The CiviCRM Partner Program formed in late 2013/early 2014 and was the first initiative to transition CiviCRM off of founder funding and on to the community (community funding accounts for about 52% of budget. See breakdown below). It was followed by a member program and a technology partner program, as well as intiatives to garner support from individual community members.
The partner program has generated approximaetely $120k per year in revenue for the operation of the core team (click here for current financial stats). Over the years, it has gradually increased. Currently there are approximately 58 partners around the world. Many have been partners since inception, though a large portion have joined over the years.
The partner program is broken into 3 tiers and allows for an annual or monthly renewal cycle. It includes several 'benefits', however many of these go unused (like "access to the core team... what does that mean?", are poorly defined (like "support for RFPs/sales funnel) or are inconsistently applied (like event discounts).
Anecdotally speaking, most partners focus their interest on the partner/contributor listing (we've recently implemented outbound link tracking to determine traffic flowing through to partners via this listing) and express little interest in other 'benefits'.
Over the years, benefits have leaned toward 'exclusivity', and a significant amount of time has been invested there as a result. The core team and partners have engaged in lengthy discussions via mattermost/email group and held partner/ct-only meetings, covering a range of topics from technical development to business management.
We define community funding to include:
General contributions (2%)
Make It Happen campaigns (8%) - note that a portion of this is paid to MIH organizers/developers