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How to Thank Sponsors for Supporting Your Open Source Project

Benefits of thanking sponsors

Slowly but surely, people are starting to acknowledge the significance of compensation in open source. With more proprietary companies relying on open source and more maintainers experiencing burnout, it is evident that folks deserve money for their contributions.

Today, platforms like Open Collective and GitHub Sponsors make paying it forward convenient. But after you, the maintainer, create a Sponsors page and land your first sponsor, what's next? How do you ensure sponsors continue to support you?

In my opinion, making the sponsor feel valued is key to maintaining the relationship. Valuing a sponsor and welcoming them into your community can look like expressing gratitude for their financial support in public. I've seen many maintainers cringe at the thought of publicly promoting activity within their projects because it's deemed inauthentic. As I mentioned in an article called, Attract contributors to your open source project with authenticity, "The reality is we have to market our projects. Think about it: Developers create several public repositories daily, but nobody knows those repositories exist. Without adoption, community, or collaboration, we're not truly reaping the benefits of open source."

Publicly thanking a sponsor may feel like self-promotion, but it's not! Instead, you are giving back to the individual or corporation that sponsored you.

The ideal flow looks like this:

  • You share your code
  • An organization or individual gains customers and revenue using your code
  • An organization or individual compensates you for your contribution in the form of sponsorship
  • You publicly thank the sponsoring organization or individual
  • The sponsor gains credibility within the developer community for supporting you
  • Your community indirectly gains credibility and attracts MORE sponsors because you showed that you value your sponsors, and your project is worth the investment.

As Open Collective perfectly states, "community is about sharing."

Let's talk about how to show your sponsors some gratitude!

8 ways to thank sponsors for supporting your open source project

You can highlight sponsors in a blog post

Nicholas C. Zackas ( @nzakas ), the creator of ESLint, dedicates blog announcements to gold and platinum sponsors. The blog announcement includes a testimonial from leaders within the organization.

For inspiration, check out more blog announcements and the screenshot below from the ESLint project!

Not sure what to write in your blog announcement? Here's a suggested structure:

  • Introduce the project you're highlighting with their logos
  • Express your gratitude for their donation
  • Briefly describe the reason they're sponsoring your project
  • Include a call to action

This image is a screenshot of the ESLint blog post. It is titled Contra becomes ESLint gold sponsor. You can read the full post at https://eslint.org/blog/2021/12/contra-gold-sponsor-eslint

You can feature sponsors on your website or your README

Bekah Hawrot Weigel ( @bekahhw ) , maintainer of Virtual Coffee, chooses to thank her sponsors by featuring their photos or logos on the website landing page. See the example below:

This image is a screenshot of Virtual Coffee. It displays a list of people who sponsored her project

You can credit sponsors in your release announcements

The team at dj-stripe shows sponsors that their support enabled them to release bug fixes and new features. You can do the same! You can write, "This release was made possible by…" at the beginning of your release notes.

Image description

You can write a tweet thanking your sponsors for their support

Tech twitter is poppin'! Many developers use Twitter to stay up to date with the latest tech news, share their programming hot takes, and learn from technologists they admire. It sounds simple, but thanking a GitHub sponsor on Tech Twitter is high flattery. The maintainer of Octokit, Gregor Martynus ( @gr2m ), takes this approach. See below:

This screenshot shows a tweet where Gregor says, "Hey <br>
@tryfabric, thank you for sponsoring me on GitHub"

You can give sponsors a shout on a Twitch live stream or YouTube video

If you regularly stream or create YouTube videos about coding or your open source project, that's the perfect opportunity to thank your sponsors. Santosh Yadav, a core contributor for all things Angular, uses his YouTube videos and Twitch Streams to recognize his supporters. In the screenshot below, Santosh ( @santoshyadav198613 ) uses the YouTube description section to thank his GitHub sponsors individually.

This is a screenshot of Santosh speaking in his YouTube video. Below is a video description and he writes thank you to his GitHub Sponsors. He also lists their names.

You can prioritize your sponsors' feedback

I wrote a discussion post on DEV to help me brainstorm ideas to write this blog post. @elvisoric poignantly stated, "Listen to their [your sponsors] requests, and if it makes sense, give higher priority..They are already using your project. It [your project] is already of value for them, so it is best to offer them more of what they are already using."

Your sponsors are probably your biggest customers! They rely on your project so much they've started to pay for it! Offer services such as:

Screenshot of Elvis Oric saying, Listen to their [your sponsors] requests, and if it makes sense, give higher priority..They are already using your project. It [your project] is already of value for them, so it is best to offer them more of what they are already using.

You can send swag to your sponsors as a token of appreciation

Everyone loves swag! If you can afford it, send your supporters a t-shirt or trinket! People often post on social media when they receive a free shirt or pair of socks from a company, so you won't have to. This suggestion is ideal if your open source community is well-funded or you feel too shy to thank supporters publicly.

You can invite your sponsors to live stream with you

I haven't seen anyone do this yet, but maybe people are doing it already. I regularly live stream with them on Twitch to learn more about maintainers' projects. I also sometimes host Twitter Spaces with maintainers. It's a bit less effort but just as valuable!

Inviting a sponsor on your Twitter Space or your Twitch stream could be a fantastic opportunity:

  • For your sponsors to gain exposure for their projects
  • For your sponsors to show how they've integrated your project with their project
  • To inspire viewers to use both your projects
  • To strengthen the relationship with your sponsors

For examples of what a stream can look like, check out one of my Open Source Friday streams with @colbyfayock below!

Thanking your sponsors will benefit both you and your sponsors! Let's continue the cycle of giving back to our community!

In the comments below, share ideas you have to make GitHub Sponsors feel valued.

In the comments below, share ideas you have to make GitHub Sponsors feel valued. For more content about GitHub’s latest features and best practices for navigating Git, follow GitHub and me on DEV!

Discussion (3)

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andrewbaisden profile image
Andrew Baisden

Great topic!

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phyesix profile image
Ibrahim Nergiz

Nice tips.

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dnasedkina profile image
dnasedkina

Great tips! Work for areas far beyond github sponsors :)