Importance of Project Funding
Having sufficient funding is an important part of growing open source projects with real commercial viability. These funds are used for a wide range of services needed to organize, promote, protect, and manage the project. Where funding comes from depends on the project and the organizations involved. Some projects are funded by individual donors, while others by a single company. At the OpenInfra Foundation, we’ve found that the most successful open source projects are funded by multiple companies, because they are able to combine their resources to achieve a much stronger rate of return. This is the basis of our model for growing successful open source projects called the 3 Forces. By creating dedicated project funds, we are able to ensure strong alignment between the participating organizations resources and the project they care about.
How Directed Funding Works in Practice
- OpenInfra Foundation establishes a project-specific entity to hold project funding. We've developed the framework so this entity is created in an efficient way, but is flexible enough to be modified based on the needs of your project community.
- At least one Platinum Member of the OpenInfra Foundation serves as an executive sponsor for the project, to ensure strong alignment with the OpenInfra Foundation board and mission.
- Other interested organizations join the project fund. If they are not already members, they will need to become members of the OpenInfra Foundation.
- The fund participants, as a group, decide what their contributions will be, with the goal of assembling the project's budget.
- The fund board (representing participants) decides how to allocate budget to best support the project, with guidance from the OpenInfra Foundation.
- OpenInfra Foundation staff delivers services to build a community who writes software that runs in production.
Navigating a Broad Ecosystem
Attracting and engaging multiple companies lays the groundwork that allows you to build the most successful projects. Take OpenStack, for example. There have been hundreds of companies contributing code and funding since it was created in 2010. The involvement of those companies was vital to OpenStack becoming the de-facto standard in open source cloud infrastructure. Regardless of whether your aspirations for your project are OpenStack-scale or smaller, getting a multitude of diverse companies involved is crucial to open source success.
Potential for Conflict
Unfortunately, when there are multiple companies involved there are more opinions around strategic direction, more thoughts about how a project should be managed, and more potential for conflict. This is where the OpenInfra Foundation comes in. We align companies who wish to work together, providing them with a framework and tools to effectively collaborate, to produce code, and to pool/invest their funds in the ways that best help the project they care about. We do this by navigating relationships, understanding organizational goals, and through the establishment of technical and funding governance.
Whether your project is already open source or you're moving to an open model, you'll want to set up proper governance to define how the project will operate, who makes decisions, and how funds are spent. The OpenInfra Foundation will help you establish both technical governance and funding governance. Technical governance establishes things like “Technical Steering Committees” and defines clear rules for code contributions. Funding governance establishes things like a “Governing Board” and decides how funding is pooled and spent.
We have a legal framework to help you establish the governance needed for a successful open source project. Our framework is flexible, allowing you to set the structure that best fits the needs of the organizations most interested in ushering the project to success. The OpenInfra Foundation will guide you through this process from start to finish.