Open Source Sustainability Depends on Recognizing Both Individual and Corporate Contributions

Acquia and the Drupal Association share survey results on what motivates individuals and corporations to contribute to open source software.

Recently Dries released his annual “Who sponsors Drupal development?” post, which showed that once again the recorded number of Drupal contributions increased year over year. Dries celebrated those who meaningfully invest in improving Drupal through code, writing documentation, fixing bugs, speaking at events and serving as mentors in the Drupal community. The report also looked at Drupal’s contribution data to see how we are progressing in terms of diversity and where contributions are coming from — breaking down sponsored corporate contributions and individual volunteer contributions.

It was great to see overall contributions grow, even though there was a 2.5% decline in individual contributions compared to 2019. Conversely, contributions from organizations grew by 7%. The majority of sponsored contributions came from small Drupal-centric businesses with under 50 total employees with the exception of Acquia, which had the greatest percentage of contributions overall. It is important to understand how we can motivate more people and businesses to give back and help Drupal grow.

A few months back, the Drupal Association and Acquia surveyed the Drupal community on open source sustainability. While the final sample size was relatively small, 92 people, there were some interesting trends to look at. Hopefully, future surveys have greater participation, but in the interest of transparency, here are the key highlights from the results.

Open Source Sustainability Requires a Mix of Individual and Corporate Contributors

In line with the findings of Dries’ report, the survey found that 75% of respondents believed that it takes a mix of corporate and volunteer contributions to sustain an open source community. Investing in the long-term life and growth of open source software like Drupal helps establish a more secure, accessible and egalitarian web. The more time and resources we can devote to improving Drupal and the community means greater innovation and success for those people and businesses who depend on Drupal to power their digital experiences. Accomplishing this sustained growth means motivating and celebrating the hard work being done behind the screen.

The survey found that recognition matters most to both corporate and individual contributors. Recognition in the community was named the top way to incentivize individual contributions (37%) followed by money (22%). Corporate contributors also named recognition in the community (42%) followed by lead flow (22%) as most important. 

These results show the critical importance of a strong governance model and public accolade system in open source communities. When a community is founded on collaboration and making an impact, it makes sense that members would want to be acknowledged for their contributions. Similarly, when companies offer paid incentives and programs for their employees to dedicate to open source projects, rather than viewing open source as something people solely do in their free time, it mutually benefits the individual employee and the company themselves. Employees are more motivated to contribute and organizations generate faster, more significant innovation and leads from that investment.   

These reasons are why Drupal introduced the contribution credit system as a unique way of recognizing contributors — both corporate and volunteer. However, less than half of contributors surveyed (42%) believed that Drupal’s current credit system was effective as is. Many people offered suggestions such as being more vigilant in preventing people from gaming the system, making the UI more transparent and weighting credits based on quality or value add.  

With recognition being such a driver for contributors, their efforts should be valuably showcased. Many of these suggestions are already being taken into consideration. As Dries covers in the 2019-2020 Drupal development blog post, the Drupal Association began weighting contributions last year based on the adoption of the project that contribution is attributed to. Last year at DrupalCon Amsterdam, the Drupal Contribution Recognition Committee was announced with the goal of improving and governing how contributions are weighted within the contribution credit system. The feedback from this survey will also be communicated to the Contribution Recognition Committee to help inform their efforts.     

The Value and Public Responsibility of Open Source Contributions

Having acknowledged the importance of publicly recognizing the exceptional effort that top individual and organization contributors have, open source projects like Drupal could not continue to thrive without the collective passion shown by the entire global community. Fundamentally, open source is guided by the principles that together we can accomplish so much more than any single person or vendor.

The survey found that 67% of people said that an open source community’s guiding principles were either somewhat or very important to deciding their involvement in the community. Open source empowers people and businesses to elevate the potential of technology and improve how we all experience the web. Drupal’s motto, “Come for the code, stay for the community,” was reflected in the 67% of responses who reported that they loved the personal satisfaction open source gave them of creating something, and they loved being part of the community. 

Both developers and organizations have seen how open source accelerates the pace of digital innovation and generates mutual success through global exposure and continuous public input. Especially in times of crisis, we’ve seen how businesses have used open source to get knowledge to the public faster and build critical solutions that are accessible on a global scale. 

This opportunity to do more with these exceptional community resources, especially applies to enterprise companies that rely on open source projects for their monetary and market success. The Drupal ecosystem, as noted in Dries’s report, has a healthy mix of corporate and volunteer contributors. However, it would be great to see more corporate contributors step up and give back more to Drupal in 2021. The survey found that 78% of people saw corporate contributions as important, and 67% believed that corporations should be required to give back (either financially or via other contributions).

We’re glad to see that organizations are doing more to invest back in the Drupal ecosystem than in previous years, but there is still more to be done. At Acquia, we look forward to the day when the vast majority of companies contribute what they can and offer incentives for their employees to support open source. As we’ve seen, active, ongoing encouragement of these contributions can drive significant growth and unmatched value.

Acquia is doing our part to give recognition to and help drive leads to partner organizations that contributed to Drupal this year. To showcase the contributions many Acquia partners have made, Acquia wanted to boost awareness by featuring top contributors in a banner on  To see how these partner companies have given back, check out our recent Open Source Giants finalists and winner for the Builders’ category at the Acquia Engage Awards. Their stories represent just a few of the ways organizations are making an impact. 

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