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Supporting open source with 3% of our revenue (geteventbot.com)
345 points by newtang 73 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 66 comments

You can donate to several projects via Software for the Public Interest, including PostgreSQL, Debian, ArchLinux, OpenEmbedded, LibreOffice, Jenkins, FFmpeg and OpenWrt.


> SPI acts as a fiscal sponsor to many free and open source projects ... we encourage programmers to use the GNU General Public License or other licenses that allow free redistribution and use of software and hardware developers to distribute documentation that will allow device drivers to be written for their product ... all donations made to SPI and its supported projects are tax deductible for donors in the United States.

I'll make a plug for https://sfconservancy.org who sponsor many open source projects including Clojars (which I'm a maintainer of), and Clojurists Together. They do great work and deserve your support.

Going to plus 1 on this one. The Software Freedom Conservancy is doing great work. They are the fiscal sponsor for the project I run infra for (LibreHealth).

There's also Open Collective


Taking that 3% and allocating towards your own developers contributing to OSS gives everyone more bang for the buck right?

It's a wonderful gesture, I don't want to take away from that. Just wondering how straight up donating compares to contributing.

> Taking that 3% and allocating towards your own developers contributing to OSS gives everyone more bang for the buck right?

I see what you mean. However, as a two person company we think the impact from supporting those projects is a better use of funds. It's all a bit of an experiment, but we wanted to put a stake in the ground somewhere because of how important open source has been to our existence as a company.

Joe (Eventbot co-founder)

Hey Joe, I'm one of the founders of Open Collective (opencollective.com) Happy to help if you have any questions on how to implement or if we can help out somehow.

Hi Pia, we love Open Collective and are using it to donate to one of our sponsored projects. The platform is a great way to relieve a good deal of pain that OSS devs would have to endure in running a funded project.

One of the hardest things we've found is helping small projects (1 or 2 people) that don't have/need the structure of Open Collective but still could use the funds. PayPal is surprising bad since you can't even accept a recurring payment without going through hoops to set up a page/button.

For those projects in countries with stripe, they can use open collective with their own stripe account. Fees are half since we don’t do fiscal sponsorship (they would self host) and the benefits is that we have the whole subscription / tiers / badges system set up. If you think some of this projects might be able to use it, feel free to send them my way. I’m happy to help them.

Maybe https://donorbox.org would be better for those small projects?

I can see why you’d not want to give up the time to train, but improving the open source projects you rely on could be a really nice job for a summer CS intern - if 12 weeks intern salary is < 3%.

There is non-zero chance that the project owner will appreciate the direct money more.

Makes sense, exciting to hear how the experiment goes.

Specialization and competitive advantage are a thing.

Also, allocating 3% of my developers time is not super useful. That's less than 1 day a month per developer. Far better to allocate 1 developer for X time. By giving cash, you facilitate that for someone else. You could of course choose one person in your company to be that person and pay them directly, but thats hard for political reasons.

Maybe if you're a team of 30-40 people, you could pay one full time developer to work on a project of your choice, but of course that would mean that developer works mainly for the project of choice and not directly for your company's needs, even if your own bugs would take priority.

Or have two developers split time with the OSS project and your internal needs. That way you have resident experts in that OSS project and you're more flexible in meeting deadlines since you can shift time.

Agreed, the funds will probably only make a difference if each OSS project gets at least enough to sustain a developer full-time. Otherwise the authors still have to maintain their day jobs.

This was a great read: https://www.fordfoundation.org/about/library/reports-and-stu...

I've been thinking about that analogy a lot lately. Eventually (or soon) software will be much like infrastructure. People might be paid to make specific improvements to public projects. This is already starting to happen in some places.

Why would you assume that? Presumably the maintainer is pretty knowledgeable about their project, and the maintainer may be willing to "sell" their time (on the project) for less than market rate.

It really depends on the project and the contribution(s).

I have experience with many open source projects, and the large ones are generally closed to small new contributions (the ones that can be studied and written in a few hours). Most of the time, they will rot, even if they're useful (as in "solves an open issue" useful) and competently written.

Some time ago, there was discussion (commotion) about the years-old Python bug fix that was never mainstreamed. In the real open source world, that's routine. Even Torvalds once acknowledged this phenomenon; I stress that I'm talking about competently written code.

Once, the maintainers of a certain project, which is structured around donations, essentially ignored my company's development contribution offer, even if it was significantly more valuable than the donation(s) they typically get.

To summarize, for small projects, or those who desire traction, contributing by all means, but for large ones... money, or just shift the attention to smaller ones :-)

This is what a company where I work does. 10% of developer time (half a day a week) to open-source contributions outside of the company direct products. As long as it helps the broader community we're a part of.

> Taking that 3% and allocating towards your own developers contributing to OSS gives everyone more bang for the buck right?

Maybe, maybe not. Projects can be rate-bound on other issues than rando's work-time e.g. maintainer's financial incentives or troubles, infrastructure, … in which case more contributors isn't necessarily helpful. Keep in mind 3% dev time is about a week / week-and-a-half, how relevant it is depends heavily on the specific project and developer.

And the 3% developer time is not necessarily equivalent to 3% revenue (e.g. because they're contributing heavily to revenue growth). Plus tax incentives could be a factor, for the company there might be more for the buck giving 3% revenue than keeping revenue and giving employee time.

Development performance does not increase linearly with time. I could not do any meaningful work with 3% of my time. Maybe if you have 33+ developers and dedicate one to fulltime open source development, this might be the case.

If every company did this then it would help

I've always wished I could use the Professional Development budget employers give me to donate to open source projects. Not that I feel entitled to it, but I think some employers could get enough employee engagement and outside attention to justify it.

This is similar to WordPress's Five for the Future[1], which is one of my favorite open-source-support initiatives.

It intuitively makes a lot of sense if you are building on top of a platform to dedicate some resources towards the continued well-being of the platform. With SAAS, the resources are the money you pay each month, but with open source you can donate either money or time!

[1] https://ma.tt/2014/09/five-for-the-future/

I support FOSS - please add some adult supervision here.. some developer teams have gotten angry and upset when someone gets paid (yes you read that), and on the other side, non-profit tax status is sometimes abused in the US by professionals who make management/fundraising a lifetime occupation with little emphasis on programs served. (sources on conviction of fraud are not always available on the net due to restrictive settlements)

> ...non-profit tax status is widely abused in the US by professionals who make management a lifetime occupation.

In what way? Any sources?

A related example is Zuckeberg charity - they simply moved some of their wealth to a charity but retain full control on how it's spent, it's just tax free now. http://fortune.com/2015/12/02/zuckerberg-charity/

It's not a charity, his donations to it aren't tax deductible or tax free. If the business makes tax deductible donations those will pass back to him.

Maybe something like this?




Some people abuse the position (like management) they are in and get get paid way too much money for the position.

Neat. I wrote about a similar idea a while back, which might add some other arguments if people want to pitch it to their own company: https://www.ericholscher.com/blog/2018/mar/9/one-percent-for...

This idea has made me think of donating a certain percentage of my income each year to open source projects. Does anyone have a system for donating their personal funds to open source projects?

I am an open source developer who accepts donations. Whatever you do, I would recommend making a recurring donation. I like to say that one-time donations buy beer, while recurring donations buy sustainable open source development.

I would also suggest contributing to individuals directly. Seek out maintainers of the projects you want to support and see if they have a patreon or liberapay page.

I very much agree - we put most of our donations on a recurring basis. Oddly, a few projects specifically asked for a one-off donation because they felt like a recurring donation would make them feel like they "owed us" something. Of course, we don't have any conditions for our donation, but it was an interesting sentiment I hadn't expected to find.

oss.fund is also apparently a thing.

I think it could be pretty cool to have a donation aggregator, though I'm not sure what it would do differently than what existing places I don't donate to do. Perhaps more transparency?

It'd be kind of neat to have 'OSS Index Funds' (misnomer to convey the idea) that a donation aggregator could provide. I could offer a fund for 'Rust' that might support 30% compiler team, 30% core team, 20% something else, 10% docs (I obviously don't know what the percentages should look like, just demonstrating). A different fund could be 'Programming Language Development' which might invest 20% in the Rust fund, 20% in Zig, and so on. A fund for Graphics like GIMP, Krita, Blender, etc.

Discovery of who to support is, maybe, one of the big problems preventing direct support. If you eliminate that problem without making people feel like they don't have a say and don't overwhelm them with information.... then maybe it could catch on?

That would be fantastic.

Sometimes I've thought about donating, only to realise that its the website/readme/whatever that's making me think about it, and wondered how many projects I owe more to that don't have as good donation-grabbing copy that aren't getting as much.

And does it even make sense to support the project most valuable to you, or perhaps rather the most endangered that has any non-trivial value?

You, uh, take a percentage of your paycheck and click “Donate” in the page for your software of choice?

I think the "of choice" is the hard part here. For instance, if you're a JS developer: do you donate to Mozilla? NPM? Your JS framework? Other libraries you use?

Depending what their margins are, this is great. But wouldn’t it generally be a more sustainable to give x% from your profits to Y.

My guess is that they want to preemptively dispel cynical low-brow dismissals such as: "that's effectively $0 because startups burning VC cash won't show a profit for years, if ever".

FFII.org will need your donations this year to file another legal commplaint against Unitary Software Patents:


It's the small projects that need the help (or... the big projects that are absolutely overwhelmed with requests).

We definitely need a way to make inroads on this, good work.

Thank you for doing this. This is a great idea. If every company that used open source committed to supporting the projects they depend on with this kind of approach, it would solve a lot of the current sustainability problems. I look forward to several initiatives over the next few years to encourage this kind of behavior from all companies.

This is very similar to what Citus Data and the like have been doing in recent months. Great job guys!

I wonder what percentage the FAANG like companies donate. On the one hand, it's probably quite low, on the other hand, they do run a lot of projects themselves & donate labours to others. Still that's hardly sustainable for the rest of OSS

good job! wish you to grow your business and scale your company to support more oss projects!

Donating to GulpJS? 2014 is calling, they want their streaming build tool back.

Gulp is still a great tool for straightforward workflows. It's still being developed and maintained. It has more than 30,000 GitHub stars. There's no need to change you have a working process.

There are valid reasons to look at other build tools, but "because your current tool is 4 years old" isn't one.

Nice but no. We need to push Free Software and to push it at political level, with the target of forbid closed source products.

We do not need subsistence economy, we already won technically, open code is everywhere now. The big loss is the miss of political support. The big loss is the mass ignorance of how private companies trap open code in closed "boxes" from Android to WSL/DeX/Crostini to our PND/NAS/router/*.

That's the real point to get and IMO apart FSF we need to take action at school/universities level, workplaces etc. Putting money like that is a way to loose money without return.

I’m struggling to see how your comment relates to the article, which is showing financial support to open source projects. Funding is a serious issue with OSS.

Suggesting all code should be OSS is orthogonal.

IMO no, it isn't. FOSS project need participation, so not money but resources. FOSS idea is that software is knowledge, something that must be public and grow through interaction (sharing). So if I have a need or a desire and I start implementing it others may or may not join because they share the same or similar need or desire. That's the FOSS way.

I start a new project, for instance to autoclassify documents. Ok users of my code will contributed in code, hosting, documentation simply because they share my similar need/desire. If there is interest there is no need for money, software is not a product nor a thing we can live on. It's shared knowledge. There are no "producer" nor "consumers", only participants.

If we have a single-man-show that say "hey, found me so I can keep the project up" it means that:

- we completely lost FOSS model, transformed to a sort of neopatronage, the erotic dream of proprietary vendors that dream a world of products to be sold and bought;

- the project is already dead not because of lack of founds but because of lack of participants, knowledge, interest.

I support the FOSS idea that software is knowledge and should be public, but I think that a substantial amount of FOSS development has always been done professionally, on a paid basis. Ad-hoc bazaar-style contributions where someone happened to notice a way to improve something is probably the exception rather than the rule.

One reason for that is that many codebases are large and complex, and so even expert programmers won't automatically understand how to improve them substantially without a considerable amount of study. It's likely that many people will need to be paid for that investment, not because they ideologically believe that software should be property, but because it takes up a huge amount of their time and effort that they won't be able to apply elsewhere.

And indeed, when people have empirically looked into some of the larger FOSS projects they've found that a majority of the contributions were made by people who were being paid to make them—again, not because of any ideological aspect, but because being paid for it allowed them to invest a huge amount of time and focus and helped them to be more sophisticated and productive contributors.

(Edit: Just to be clear, I don't think that trying to convince people to use, develop, or procure FOSS instead of proprietary software is bad, or that, if successful, it won't also lead to more resources being applied to FOSS development. However, a lot of those resources will probably be mediated by money.)

Of course there are FOSS paid developers, for instance Intel pay few devs to work on Linux in order to have the hw they sell work properly. That's good. That's not someone that live on FOSS, that's a company that participate to a FOSS project because it need or desire it.

On contrary there are other companies that pretend to sell "open" product that are open like a bunker (to name a few try looking for business software from ERP to CRM to DMS etc) and those are not contributed to FOSS. Even if they both pay someone to develop FOSS code and publish it.

I hope to have being able to clarify that point in my limited English...

On complex codebase: FreeBSD codebase is not exactly simple and little, but it live on it own foot since decades, for instance? Emacs, Debian, ... the same. I do not intent that a project must run on casual contribution but simply that contributors must be subjects that need/desire such code so they contribute to it for their own sake like the Intel example above.

And there are other projects (such as Django Rest Framework or even Django itself) where many people and companies derive significant value but either don’t have the time, knowledge, or resources to contribute directly. These projects advance by having people dedicated to maintainence. Often the only way to provide dedicated resources is through donations.

If these donations dried up then the projects would suffer. That’s not an outcome anybody really wants.

You seem to acknowledge that companies paying staff to contribute to OSS is ok. Why then is it not ok for companies to provide funding for a specialist to do the same thing?

Because it's not "founding" but alms. With some intermediary subjects that gain and reign as they want. Not much different than Ottoman's empire "islamic alms" that was in fact a form of imposition on citizen for the sake of few in the upper pyramid.

If project like Django need maintenance the answer is: universities. Universities train students and can easily maintain projects providing not only people but also resources.

FOSS is knowledge, so a thing that need to be entirely public and entirely relay on public. It is ok if a company need a certain software and so develop it, it is not ok to be "founded" like Patreon, LibrePay, PayPal donation etc. We need freedom and participation not charity.

But charity does not preclude freedom. Unless you're suggesting that if charity was absent we'd be seeing more participation?

A great voluntary step in the right direction. But we know companies like EventBot are rare outliers. Congress could pass a law mandating all large companies that utilize FOSS to pay a tax deductible % of their net revenues to projects of their choice, for which they have no active maintainers. Even something as small as 0.1% would have a huge impact. I've been thinking about this for a while, would love to talk with others to organize such an initiative. FOSS is just like public infrastructure. Maintenance costs need to be shared. Innovation will accelerate immensely when this happens. Go ahead and downvote now.

If you force anyone to pay for it, it's no longer FOSS.

This isn't just a technicality, either, it will literally become something different with a whole different set of incentives involved for everyone in the ecosystem.

I am making no comment on whether this would be a positive or negative thing. Rather saying that you have to be careful about messing with established, organic systems with top down planning and tweaks through regulations, no matter how smart or well-intentioned you think you're being.

One observation is that when there's money involved, some things which otherwise are extremely simple become extremely complicated. Like, for example: ownership, collaboration, contributions, credit, etc - the implications of these all change drastically when there is money on the table and it changes the entire dynamic of everything in the system top to bottom. What comes out of those changes may not be what you want or expect.

I'm pretty sure that one of Richard Stallman's ideas for free software funding in the 1980s was government grants, paid for with taxes—except I don't think he suggested that the taxes would be collected only from users of particular software, but rather from everybody.

(This does happen on a small scale because some government grants do go to academic researchers who are developing FOSS, and because U.S. government agencies can't hold copyright in their original work, so there are some codebases that have been released. But it's not like a large-scale software development government agency or grantmaking entity.)

That's a different thing entirely though. If you force companies to donate to a project, they'll want to have some ownership of it. If you do it indirectly through taxes, you're forcing everyone to fund it so it becomes a democratic process.

I personally don't agree with either approach, but I think Stallman's idea would have a much better result than forcing companies to donate.

I agree with you on being cautious. I don't think it's a simple matter and yes there could be negative, unintended side effects. I think it would at least worthy of consideration and study, as lots of FOSS has many of the characteristics of public infrastructure and suffers from the free rider problem. Make the legislation narrow in scope as to limit potential downsides, evaluate results after a few years, go back if results were not as intended, or change it based on results.

Make the tax voluntary, give incentives to companies for paying it and keep the definition of FOSS.

I downvoted you, even though you make some very good points.

But fundamentally, you are wrong. Grandparent’s proposal doesn’t violate the Four Freedoms and would still be open source software.

In point of fact, DARPA funds the development of FOSS and isn’t the only organization which transfers taxpayer money to developers for FOSS.

Regardless of the other shortcomings of the proposal, making the software ‘no longer FOSS’ is not among them.

If you force anyone to pay for it, it's no longer FOSS.

If you force anyone who owns a copy of the software to pay for the source code, it's no longer FOSS. You absolutely can charge for said software.

I think the point was not about whether you can or cannot charge for it, but on forcing somebody to pay for it (you can charge for FOSS, but nobody is obliged to pay you for it if they get a copy).

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