In January 2021, I started writing about my work situation. As that aspect of my life (and my blog) evolved, I gradually started focusing on improving the sustainability of the Webform module for Drupal. Last month, I began expensing the Webform module's maintenance to the Webform module's Open Collective. Getting compensated for my time has been a great experience, and I am very grateful to the backers of the Webform module's Open Collective.
To my delight, with each blog post, more and more individuals and some organizations are becoming backers of the Webform module's Open Collective. Why individuals would want to help support the Webform module makes perfect sense to me. Individuals generally have some immediate understanding of the benefits of the Webform module or the challenge of maintaining an open source project or contribution. This is why I back Drupal's Simplytest.me, Drupal Recording Initiative, and the Gin Admin Theme collectives. One of the patterns I’ve noticed in the open source community, the Drupal community, and in Open Collectives is that individuals tend to understand and appreciate both the inherent value of open source and the need to contribute. Alternatively, organizations don't always see the value and need of helping, contributing to, and supporting the open source software they use to build and maintain their businesses.
Let's recognize and discuss the challenge of getting organizations to become backers to the Webform module's Open Collective.
Why do we need to get more organizations involved?
To my mind, it’s crucial to get more organizations involved for two reasons: First, organizations generally gain more financial resources from open source, either using it for their business or offering it as a service to their clients without paying licensing fees. Second, organizations have the capability to make more significant sustainable contributions back to open source software. Open source projects, like Drupal, need caring individuals and organizations.
I have come to recognize that...
Individuals can care about open source software. For an organization to care about open source software, the organization must contain individuals that care about open source software.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that when someone starts backing the Webform module's Open Collective, I immediately look into who they are and what their interests are in contributing to my efforts. Occasionally, I've noticed a pattern where an individual backer is the owner or leader of a company that is active in the Drupal community. This pattern makes me ask...
Should an individual's organization be backing the Webform module's Open Collective instead of that individual? Would a collective contribution by the company/organization serve that company/organization better/in a more comprehensive way? How or what would be the best avenue to address this to get companies/organizations on board to contribute as opposed to individuals?
Right now, I feel the answer is that the Webform module's Open Collective is not offering any clear incentive for organizations to become backers.
To encourage organizations to become backers we need to provide incentives with direct messaging targeting organizations.
Two valuable tools that we need to communicate to organizations
In my twenty-year career, I have learned that two invaluable statements said at the right time in earnest have changed my professional relationship with an individual or an entire organization. The first tool is the question, "How can I (or we) help you?" To me, this is a simple, straightforward way to approach a new introduction, challenge, or even an upset individual. And a key to this first tool working is making sure to employ the second part of it, which is to listen carefully to their answers. Opening the door with a question and listening may seem like common sense, but we sometimes forget that individuals and organizations need help, and they want some assurance that we are here to help them.
The second invaluable tool is an extension of offering to help someone with an important twist - it is letting the person I’m helping know that not only do I want to help but that it’s my job to ensure success. And again here’s where the second part of the tool has to be employed or it’s all for naught. I follow through and I’m accountable. This tool, while also remarkably simple, is universally invaluable. We all need help and we all want to succeed - this tool directly calls out the positive outcome we all want from work.
Apply these two statements to the organizations concerning the Webform module; we need to ask organizations how can we help their organization be successful?
How can we help organizations be successful?
I feel that there are two ways organizations use Drupal: Drupal as part of their organization, or as a company that sells Drupal and related services to organizations. Companies that need help selling Drupal need help with their sales funnel. Both organizations using Drupal and companies selling Drupal need training and support. For now, I want to begin by focusing on helping companies selling Drupal to be successful by acknowledging their sales funnel and the need for companies to market their services.
There are many ways for the Webform module's Open Collective to help companies sell Drupal services. The transparency that open source and Open Collective offer make it easy for companies to know that a project, like Webform, is supported. Anyone can see if there are regular releases with an active issue queue. With Open Collective, organizations can see which companies are helping to sustain and maintain the Webform module. I want to find a way to further acknowledge the organizations that are backing the Webform module's Open Collective.
Acknowledge a company’s support of the Webform module's Open Collective
The simplest and most direct way to acknowledge a company's support of the Webform module's Open Collective is to display their logo on the Webform module's project page and recognize the varying levels of support. This is not a new idea, but rather a small step in identifying sponsors. Showing sponsor logos makes it easy for prospective clients to know that a company is a part of the Drupal community. Below is the new sponsor section of the Webform module's project page.
There are dozens of small opportunities and experiments we can explore to help sponsors of the Webform module's Open Collective be successful.
More ways of acknowledging a company’s support of the Webform module's Open Collective
If the Webform module's Open Collective funds reach a certain point, we could offer some support guarantee that may be as simple as a release schedule. Or perhaps an organization may want to sponsor the resolution of issues related to security. If a company primarily sells Drupal services to government clients, they might like to support or take an active role in the Webform module's accessibility. Anything a company sponsors or contributes to can be highlighted, and hopefully would help them in landing their next big Drupal project.
Frankly, I think the right organization with the right approach could seize this opportunity. Sponsoring the Webform module would make an organization stand out and show they are a key player in the Drupal community, and demonstrate that they can build any type of webform to meet any client's needs and ensure their client's success.
There are lots of ways to increase the sponsorship of the Webform module's Open Collective. A really nice outcome of the blogs I’ve written surrounding sponsorship is that, with every open and honest blog post, more people are becoming backers. People are listening, people are responding and people are becoming backers. To continue with this momentum and to achieve long-term sustainable growth, we need to keep moving forward and to keep asking the right questions.
Asking the right questions
I want your help in asking the right questions and finding the right answers to help organizations be successful, whether they are using Drupal or selling Drupal. I want to inspire them to become backers of the Webform module's Open Collective.
Here are some of the questions I could use your help answering…
How could we help companies improve their sales funnel and project proposals? Would more case studies help? Would promoted case studies help?
What additional support and training could be provided to help organizations learn and use the Webform module? Would an organization want to sponsor monthly Webform training videos? Would sponsoring and organizing a monthly Webform lunch-n-learn be of interest to anyone?
Are there any additional services that could be offered around the Webform module? Would recommending or troubleshooting Webform add-on modules help organizations succeed?
One thing that I struggle with is determining what is the right level of transparency needed to make the Webform module’s Open Collective sustainable? For example, I am separately engaging with organizations to do project planning as a consultant and these engagements rightfully need to remain private and confidential.
A related question is, should I directly be engaging, possibly cold calling, or directly emailing organizations and companies trying to get them to sponsor the Webform module's Open Collective? I am hesitant to do this, but asking someone directly for help can make a huge difference.
I know this is a lot to answer. Staying focused on the key question, how can the Webform module's Open Collective help organizations and companies succeed? Answering this question is going to require your help and more discussion.
And finally, if your organization is already building flexible and engaging webforms, and you already are aware of their value to you and your work, please consider becoming a sponsor of the Webform modules Open Collective and have your organization's logo on the Webform module project page.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for your time.
I look forward to hearing back from you and taking on what comes next.