to get good recipients to become “repeat customers”, because I’ve been looking at ZIP 1014, which says its motivation for the major grants is “independent teams entering the Zcash ecosystem, to perform major ongoing development for the public good of the Zcash ecosystem”.)

Before the scope of work is done, start talking to them about the next contract because if there is a lull someone else will get their attention.

Make it clear that there is more money, because sometimes people don’t realize that all it takes is just asking.

Having a person in your organization who owns the relationship with that applicant/recipient.


This is fantastic advice. Having read through a number of grant proposals on the forums here and the subsequent reactions to them (it’s going to cost this much?!) I think there’s a real argument that there are numerous benefits to laying out funding targets/pulses for particular areas and broadcasting that - it sets a clear picture about priorities and gives a framework for people to think about how much money they really need for projects. For what its worth having worked in and adjacent to a few different industries RFPs are universally better approach to coherent outcomes vs. just a vague “come to me with something”.

I think I echo the views of many by also noting that Zcash marketing has a lot of room for improvement, both for Zcash writ large as well as specifically in terms of targeting developers.


Zcash marketing needs steady funding, this is true.

Awesome ! Any words from the ETH foundation about the time involved to do this ? I suspect this scales much better to gather bounties applicants after a deadline because you know what you want, so mentally I suspect this is less draining that examining unique projects.


Um, I recall that I said “Spending money well is a lot of work!” and they expostulated something like “Oh yes! I wish people realized that!”. I don’t recall any specific description of the time requirement for that “account manager” type role that they said helps.


RFPs & bounties make a lot of sense.


This fits with what we’ve seen too. We were fairly proactive with wallet grants and the Tor grant, along the lines of what Ethereum Foundation is describing with their RFPs.

And we’ve wanted to do more of that, as well as more marketing including around specific goals. But the lack of paid staff and our schedules have made it impractical to do anything that requires multiple continuous hours of heads-down work.


Regardless of the ZOMG issues, what’s a shame is the best performing team (the ECC) isn’t getting the bigger slice. Can we fix that before throwing more money down the toilet ? This is frankly absurd.


I’d like to see the foundation take this aforementioned tack; begin the term with clear direction from ECC, professional reports, and the community (new dashboard ?) about our priorities/ targets and then go after them. The board can facilitate the most pressing factors for growth, but not necessarily decide what those needs are or the best candidates to fulfill them. Decentralize the power, facilitate growth and performance. A representative role rather than decisive one?