In the past few years a couple of developers have started fund-raisers for Blender development projects. There’s nothing against that of course; crowd-funding can be an efficient way for people to support activities. However, such activities can also raise a number of questions and be quite invisible even.
Blender Foundation’s strategy is to keep supporting Blender as a networked and community based development project. That means we have to work with a lot of individuals – ranging from hobbyists to scientists and other professionals. Each should have an equal and fair access to our projects, where contributions are valued purely on quality and practical involvement. It is quite a well known risk for open source projects that – once money and commercial activities get involved – the position and involvement of volunteers becomes more difficult to manage. I really hope we can prevent this, which is why I’m explaining the current strategy here.
For Blender developers who like to get a job or become active as paid freelancer, the best and most natural source of income is to seek for companies, universities and studios who need them. To help establishing a good business ecosystem for this we will set up the Blender Network in the near future.
Next to that, Blender Foundation’s e-store, donations and benefits of Open Movie projects provide paid work for developers as well. We are lucky to hire 4 people near full-time already (myself, Brecht, Campbell, Sergey). For them targets relate mostly to support, reviewing patches and bug fixes, and conduct more complex development with a general endorsed general benefit for everyone.
What I like to add to this is the “Blender Development Fund”. This is a special PayPal subscription system, allowing people to commit to a monthly contribution. This is expected to provide some sustainable income to pay for crucial development projects we generally agree on have to happen in more concentrated and focused manner. My proposal is to have the ‘bf-blender’ project admins to agree on who can get supported by this fund.
A last idea that pops up regularly is an online “pay per feature” donation system. There’s a lot of arguments to find for or against such a system… I’m still very hesitant to implement this though. Apart from that this is more generally (other OS projects experience) considered as dangerous, it’s also something that relies too much on ‘the community’ of users. I think we already have enough activities people can online donate for; our real future – for growth and quality improvement – is when we can successfully get professionals and studios involved actively with development as well.