The Core Team has spent the past six months assessing its capacity, managing a cultural transition, and overseeing the CiviCRM project in a post-founder environment that requires a different approach to economic sustainability. The challenges and opportunities presented by this transition can’t be overstated. We’re confident that, with strong community support, we can evolve CiviCRM into a model open source project.
Before we do that, however, It’s important to recognize that not only are we undergoing a significant cultural change at CiviCRM, but that we’re also in a space (open source) in which there are few good business models. Needless to say, it’s very challenging to build a viable business based on freely giving your product away. CiviCRM’s own model has been based on community participation and has been financially supported by a relatively few number of individuals and organizations. Going forward, CiviCRM will become exceptional at cultivating its community for both ecosystem growth and product development, and will actively broaden our base of financial support by creating more value to stakeholders.
Fundamentally, the Core Team is tasked with ‘enabling’ the community to collaborate on, produce, maintain and grow the user base of the CiviCRM software. The Core Team must strike a balance between actually ‘doing the work’ and overseeing the community and its contributions such that ‘the work is done’ consistent with project standards.
Consistent with this mode of operation will be ongoing communications around what the Core Team is responsible for, what we’re supporting and what we’re not supporting. This is in no way intended to shirk any responsibility. Rather, by defining what we’re responsible for we hope to better communicate and prioritize project needs consistent with our objectives of ecosystem growth and sustainability. With respect to the Core Team’s role and responsibilities, we can break everything down into 3 broad categories that define specifically what we’re;
The more clear we are in our own responsibilities, the more effective we can be at defining opportunities for the community to give back. We introduced the operating model of project teams and working groups and will continue to refine this as the way forward. Fundamentally, this approach is intended to empower the community and enable contributors a clear way to participate and to drive key aspects of the project. If successful, this model will allow the Core Team to stay small and focused on its responsibilities while enabling the community to push the project forward.
We’ve already seen more grow in the working groups, with efforts around extensions and community engagement coming online most recently. These efforts have been supported by a transition to Mattermost (http://chat.civicrm.org) which allows for faster communication between community members, grouped by defined channels of interest.
Finally, in the coming weeks, we’ll provide more recognition and direct appreciation to contributors. Like partners and members, we’ll provide benefits such as discounted registration fees for events and a more visible public listing showcasing contributor support.
Consistent with our efforts to improve community engagement, we’re taking steps to increase value to supporters (financial donors) of CiviCRM. With respect to partners, we’ve revised the website at civicrm.org to better highlight partner expertise and will, in the very near future, improve the partner directory such that identifying the right partner for your needs is easier than ever. We’re also revising our demo sites and will incorporate more partner provided demos that might emphasize a particular feature set or apply to a specific sector better than our current out-of-the-box demos.
Our member program, which asks for direct support from end user organizations, is in for the biggest overhaul. The Core Team has up to this point made the ask for membership based on it “being the right thing to do”. While this is truly noble, it’s not particularly effective. Because we maintain that the project can and should be funded by the community, we plan to begin building out more significant benefits for to encourage member sign up.
Member benefits will not only come from the Core Team, they will also be provided by CiviCRM partners. We reworked the member benefits display and will be adding new perks such as a jobs board, a member only (priority response) channel in Mattermost, and several more that we’ll begin rolling out soon. Membership is not only the best way to support the project, it’s shipping with more tangible benefits.
CiviCRM is not just a project in transition, it’s an entire community in transition. As the Core Team, we can build out benefits, increase partner visibility, and work diligently to engage our community. But, at the end of the day, the CiviCRM community has to evolve as well and respond to these improvements with increased contributions, participation and support. For our part, we want to make it as easy as possible to give back and support the project. The starting point for our business model might be a free product, but it’s one with a passionate community and a capacity to do amazing things.