Community is the most important aspect of a project, because community makes its members beholden to something.
Look at the sad little GNU Project, still pretending to be Linux like it's 1999. You know what GNU never had? A community.
Most people have no idea what makes a community work, but we do. It's true that communities sometimes start out as "scruffy" groups of idealists bent on imposing some misguided view on others, but that's not a "community" so much as a cult.
Here are the secrets to a vibrant community:
First and most important, corporate backing is a must. As a foundation, a big sponsor can provide not only that "carrot" that proves a group or effort is thriving, but also the values that a community needs to be guided by.
When a project is small, it usually has no real idea what its values should be, so it sort of makes up whatever sounds good at the time. A well established company on the other hand, will be able to lend decades (sometimes centuries) of experience in professional ethics and values that lead to success in the Real World, not some idealistic fantasy. Isn't that exactly what every new, naive project is lacking?
Finding a sponsor is almost like gaining a foster parent. A "community" without this is like an orphanage. Which would you prefer?
As to the benefits of adopting a project, these are nothing new to the corporate world. Big companies have been "adopting" smaller companies since time immemorial. Red Hat's adoption by IBM is the latest example of this Act of Love. To be sponsored is to be cared for, and to know your project matters; but to OWN a community is to show how much your company cares about whatever cause it says on the banner, and it acts as a form of living proof that this is what you're "really" about... Even when you're not at all!
Of course if that's not enough to sell you, once you (virtually) own a community you also get to tell it what to do (with patience, care and subtlety-- but they do know what's at stake.) And this is incredibly useful if they want to do something that you know is a conflict of interest with your business, because you can help them find a better way that treats your bottom line with care and respect.
Consider project adoption, it will change your company forever. And YOU get to be Mummy and Daddy! Who holds the pursestrings in the family? Hardly the children! Everybody knows that. Remember the Golden Rule!
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