Via Jeremy Hylton, Mark Shuttleworth (super-rich geek and space tourist) is offering $100,000 worth of bounties in 2004 to developers willing to help out with a number of Open Source projects, most of which are to be developed in Python. A comparison can be made here with Mitch Kapor, another geek-done-well who funds open source development through his sponsorship of the Open Source Applications Foundation.
Personally I think this is a great way of funding open source development, although a counter-argument is that this kind of reward could encourage the wrong kind of attitude within the open source community with programmers dedicating their time to paid projects at the expense of others. I don’t see this happening—people work on open source projects for the love of doing so and to scratch an itch. If you have the money to spend and want to offer it up as a bounty for someone to further develop a product you like then more power to you! I would certainly consider doing so if some freak incident left me rolling in cash (very unlikely to happen considering my complete disinterest in nursing my finances).