As a Linux distributor and who works in the industry I will say Im 50/50 on this. Yes doing Black Lab Linux and ElementaryOS is hard work. A lot of people think these are just rebranded Ubuntus and they arent. Black Lab Linux we tend to fix bugs, submit them upstream and hopefully our fixes will get used. Doesnt always happen but we do our best.
Now I agree with elementaryOS on the fact that people SHOULD make donations, even if its just a dollar. People dont realize just how much that dollar helps out. It also helps with team morale because they see that what we do is accepted. Now, Im not picking on elementaryOS. Dont take this as a bashing of my competition, but I do have a problem with FORCED donations. Because lets face it. If you force a donation you are selling a product. Thats what you are doing. Now what if they dont like elementaryOS? Will you give them a refund? What if they have a problem with the installation?
Im unapologetic that I am a commercial distributer as well. I offer my distribution for free download as well. When people use it, they like it, they have two options. If they want, they can make a donation and continue to use the distro. I dont care if its a dollar. Its something. But, they can make a donation and use it for as long as they wish and get forum and social media support. Now, if they purchase the product. Pro Desktop goes for $75.00 per seat. Now with that they get things like 12 months of official support. 6 months of phone support and 6 months of e-mail support. They get the privilege of calling me at 3 am if something goes wrong. You also get more software integrations. But this is not a plug for my distro. What Im saying is that I give the customer more incentives to purchase the product and to make a donation. If you force the donation system then they will feel cheated if something goes wrong or if something just doesnt work because they will have it in their head. "Hey I purchased this." so in closing, while I know the donations that come to distros is not exactly the BEST, not getting donations is something you should be used to as a Linux distributor.