CiviCRM is currently used by thousands of organizations around the world, and an increasing percentage of the product and associated services come directly from the community. At the same time, as with any open source project, there are core 'keeping the lights on' activities that are critical to ensure the ongoing growth and health of the project.
We need to ensure that the release cycle is steady and solid, that our servers and infrastructure are looked after, that people with good ideas can find each other, and we need to do all those things that everyone agrees are great ideas anybut no-one can quite get around to finding the time to do!
Think about Wikipedia... it's an amazing resource because of all of the contributions made by various wikipedians, but without a server infrastructure to run everything on, there would be no Wikipedia. Without a well oiled machine at the heart of CiviCRM, we wouldn't be able to put people's contributions to best use.
The funding for these core activities has been primarily covered by a small number of sponsors until now. However long term sustainability requires that we expand our financial base, and one of the approaches we're considering is incorporating a direct ask for financial support into CiviCRM's user interface. The new 'Support CiviCRM' fund-raising widget would be displayed on 'back-end' pages periodically, and might look like this:
The widget would link to a new contribution page which recommends a $25 / month (or more) recurring contribution to the 'Core Activities Fund' - includes an overview of what the fund is used for. We might also include a progress bar and some other useful info-graphics. The widget would also be displayed during upgrades, and incorporated into the 'Register Your Site" flow.
We haven't fleshed out technical implementation details yet, we're pretty sure we want the content of the 'ask' (both the message and the layout) to be driven from a central server. This should allow us to experiment with messaging, frequency, etc. over time. Another idea we are thinking through is linking this widget to the site registration, which would allow us to tailor our ask depending on past giving history. For example we could not ask if someone has donated in the last x months or has a regular donation set up. Or we could adjust the ask amount dependent on past giving history.
Although we think it's reasonable to ask users to support the project periodically, there are likely to be situations where displaying the widget might be inappropriate. We are considering options for dismissing or opting out, including a simple 'checkbox' on the widget. Thoughts on this would be welcome.
Given the goal of converting a larger percentage of the community into supporters, what do folks think about this approach? Suggestions from fundraising experts in the community for making this compelling and avoiding pitfalls are particularly welcome.