The benefits of open-source contribution for businesses

Abstract blue-green image of software (branches) with parallel lines coming out of them
Business Community

Contributing to open-source software has numerous benefits for individual developers and other tech enthusiasts. Something that many businesses seem not to acknowledge and/or embrace, however, is the fact that open-source contribution also brings many business benefits, beyond the obvious one of the moral responsibility to give back.

In this article, we’ll discuss this more thoroughly, exploring contribution to an open-source software project in the long-term strategic sense that is relevant for businesses. 


1. Giving back

Let’s begin with the obvious one, which is in practice often much less obvious. If you’ve grown your business around open-source software, it only makes logical and moral sense to give something back to the project which has enabled this growth.

Open-source software is widely considered to be free software – but it’s only free because of people who are committed to it and are willing to invest time and effort into contributing to make it and keep it free.

So, make sure to avoid the fallacy of not wanting to contribute or thinking you don’t need to contribute because it’s free anyway. Just imagine what would happen if everyone had this kind of mindset – there would be nothing to contribute to

As the founder of Drupal Dries Buytaert puts it, a healthy balance between makers (businesses that give back) and takers (businesses that don’t) is vital to ensuring long-term sustainability of open-source projects. If there aren’t enough makers, the software project loses its strengths and appeal, which disadvantages both makers and takers.

So, while being a maker does indeed have noble and altruistic motives, it’s in fact quite self-serving – by helping sustain the open-source project which has helped your company succeed, you’re ensuring the prolonged success of your company based on that software project.


2. Recognition & market visibility

Another very compelling benefit of contributing to open source, which is true both for individuals and businesses, is the boost in reputation and visibility the individual and their employer get for their contribution, which can be a huge boon especially in the case of more substantial contributions such as key core features or a new platform version.

It’s important to note that this recognition within the community leads to increased visibility among your clients and prospects. In the context of Drupal and the balance between makers & takers we just highlighted above, this has been realized via a showcase of the top contributors (makers) on the official Drupal website – which is kind of like getting a billboard on the busiest road, for free.


3. Ability to have relevant sessions at events

Being an active contributor gives you a deeper insight into the software/feature you work on, opening the door to more opportunities through sharing your learnings on meetups and conferences. In this way, it creates a positive loop of contribution which leads to more contribution.

This is especially relevant in connection with the above point about reputation and visibility. The more your employees present at events, the more immediate your company will be in the minds of community members, and what’s more, it will showcase a diversified approach to contribution and hence a true commitment to the software project you use and promote.


4. Up-to-date with latest initiatives

By having many members of your team contribute to an open-source software project, your entire company will be much more up-to-date with the latest initiatives and development of new features, especially if any of your team members are in a more prominent role, such as a core committer.

This way, you can get ahead of the curve by getting what’s essentially early access to new features, being able to test them early on, and just generally being more involved in the how and why by having a better insight into the workings of the software and/or a specific feature.


5. More capable developers and teams

If your company is more involved in the inner workings of the software you use, your developers and/or teams are better equipped to deal with issues specific to this software, especially those involving features/plugins they have themselves contributed to.

Not only that, this will also make them better equipped for working with other software projects, in particular when they are based on the same programming language (e.g. Drupal/WordPress and Laravel), since they will be both familiar with industry standards and best practices, as well as used to collaborating with larger groups of people who are distributed globally in an open-source environment.



Giving back to the open-source project you use will serve to make the software better, which will in turn make your business better – which will allow you to contribute even more and further improve the software. With this in mind, it’s clear that giving back to open source is just a no-brainer.

Don’t forget that open-source contributions don’t need to be software specific; you can just as meaningfully contribute through non-code contributions such as promoting the project or organizing events, which are often very much needed precisely because they are less promoted and hence rarer than code contributions.