A Successful Open Source Fundraising Campaign?

Chris Aniszczyk has written how we have been doing more to solicit financial donations from the community.   In particular, we’ve added the Donate Now buttons to our download pages; which happen to be our high traffic pages.  Chris raises a good question on how far we should go with our ‘pan handling’ and I encourage everyone to provide feedback.

However, I am also interested in what is considered to be a successful open source fundraising campaign?  How much money should we be able to raise; from how many people?  Wikipedia’s multi-million annual campaign is at the extreme end.  I also noticed the GNOME community raised $25,000 this past year, up from $6400 the previous year.  Therefore, I thought it might be useful to share our results  since mid-July.

  • Over a period of July 17 – Nov. 30 we have raised US$9916 from 601 individuals.
  • We typically get on average 3 donations per day and the average donation is $21-$24.
  • The donations are pre-predominately from Europeans and North Americans

What are we doing to accomplish these results?

  • We have a Friends of Eclipse program that people can join for $35.  ‘Friends’ get direct access to the Foundation download servers which in practice gives them 24hr jump on a new release.  The Friends program is an annual commitment, so we actively ask for renewals.
  • In July, we added the Donate Now buttons to the download pages.   As Chris describes they are also being added in other places on the site.  The first iteration of the Donate Now buttons were $2, $10, $20.  After 4 weeks, we changed the $2 to $5.  After the change, the average donation went from $8 to the current $21-$24,  number of donors dropped considerably but the overall revenue raised only increase slightly
  • The closest thing we have done to a ‘marketing campaign’ for donations was before the Galileo release encouraging people to become Friends to get early access.   Overall though we are pretty modest on promoting the fundraising; so far no banner ads or pop-ups.  🙂

Some questions I have:

  • We quote in US$.  Does it make a difference to allow the donor to quote in their local currency?
  • Wikipedia seems to do an annual campaign.  Are campaigns that last for 1-2 months the key for getting more donors or do you have a constant appeal for donors.
  • How important are the benefits of the ‘Friends’ program.  For instance, if we added a t-shirt but raised the price to $50 would we net more money?  What other benefits have organizations offered.
  • Are there ‘magic’ words to use in the appeal that will attract more donors?

There you have it?  I am interested in knowing what other groups have experienced or done.  What are the best practices for open source fundraising.  I certainly don’t claim we are a great model but I am hoping that by sharing our experiences we can get better.

Oh btw, Eclipse is a great community, lots of dedicated, hard working individuals, producing awesome, fantastic open source software.  I’d like to thank everyone that has already donated to make Eclipse an even better place.  It would be great to have even more people donating money back to the community.  Please DONATE NOW.

10 thoughts on “A Successful Open Source Fundraising Campaign?

  1. I think the donor should be allowed to donate in their own currency. Consequently, the amount that shows up in the listing should be in the currency the donor selected. It seems like the Foundation knows where the donations are coming from (based on the comment about Europeans and North Americans in the blog entry) but I think it’s just a nice fun fact for a casual viewer to be able to take a peek and see where some of these donations are coming from. The Eclipse community is a global community after all. 😉

    I personally like how Wikipedia shows random comments in their banner. Perhaps we could do the same in that blank space between the Eclipse icon in the top left and the image links in the top right? It sounds kind of neat on paper to me but maybe it won’t be so neat when I actually see it in action. I do think random (or selected) donor comments should be listed below the list of ‘Recent Donations’ in the http://www.eclipse.org/donate link. User stories might be a good idea too, then the donor can describe how they’re using Eclipse technology if they wish.

  2. I don’t think the eclipse foundation should go aggressive on fund raising from individuals. The FoE program is nice as it is. An easy opportunity for individual (developers) to give a little and receive a little extra (mirror bandwidth, a nice banner).

    In my opinion eclipse is more ‘commercial’ than most other big open source communities so I’d look for more commercial ways to raise funds:

    – push an eclipse appstore and take a percentage of revenue created there
    – get creative with membership models to attract more members (especially small members. a quick look at http://www.eclipse.org/membership/become_a_member/membershipTypes.php shows that the minimum fee seems to be $5000/year, a bit steep for small shops?)
    – raise the upper bounds of membership fees that are based on revenue share, or even remove the upper bound and take a lower share. -> get more from those who make the most money with eclipse
    – sell commercial project hosting: scm, hudson, bugzilla, wiki, update site hosting, unameit eclipse.org projects get it all. Why not sell it to those with less Infrastructure/Knowledge as well?
    – sell swag

    And now to something completely ‘uncommercial’:

    – Add a possibility to donate money to a ‘not for profit’ part of the eclipse foundation and hand out contribution receipts that qualify for tax credit.

    Last but not least my opinion regarding your questions:
    Currency: usd is fine, adding eur would be nice though
    Events vs. Constant: why not use both?
    Benefits: if i want an eclipse shirt, i’d buy one. If i want to donate, i donate. Don’t mix it or at least don’t take away the pure donation option.

  3. Sometimes when people get help in the newsgroups or on irc, they may want to thank the one who helped them.
    If they could donate to give credits to an individual (maybe add a fund raiser award?) it could be both an incentive to donate and an incentive to help.

  4. Dominikg — we are looking at new membership option for small shops — hopefully early in 2010. If it interests you, email me (my first name @ eclipse.org) and I can share a bit more details.

    We are a 501c6 so the tax credits (from a charity perspective) aren’t an option (as is). Worth investigating further though.

  5. Given that it’s a web site, you could easily do a/b testing to see which denominations, words, currencies, or other aspects like swag, generate the most donations. For example, put up two different sets of denominations and show one of them or the other depending on who visits the site (e.g. based on their IP address) – then compare after a week if one is better than the other. At that time, start the next experiment and so on…

  6. @Chris my only defense is that your last name is just impossible to spell correctly. 🙂

    @dominikg Thanks for the feedback. As Donald mentions we are looking at the membership angle too.

    @boris, @remy I agree we should test out the different currencies. Hopefully in January we can try it out.

  7. Donation is fine, but I have another suggestion: Funding-Driven Development.

    I have written in March 2 posts about it:
    Revisiting donation/funding for open source projects – let’s talk about FDD
    and as an example,
    Another idea for Funding-Driven Development (FDD) – for Firefox and OpenOffice.

    Well, it’s a matter of experiment.

    As I wrote it in my posts, this FDD approach might start, in parallel with donation, as a membership status, giving vote rights on manpower, according to the money raised.

    In the case of Eclipse, it would a kind of sibling of FoE.

    My 2 cents.

  8. Ian, it would be great to see a membership program akin to the Linux Foundation. We could offer something for $99 with certain benefits, including a potential board seat. This would represent all the individuals out there that use and love Eclipse.

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