Open Collective has launched Funds, a new funding infrastructure for funneling contributions to open source projects. Any open source project can receive contributions from a Fund, even those that are not listed on Open Collective due to having their own foundation or working with another fiscal host. The new feature was added to Open Collective’s existing non-profit funding platform that serves more than 2,500 projects.
Funds were designed to mitigate the friction between corporations and open source projects, cutting out the excessive bureaucracy that can sometimes stifle funding for smaller projects. Companies can use the feature to support multiple projects that are crucial to their business efforts and underlying tech.
“Funds facilitates a relationship between maintainers and organizations on their own terms,” Open Collective co-founder Pia Mancini said. “No contracts, no promises, no agendas. We take on the work of administrating payments to projects and of ensuring companies have what they need in their procurement processes.”
Traditionally, if you wanted to work on an open source project full time, you would most likely need to be sponsored by a company. Although WordPress’ “Five for the Future” campaign isn’t perfect, it has brought some stability, enabling the project to drive important efforts forward even in leaner times of contribution from unpaid volunteers. Some open source projects aren’t able to thrive this way, especially those that are categorized as simple utilities.
Critical dependencies can sometimes be grossly underfunded when supported by only a handful of individuals who may not have steady employment to buoy their maintainership efforts. The Heartbleed Bug that was disclosed in 2014 put a spotlight on the immense economic challenges of funding open source work. In the aftermath of this global fiasco, the tech industry turned its attention towards brainstorming different initiatives that might create a more healthy ecosystem.
Open Collective’s Funds feature aims to make “working for an open source project a legitimate alternative to a career working for a for-profit corporation.” Prior to launching the new feature, the platform quietly tested a number of Funds with Airbnb, Indeed, Salesforce, and other companies with successful outcomes for maintainers.
“Airbnb’s investment in webpack has enabled groundbreaking advancements in web compiler technology, paved the way for the last 2 major versions, and enabled us to devote entire teams to ecosystem management, CLI, docs, and infrastructure,” webpack core team member Sean Larkin said.
Airbnb received so many reports of the positive impact of its Fund that the company decided to expand its open source sustainability commitment by 50% to $150,000.
“Donations from Airbnb have made it possible for ESLint to pay core contributors for work,” ESLint creator Nicholas Zakas said. “As a result, contributors are able to spend more time pushing forward large projects that weren’t possible when we relied solely on volunteering.”
As open source projects are becoming less self-contained and more interdependent, maintaining the health of the overall ecosystem is a priority. When smaller utilities that everyone depends on are underfunded, it can have a ripple effect that slows down progress throughout the vast web of projects that rely on the dependency.
Open Collective’s Funds feature is one solution that helps companies streamline their donations and keep track of their contributions to multiple projects in one place. Companies interested in creating a new Fund can get in touch with the organization via its contact form.