electronic brain surgery since 2001

Open Source Monetization

Several months ago, I did a survey on DokuWiki Business Use and Open Source Monetization. I promised to release the results but then forgot about it. Time to finally hold my promise.

The survey got 83 responses and below I want to give you some of my thoughts about the data I found most interesting.

Please add your own thoughts as comments. You can download the whole data set as Open Office spreadsheet document: Survey Results.

Payment Provider Acceptance

When I did my reverse bounty experiment, some people complained about Paypal being the only option to chip in. So I was interested in the acceptance rate of various payment options.

I asked how likely one would use a certain provider on a scale from 5 (very likely or did so before) to 1 (never). Here are the average ratings for the 5 payment options I asked about:

Paypal seems still to be the most accepted choice. That gets even more clear if we transfer the data into a simpler scale. In the following charts, I dropped the middle answer and summed up “very likely” and “likely” to “yes” and put “probably not” and “never” in a single “no” category:

So I guess that if you want to be on the safe side, you should provide donation options via Paypal and bank transfer.

Company Donations

I was also curious about how companies think about Open Source donations.

When we remove the non-donors and just compare company versus private donations, we see that more than two thirds of donations come from the “little people”:

I did expect that, so I asked what the reasons are. Here is what people said:

So the main reason is still the mindset of companies or their managers. Expenses for buying software seem rarely to be questioned, but donating comparatively small amounts is out of question.

And even if the mindset would allow donations, company rules and tax systems seem to be another major road block. Which makes “Accounting Problems” number two on the list. Especially the need for invoices was mentioned often.

The third most often mentioned problem is the “Unclear use of money”. People seem to be more comfortable to donate when they know how the money will be used. “Buy me a beer” works better than “Donate for my projects”.


The initial idea about the survey was born from my try to use a “reverse bounty” system for “selling” my sync plugin.

Looking at the data it seems that even normal bounties are widely unknown and rarely used to encourage the development of new features:

So it doesn't surprise that people are somewhat indifferent to my “reverse bounty” idea. The chart shows how likely someone would chip into a reverse bounty from 5 (very likely) to 1 (never).

Lessons learned

Donations for Open Source development are still in their infancy and I'm not sure they will ever become widespread enough to support the developers – eg. to let me quit my day job ;-).

There a few things to ease donation for companies. I already added a note on how to get an invoice at the DokuWiki donation page and will also add some info about inquiring for bank transfer details.

But without a change of mindset, company donations will stay an exception. If you think that should change, why not once a year send your manager a list of Open Source software you use in your company? List what it would have cost you to buy similar commercial software and add a link to the donation details of the project. Maybe it works.

Again, please let me know what you think about the topic and if you aggregated some other interesting insights from the data please share with us.

PS: All graphs were created with the GChart DokuWiki Plugin

survey, opensource, monetization
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