Monday, January 15, 2018 - 10:51
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Last year, we overhauled the CiviCRM contributor program, allowing individuals to submit details about their contributions online as well combined the contributor and partner listing. So far this year, we’ve seen an increase in contributions being logged as well as a new revision to site that improves visibility of contributions. We thought it’d be a good time to recap where the program is at, answer a few common questions, and highlight where we see it going.

State of contributions

Currently, individuals in the community can contribute to CiviCRM in a variety of ways, be it code contributions, participation on Stack Exchange, event organization, or writing a blog for c.o. More details on this below. All contributions can be logged online via the contributor log. I say “can” because it’s completely optional. As a contributor, you don’t have to log your time spent. Let’s face it, it is a layer of overhead for you.

So what’s the benefit?

First, some history. Over the past few years, the CiviCRM Core Team has faced (and still does) some budgetary constraints. Short of developing some new crypto-currency from which we can pay the bills and keep the project going, we have to increasingly rely on community contributions. Of course, this is an open source project after all, so such contributions have always been vital to CiviCRM’s development. It’s a balancing act for sure… as financial support goes up, the Core Team can play a broader role. As financial support wanes, the community has to step up and take on more.

Broadly speaking, the primary benefit of increased contributions is an improved product that is driven by real world needs and by actual users. How cool is that? Not only can you, as a user, use CiviCRM, you can also scratch your own itch and improve it for everyone!

For providers that earn a living off of CiviCRM, an additional benefit is being recognized and promoted by CiviCRM itself. The big way we do that currently is via the experts listing as well as through promotional blocks throughout the CiviCRM’s website. Contributions affect this in two ways.

First, contributors that give 40 hours or more over the past 12 months (rolling) will be listed. Second, once listed, contributions affect your position on the list. This is a point of some confusion (and debate), however essentially the list equates in-kind contributions with financial donations, meaning that your company’s position on the list is affected by both and moves up or down based on your total giving.

We recognize that that isn’t perfect, but it serves to recognize providers that are unable to support CiviCRM financially but that make a meaningful contribution and want to be recognized and/or to benefit from their efforts. At the same time, it enables established providers to maintain/influence their placement on the list by varying their financial support and their contributions. Keep in mind that though partner dues are fixed, there's nothing stopping partners from giving more financially via sponsorships, make it happen campaigns, etc., all of which count as financial support.

To be perfectly clear, the Core Team does currently place a higher value on financial support. But that makes sense given that, as we’ve stated, we have budgetary constraints and need/value cash greatly at present. If we were flush with cash, then we could value in-kind contributions higher. But, back to contributions...

What is considered a contribution?

Instead of having a long list of things that could be considered a contribution, it’s better to apply a simple test. If the primary purpose of your effort is to benefit CiviCRM the software, the community, or the project at large, and it’s open and accessible to the community, then it’s eligible to be a contribution. That’s fairly loose, so how about a few examples to demonstrate how it works.

  1. I work for XYZ company and am hosting a free CiviCRM training in which I’m promoting my company and actively selling my services. No other providers are invited to participate.
    It’s awesome that the training is free and open to users, however the primary purpose here is to develop new leads for your business. So, this isn’t eligible as a contribution.

  2. I wrote some obscure extension and released it to the community, though only 2 users are actually using it.
    You did it on your own dime and gave it to the community. It’s eligible to be a contribution. If one of those 2 users that actively uses your extension contacts you for paid work, well that’s a by-product of your effort, not the central purpose behind it.

  3. I wrote an extension that I was paid for, released it to the community, but now support it on my own dime. It’s become a popular extension and I do at times receive some paid work as a result.
    That work that you do on your own dime is a contribution!

  4. I wrote an incredible extension that I only provide to my clients or a select few partners.
    That’s awesome that you’re taking care of business, but because your work (or the purpose behind it) is only benefiting you and not the broader community, it’s not eligible to be considered a contribution.

  5. I wrote a blog post on LinkedIn about this new cool feature in CiviCRM and how it may affect particular types of non-profits. The post isn’t overly sales-ly and links back to, providing useful information about the software in general.
    Sounds like you’re promoting CiviCRM and educating the public about its feature set without putting up barriers (you know, that old “register to download this report” tactic) or treating this post as a primary sales tactic. This effort would be considered a contribution.

  6. I came to the annual CiviCRM sprint (mark your calendars for September 25, 2018) and worked my tail off 10 hours a day (man, that Core Team… they’re slave drivers)!
    Yeah, this is definitely a contribution.

Obviously, there are a ton of potential scenarios that may constitute a contribution, or that may prohibit your efforts from being fully recognized. That’s why we focus on the primary purpose behind your efforts as the basis for whether they’re eligible to be a contribution or not. If you have questions, email us.

Is paid work considered “contribute-able”?

Not at this time, no. While paid work can be open and it can benefit the community, allowing it to also be a contribution ("also" meaning “in addition to you receiving financial compensation for it”) to CiviCRM feels like double-dipping. It’s awesome that you’re getting paid for the effort, and in so doing you’re already receiving fair compensation (or maybe you are :D). Like all things CiviCRM, we’re open to reconsider this and to make changes. Feedback on the current program is always welcome.

So, what’s new?

Big thanks to Guy at Greenleaf Advancement for wanting to view how much he and his staff have contributed to CiviCRM. Thanks to him, contributors can now view their contributions online (look for the "My logged contributions" in the sidebar menu when you log in). The next step may be to display these in a tab on the company detail page. Again, logging contributions is entirely voluntary.

A few more tidbits…

Currently, the Core Team reviews all contributions and approves, edits or rejects them. We’d love to see this open up to a working group/committee and hope that will happen in 2018. We’re also planning to offer more benefits to contributors, like offering sprint scholarships to up and coming contributors. We’ve lots of ideas in the mix and, again, are open to feedback and suggestions.

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I like the direction this is headed in. I had previously thought that any work that you released as publicly available and easily installable extension should be considered a contribution, even if you were paid for it, as this is a way to encourage people to contribute back, but I understand this way of looking at it.  In my head, it makes the contributor program look quite like a volunteer program, or more specifcally, a way of encouraging and recording hours that individuals volunteer to CiviCRM.

Thanks to Guy for making the contribution view - it looks great and is very useful.

I feel quite strongly that the list should be publicly available for review by others. Knowing that what you record is visible to others is a low cost way to inject some accountability into the hours that are recorded. If no-one is going to see what you wrote, there is a temptation to over-estimate to climb the greasy pole of contributors.



One more question :)

You said: "your company’s position on the list is affected by both and moves up or down based on your total giving".

Could you clarify whether that is your total giving over the last 12 months or since you started contributing? In my head, having a time limit makes sense since this mirrors what we do for partner fees, i.e. your contributor status should expire if you haven't contributed for some time.

You're correct... it's for rolling 12 months, i.e. the sum total of your total giving (financial and in-kind) for the past twelve months from the day. Because of this, the listing is somewhat dynamic. We try to review contributions every two weeks, and do see fluctuations in the listings. As we weight contributions more, we expect even greater fluctuations.