They already have a partnership for funding with Automattic, but the team has one full time developer, multiple part time developers, and Scott himself. Everything Pods related is currently free.
I told Scott myself that I think charging for support or plugins is a sure way to raise more money, considering they have 30,000+ active installs. But he's dedicated to keep Pods accessible and free, hence the new system.
It's a membership system that includes some benefits (coupons) and site credits for donors. Check it out if you're a big Pods user.