I want to give money to open source projects!

So why don't I just give them money? Well I have, just not in the way that I want to.

Here is how I see it. Open-source projects are usually on-going efforts. And on-going efforts need on-going support. Some of the open source projects ask for donations, but very few, if any, of them ask for recurring donations. Why is that? They have on-going expenses. Hosting costs, conference fees, travel expenses, etc.

After a year and a half of using CFEclipse, I finally decided it was time to send some money overseas to support the CFEclipse team. So I went to http://www.cfeclipse.org and made a donation. At the time, all I felt I could afford was $50. Things can be tight sometimes, two kids, first mortgage, new job and all that. So $50 was what I thought would be good for a first donation. And then I vowed to myself that I would send another $50 or so around Christmas time. Hopefully I will remember. But now, I've blown all of my "donation" money and I wanted to give money to some other OSS projects too. Too bad for them I guess ;)

Really what I was hoping to see was a Donate $10/month button. That way:
  • I would not be out the $50 all at once
  • I would not need to remember at Christmas time to send the money again
  • The project would have a steady stream of income (albeit a small one)
  • Chances are I would not cancel the donation as long as I was using and loving the software
  • At the end of the year the OSS project would get $120 out of me instead of the $100 I had originally planned.

Now let's do a little PayPal math here to make sure I am on the mark.

PayPal's transaction rates (for a monthly income of less than $3000) are 2.9% + $0.30 USD per transaction.

So, if I send two $50 donations in one year we are looking at (50 * 2) * .029 + (.30 * 2) = Fees for the project to pay. So that is $3.50 in fees leaving them with $96.50 of the $100 donation.

Now, What if I send $10/month instead?

Well, at the same transaction rate I would have an equation of (10 * 12) * .029 + (.30 * 12) = Fees for the project to pay. So that is $7.08 in fees leaving them with $112.92 of the $120 donation.

So the OSS project would get $16.42 more money out of me in one year by adding recurring donations to their project's website and it would make it more convenient for me to support the projects that I love. Additionally, what are the chances I would cancel the donation?

I would guess that lots of people who would donate to an Open Source project would throw in their money once and then call themselves a "supporter" forever. I'm sure there are many who are willing to, and remember to, donate more than once, but I would guess they are in the minority.

There are several other projects that I support in this way, and it makes me feel good to know that my little bit helps. I have no intention of canceling my recurring donations as long as I continue to use the product or service being provided to me for free.

It sounds weird, but I love these free things so much, I am willing to pay for them.

So what I would suggest is for the OSS developers out there who would want this type of recurring income to get recurring payment links added to their project sites. Then, maybe, as part of Peter's Thank and OSS Developer day, some recurring funding can be set up.

Which Open Source Projects/Developers would you love to help support? CFEclipse? ColdSpring? Transfer? Reactor? Mach-II? Model-Glue? ColdBox? ColdFusion Weekly? BlogCFC? Any of the projects at RIAForge or SourceForge? Or RIAForge itself? The list is endless. We can't all donate to each one, but with "micropayments" we can donate to several.

If 200 people decided to give a project $3/month, that project would net $6271.20 per year after the PayPal Fees. That seems like a pretty good haul, and it would certainly help to pay for all of those hosting fees, travel expenses, and beer conference fees.

Please understand, I am not trying to speak for these projects. They may not even want your money. But if they do, I would like my support to be on-going, not just one-time for bragging rights.

Thoughts?

Comments
Jason Dean's Gravatar

Wow, 114 page views in the 7 hours (Midnight CST to 7am) since I posted this and not one comment.



Must all be bots.



Seriously though, I really would love to read comments on this. I think it is a good idea, but maybe it's not. Any thoughts? If you are not an OSS Developer or project manager, would you want to give small recurring donations like $3/month?

# Posted By Jason Dean | 5/20/08 7:02 AM
Chris's Gravatar

Jason,



I think it is a great idea. Most of these developers are donating their time to creating these projects. It might even motivate others to start projects and expand the Coldfusion Community. $3/month doesn't seem bad at all, but even $1/month would help. It is one more dollar than they would have.

# Posted By Chris | 5/20/08 7:21 AM
Jim Priest's Gravatar

It IS a great idea. I will look into seeing if PayPal supports recurring payments. I know some things like Verisign does but I think there may be a fee for that service.

# Posted By Jim Priest | 5/20/08 8:20 AM
Jason Dean's Gravatar

@Jim - It is possible to do recurring payments with Subscriptions on Paypal. You'll find it under the Merchant Services. Contact me offline if you would like me to guide you through it. It's not hard though.



It will give you a 'Subscribe' button, but you can easily change the button to say whatever you like or use their "Use your own button" link.

# Posted By Jason Dean | 5/20/08 11:28 AM
Jim Priest's Gravatar

It looks like you need a premiere or business account. I will look into what's needed to set this up.

# Posted By Jim Priest | 5/20/08 1:27 PM
Jason Dean's Gravatar

@Jim - Yes, you do need at least the "Website Payments Standard" account. That is what I have and I have set up many subscriptions for things like Web Hosting. If I remember correctly the Website Payments Standard account is pretty easy to get.

# Posted By Jason Dean | 5/20/08 1:34 PM
Mark Mandel's Gravatar Jason,

This is actually a pretty cool idea.

I'll be sure to add $1/2/5/10/20/50 a month subscriber donations to the new Transfer site.

Be interesting to see if anyone takes it up!
# Posted By Mark Mandel | 5/28/08 4:23 AM
Jason Dean's Gravatar @Mark, Thanks. I thought it was a pretty good idea ;)

I assure you that when I get around to using Transfer, if I get as much out of it as I think I will based on what I have seen in your presentations, I will definitely throw in my monthly contribution. You know, I hear a lot of people say that Open-Source is usually about either "getting something for free" or about principles, but to me, it is very much about community, and that is what I want to support.
# Posted By Jason Dean | 5/29/08 10:14 AM
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