We started and ended CiviCon Denver this year by talking about community participation. In her keynote presentation, Stormy Peters of the Mozilla Foundation introduced it and discussed the value of participation in open source communities as well as how it represented a competitive advantage to proprietary software alternatives. I closed out CiviCon with the ‘1st Annual Ultimate Not-To-Be Missed All Things to All Attendees Wrap-Up’, again speaking about participation and how it affects the overall sustainability of CiviCRM, ending with a challenge to earn 10 new partners, 100 new members and 1,000 new followers in celebration of CiviCRM reaching the 10,000 active site milestone. Today, we stand at 10,441 active installations.
So, we’re not quite at the 10k mark, but we’re forging ahead, because the spirit of the challenge still stands… CiviCRM needs community support in order to be sustainable and continue to enable the impact that it does. 255,860,348 contacts and 173,298,122 donations are collectively managed by CiviCRM world wide.
Truly, CiviCRM does a world of good!
Perhaps the most difficult yet important component of the challenge above is that regarding member support. Why? Member support is difficult because, like most open source projects, the notion that CiviCRM is ‘free’ is often valued higher than the actual features it provides. In some respects, that’s understandable. Most would be paying a great deal more for those same feature sets with proprietary software, so ‘free’ is a powerful proposition. For CiviCRM, however, this presents a hurdle that we must overcome in order to be community-funded and ultimately sustainable. The realty is that CiviCRM is free to download and use, however its maintenance and ongoing improvements depend on financial support from its community. As a user, you have a choice to support CiviCRM or not. Members have made that choice, and their support benefits everyone that uses the software.
Member support is also critically important because, regardless of the size of CiviCRM’s community, it represents the single largest audience that could (and has a vested interest in doing so) support the project. During the closing session, I’d indicated that if every organization gave $5 a month, CiviCRM would be completely sustainable without any other funding source.
As difficult a challenge as it will be to enroll 100 new members, it would be even more challenging to find a CRM that provides the capabilities of CiviCRM for $5 a month.
Of course, it’s unrealistic to assume or expect each and every organization to pay $5 a month for CiviCRM, which means that a small percentage of end user organizations will, in order to preserve the software for their own use, subsidize every other organization that uses it for free. When you think about it like that, members are not just vital to sustaining the Core Team, they’re active supporters of non-member organizations. In fact, if you’re reading this now, take a good look at this list of members. If your organization’s name isn’t on this list, you can do two things to show your appreciation for those members that have already made the commitment.
We’re over halfway through the year, and we still need roughly half our budget to reach sustainability. Members provide unrestricted funding to this end. They protect everyone’s investment in CiviCRM. They get it.