Benjamin Mako Hill just posted an essay called “Problems and Strategies in Financing Voluntary Free Software Projects.” It’s worth reading for anyone interested in how Gentoo might spend any donated money.
While it is unclear why paid labor crowds out the work of volunteers, Enjolra hypothesizes that volunteers are less motivated to work for free when they know that others are being paid to do the same work or will be paid to do the work if they do not. Faced with paid workers in their organization, volunteers wonder why they are not getting paid for their work and feel more motivated to volunteer somewhere else. In this way, a small amount of paid labor in an organization or project highly dependent on the work of volunteers can do more harm than good.
Instead, he suggests spending money on:
- “Capacity” — things that aren’t part of the project’s core goal
- Conferences and meetings, including travel aid if funding is sufficient
- “Code sprints” — roughly week-long hack sessions
He emphasizes the need to maintain transparency throughout the process, quoting examples such as the X Consortium for opaque development. But I didn’t catch any examples of opaque (seeming unfair or with unclear rules from the outside) funding.