Need someone to lead product or development at your software company? I lead product and engineering teams and I'm looking for my next opportunity. Check out my resume and get in touch.

Donations and open source teams

Freshness Warning
This blog post is over 17 years old. It's possible that the information you read below isn't current and the links no longer work.

Many open source projects accept donations as a way of funding their development efforts and I’m wondering how these donations are typically distributed among team members. Currently the donations for Zempt have covered paying the bills (like hosting and domain registration) and have been split between Bill and myself. But as the project grows and we add other team members I realize that I have no idea what I should do with the donations.

I’m hoping you can help, so I’m throwing some ideas out and asking for your comments and suggestions.

When you make a donation to a team of open source developers, how do you expect the money will be used? Are you aware of any schemes for distributing the funds? OSCommerce allows you to donate directly to a specific team member instead of donating to the project itself. What do other groups do?

Nollind Whachell
June 23, 2003 5:24 PM

"When you make a donation to a team of open source developers, how do you expect the money will be used?" I think it totally depends upon the development team and what they are trying to achieve. For example, if a small group of people is creating a small program in their spare time, then donations could go to the expenses accumulated while working on the project. However, if the team realizes that a much larger application could be made from their small program and they are getting the donations to support such a leap, then they could start working full time using the donations to pay not only monthly expenses but their own salaries which would allow them to work full time on the project. As I said, it totally depends upon the project. More than anything though, I think people just want to get some "feedback" that their donations are being put to "good use". If you are comfortable enough with this approach, as some sites are, listing a monthly breakdown of where donation funds are going makes a lot of people happy because they see their dollars at work. It doesn't matter so much where it has gone within the project, but that it is being put to "good use" that matters. I'm assuming people trust you to distribute the money properly since you know best what expenses need to be covered and who is contributing the most within the project. Still, I'm unsure of your financial situation with regards to donations. If you are saying you have extra funds left over each month, over and above the monthly expenses, then I'd keep a small percentage of it as a reserve in case of unexpected costs and distribute the rest as salaries for work on the project. Just figure out a rate for everyone, based upon their work, and distribute the funds based upon that salary percentage. Hell, I don't know about you but I'd love to see more people "investing" in others so that they could make their "passions on the side" their main source of livelihood. For this to occur though, people have to get paid themselves, if they want to work on their passions full time, since it means giving up their salary from their normal job, yet they still need to pay their own personal living expenses. It would be nice to see an "open source" world where people could work on things they believed in and be "rewarded" for that passion.

Adam Kalsey
June 23, 2003 9:55 PM

It sounds like a bit of background would be helpful for those not familiar with Zempt. Zempt is an offline publishing tool for Movable Type that is developed by Bill Zeller and myself. It's not likely to ever become a full-time job for anyone involved. Our total donations to date have totalled less than $30, so it's not a matter of paying salaries or even distributing large sums of money. I agree that people want to know what their money is being used for. That's something that I could add to the site. As for investing in open source development, that's an interesting concept. Brad Choate told me about a similar idea he had a while back. There are also companies that make money by developing open source software and then providing consulting services around it. The consulting development is often poured back into the core product as well.

melanie
June 25, 2003 3:39 AM

If I make a donation I'd expect you to use it however you like! (I did, btw, not much, coz I'm unemployed, and broke:) )

Tom Erikson
November 24, 2005 10:20 PM

When I make donations, I don't have any specific expectation on what the developers do with the money. The donation is yours to do whatever you want with it, since you're the one who did all the work to earn the donation. However, if I were donating to the red cross or a specific charity, I'd be more concerned with how they're spending the money.

This discussion has been closed.

Recently Written

Domain expertise in Product Management (Nov 16)
When you're hiring software product managers, hire for product management skills. Looking for domain experts will reduce the pool of people you can hire and might just be worse for your product.
Strategy Means Saying No (Oct 27)
An oft-overlooked aspect of strategy is to define what you are not doing. There are lots of adjacent problems you can attack. Strategy means defining which ones you will ignore.
Understanding vision, strategy, and execution (Oct 24)
Vision is what you're trying to do. Strategy is broad strokes on how you'll get there. Execution is the tasks you complete to complete the strategy.
How to advance your Product Market Fit KPI (Oct 21)
Finding the gaps in your product that will unlock the next round of growth.
Developer Relations as Developer Success (Oct 19)
Outreach, marketing, and developer evangelism are a part of Developer Relations. But the companies that are most successful with developers spend most of their time on something else.
Developer Experience Principle 6: Easy to Maintain (Oct 17)
Keeping your product Easy to Maintain will improve the lives of your team and your customers. It will help keep your docs up to date. Your SDKs and APIs will be released in sync. Your tooling and overall experience will shine.
Developer Experience Principle 5: Easy to Trust (Oct 9)
A developer building part of their business on your product needs to believe that you're going to do the right thing for them and their customers.
Developer Experience Principle 4: Easy to Get Help (Oct 8)
The faster you can unblock a stuck developer, the better their experience will be.

Older...

What I'm Reading

Contact

Adam Kalsey

+1 916 600 2497

Resume

Public Key

© 1999-2020 Adam Kalsey.