Noink was designed as a Web-based image server to power the online comic strip site, Geekcomix.com. It is, however, general enough to be used as an abstract information server (allowing for indexing and archiving of images, text-based content, content external to the server, and other types of data). It can be configured via simple markup-like files, and has a fairly strong emphasis on security which includes password encryption. It has a simple forum feature built-in with moderator utilities, as well as a rich administration system with automated site archival.
Ever hear of LinuxFund.org? They (essentially) allow for this sort of thing.
I think this can be a good idea... the problem is that people typically aren't charitable... and I doubt we could generate enough funding to provide adequate income to even the smallest fraction of the most talented developers working on the most widely used pieces of software.
Now tax credits would be nice.... but with our largely rep. government right now, this isn't going to happen anytime soon in America at least ;-)
Re: I scratch your back, you scratch mine...
People have tried this. Remember SourceXchange? I think the problem is two-fold:
1) Trying to get people who need software and are willing to pay for it to trust this type of development. Let's face it, the customers typically really don't know much about the development process (or they could just make the software themselves ;-) and they have this "cathedral" view where software that's worthwhile must come from some big "respectful" company with marketters and lawyers and pages of legally binding material. Trying to convince them otherwise is a hard task.
2) Trying to get software developers to work for them. This is a problem because the really talented ones wont work on projects that they aren't already passionate about for free. I feel fine working on my personal projects for free, but when someone needs a C++ library for importing mail (my current paying project) I just can't get all that enthused about it unless I see some money ;-) If you can't get paying customers interrested in it, you can't get the developers interrested.
I personally think this type of thing can work... it just is yet to do so. When I does, I really want to be one of the first ones involved.