For 48 years, the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Arts in New York City operated on a “pay-what-you-can” policy. This was an honor system where visitors could contribute as much money as they wanted (even nothing at all) for unlimited exposure to global history, art, fashion and culture. People in all circumstances had access to the same enriching education and in return, the organization got a diverse audience for its exhibits. However, in 2018, this policy was discontinued for all non-New York residents because the system was “no longer sufficient to meet the museum's daily operational demands.” This change marked the loss of the last major museum with a purely pay-as-you-wish-model.
The same balance between unlimited insights and collective support exists in the digital space too. Open source projects like Drupal continue to thrive because people believe in their vision and invest in their growth. As more large-scale commercial companies embrace open source and the Drupal community, Acquia wants to support sustainable success by encouraging partners and customers to “give what they can” in terms of Drupal contributions and development. We also want to show appreciation for all of the passionate contributions and efforts of the Drupal community and our own customers and partners.
It’s no longer enough for organizations to think and work within their own goals and self-interests; true success depends on making a widely felt impact. The idea that we can do more together is why our partner program at Acquia is partner-first. We work with our partners to find solutions that are better for everyone (rather than just a few individuals) and always focus on achieving long-term customer satisfaction with our partners rather than climbing over them to gain a competitive advantage. Our partner-first philosophy is built on a foundation of trust, shared knowledge and mutual success. These qualities are something we hope that Acquia and our partners live up to not only in terms of how we serve our own clients but also in what we give back to the open source community.
Small Business, Big Impact
Last week, Drupal founder and Acquia CTO Dries Buytaert published his annual analysis: “Who sponsors Drupal development?” which recognizes the individuals and organizations who contribute to Drupal and help shape its growth. Dries celebrated those in the open source community who meaningfully invest in improving Drupal by leveraging engineering talent, writing documentation, fixing bugs, organizing events and other forms of support.
In a follow-up blog, Dries expanded on how these developments are critical to open source sustainability, dividing companies who use Drupal into two categories: Makers and Takers. =
The Makers, “help make Open Source projects; from investing in code to helping with marketing, growing the community of contributors, and much more.” Without their support Drupal could not survive. On the other end of the spectrum are the Takers; companies who monetize open source projects or sell proprietary commercial products and services that complement Drupal without contributing back to those projects. Unfortunately, some companies with the most employees and resources under their helm invest very little (or nothing at all) into improving Drupal’s codebase, despite the fact that they rely on Drupal innovations to fuel their own business goals. As the leading voice in Drupal and the largest current contributor to its growth, Acquia wants to publicly acknowledge those firms who regularly give so much of their energy, qualifications and skills back to Drupal. We hope that by doing so we can encourage everyone to give back and embrace a “community-first” mindset.
Drupal started out as a 100% volunteer-driven project, but today the majority of the code on Drupal.org is sponsored by organizations. Still, just a select group of companies have stepped up to shoulder the bulk of these contributions. Of the 1,000+ current Drupal contributors, the top 30 account for about 25 percent of all Drupal contributions. And perhaps even more surprisingly, these regular contributors are mainly small-to-medium-sized professional services companies, often with fewer than 100 employees. Despite their smaller forces and access to capital, the Drupal expertise and passion for innovation at these organizations is unparalleled.
One standout Acquia partner who has made a huge impact on the Drupal community is Vardot, which ranked 6th in terms of contributions. This web and software is made up of a team of just 36 expert web development specialists. Since the company began in 2011, Vardot has sponsored 55+ Drupal modules, delivered more than 200 successful projects on the platform and their contributions have been downloaded over 250,000 times by other members in the Drupal community.
If these achievements were amplified on the scale of our global enterprise partners who support billions of brand experiences and interact with massive audiences each day, the time and resources they put in would be returned exponentially.
High Standards, Great Innovation
While it may be nice to imagine a world where all major firms and corporations contribute to open source out of a pure sense of altruism, there are far more business benefits for commercial companies to gain from supporting open source than just fulfilling a moral obligation. Open source democratizes the continued improvement of technologies by building communities dedicated to advancing and perfecting those systems. As a result of this ongoing investment in development, the possibility is far greater than what any single organization could produce. While a proprietary software company may have 100 engineers working on their software each day, the Drupal community is composed of 8,500+ people who all are invested in seeing it succeed. At Acquia, we understand that our success as a global enterprise is dependent on Drupal as the backbone of our success and our ability to build better digital experiences for our customers and our partners' customers.
Companies that contribute to Drupal tend to promote their contributions in RFPs and sales pitches to win more deals. Prospects are looking to work with people who understand their digital systems at the infrastructure level and seek out future solutions as technologies continue to evolve. As Dries writes:
“It would be interesting to see what would happen if more end-users mandated contributions from their partners. Pfizer, for example, only works with agencies that contribute back to Drupal, and uses Drupal's credit system to verify their vendors' claims. The State of Georgia started doing the same; they also made Open Source contribution a vendor selection criteria.”
As well as making itself more appealing to customers, contributing to Drupal also makes an organization attractive to top Drupal and open source tech talent. By encouraging their own engineers and developers to be hands-on in the inner workings of Drupal’s code, teams can better identify the root cause of bugs and security issues and provide their own patches and fixes instead of turning to outside project maintainers. Getting as many of our partners the skills and knowledge they need to contribute to open source benefits both Acquia and our partners by enabling faster, more efficient deployments for your customers and career development and learning opportunities.
Continuous Contributions, Stronger Partnerships
Acquia’s partner program believes in the power of public recognition and continuously elevates our partners' exposure to some of the world’s most ambitious digital brand leaders from the FIFA World Cup to Wendy’s to Warner Music Group. This year, we want to give the same attention and appreciation to partners and customers who are making strong investments in the Drupal ecosystem. In June, we announced a brand new category to the Acquia Engage Awards to honor those organizations that are giving back to Drupal. The Open Source Giants category will recognize the strongest contribution to the Drupal ecosystem, whether that comes through GitHub, Drupal.org, code contributions, event sponsorship, community mentorship or technical excellence.
Acquia strongly believes in nurturing supportive partnerships because we’ve seen the efforts of the many always accomplish more than the efforts of any one individual. Sustained, mutual success on Drupal is only possible if everyone who believes in the future of an open web shares innovations and resources generously. It’s not enough to hope that those few companies who have been shouldering the majority of the responsibilities continue to do so. Acquia values our partner relationships because our partners are some of the most ambitious organizations in the world. We’ve seen first-hand the creativity and drive our partners put behind their initiatives. Now we want to encourage everyone to direct some of that passion and value back into the Drupal ecosystem. If we all “contribute what we can,” we will continue to deliver lifetime value and unmatched differentiation to every corner of the community.