FOSS Sustainability


Overview of FOSS/Open Source Sustainability and Pay The Maintainers movements.

View the Project on GitHub ShaneCurcuru/fosssustainability

FOSS Foundations

Non-profit foundations providing services to affiliated projects.

Relationships With Other Aspects

Vocabularies used: community, governance, legal, technical,
Timescale aspect changes: moderate,
Scope of aspect: medium,
Relationship with other aspects: project, contributor, maintainer,
Primary focus: project

Sustainability Aspects

Foundations care about community health, and legal and fiscal risks to their own projects.

Foundations include many of the key people who are technical and organizational leaders in the software ecosystem.

Foundations are open in much of their governance and activities; this can help serve as examples for sustainability work and research.

FOSS Foundations

Non-profit foundations provide services for one or more open source projects. Many FOSS foundations directly host project communities, giving them both a legal, fiscal, organizational, and sometimes structured home separate from the individual developers. Some foundations provide a more hands-off set of services, often involving fiscal pass-through of fundraising monies.

Foundations are typically distinct from traditional software companies in terms of governance. Foundations (non-profit ones at least) typically have boards and bylaws that focus on the needs of their project communities or the vendors investing in that ecosystem - not shareholders. Key aspects to foundations include:

  • Governance Some foundations like the ASF and Eclipse provide governance models and mentoring for hosted project communities.
  • Trademark and IP Ownership Foundations may be the legal owner for trademarks, copyrights, and other project IP, ensuring that individual maintainers are not directly responsible.
  • Fundraising Most foundations either act as fundraising hosts, or provide additional resources for the projects to do fundraising themselves.
  • Funding Some foundations may provide inherent funding or otherwise handle providing funding directly to project work.
  • Technical Infrastructure Foundations provide domain name ownership, additional cloud and build resources, and often infrastructure or DevOps paid staff that can provide various build and hosting services to hosted projects.
  • Community Management Most foundations either have direct community management and mentoring services, or provide a shared environment where hosted projects can find volunteers to assist in these tasks.
  • Legal Liability Shield Many foundations serve as the official publisher of code, providing some levels of legal liability capture in the organization rather than individuals submitting code.

Sustainability Questions

How can foundations focus their efforts on broader sustainability issues? For volunteer-run foundations, it’s often difficult to find the time to build larger programs that focus outside their project(s).

How do we model the project services of foundations? Over at ChooseAFoundation there’s a brief guide between some popular foundations, but what if we could provide a richer model of services provided to new communities?

Ideas and Resources

Other Reference Links

Tags: Organization | Funder | Governance