I must agree that Blender is one of the best commercial alternative pieces of software I have used (sometimes used above commercial tools by professionals for some tasks such as uv mapping/unwrapping) - excluding Linux, which is quite different in scale and use.
However Blender DOES have 3 (I think) paid developers who are continuously working on it, as well as the usual donations/targets for specific features and GSOC contributions.
The direction of Blender is rather tightly controlled (guided?), and it doesn't really get lost in what to develop next, there is a good structure/plan to do so.
However, there are a number of features that are implemented by (IIRC) non paid dev's that are not just small updates, like the Cycles Hair Stand rendering for example.
Where the 'small' guys can contribute however, is by addons written in python, using Blenders API. There are many addons that can greatly enhance the experience, and tools within Blender that is alot easier to make/learn than having to code in C in Blender.
The Blender project overall, seems to be fast paced, and not hindered by many of the problems that may hinder other OSS projects, with constant feature development, and a way where almost anyone can (and more importantly DOES) contribute to make the project better. (IE Coding, Coding Addons, resource files and tutorials)