How to Create the Perfect Sponsors Profile for Your Open Source Project

Rizel Scarlett's photo
Rizel Scarlett
·May 10, 2022·

8 min read

How to Create the Perfect Sponsors Profile for Your Open Source Project

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Why Create a Quality Sponsors Profile?

As an open source maintainer, you should create a quality GitHub Sponsors Profile because you deserve to earn money for your valuable contributions to technology. You've given your time, money, and energy into supporting corporations and individual developers for very little compensation in return (even though you may have other things going on like a family or a full-time job). Meanwhile, well-funded corporations use your tooling to make even more money. Let's explore how we can make it easy for folks to give back to us in return!

Stripe is one of few organizations leading the charge on investing in open source projects. Corporations like Stripe invest in projects that they depend on or help to increase their revenue. For example, Stripe sponsors Nick DeJesus because his use-shopping-cart library makes it easier to manage shopping cart state and logic for Stripe checkout.

I recently met a portion of the Stripe Developer Advocacy team in real life (which was so cool)! During our meeting, I spent a significant time listening to Chris Traganos, the Developer Advocacy Engineering Manager at Stripe. He passionately spoke about how he believes organizations should fund open source maintainers. He believes open source maintainers need to develop GitHub Sponsors Profiles that make people interested in supporting their work.

Creating a GitHub Sponsors profile is part of marketing and increasing your project's visibility to attract more supporters. Although marketing can feel inauthentic, the reality is good marketing is vital to your project's longevity and success. Think about it: if no one knows your project exists, they will never see it. Also, the better you tell your story and make it easier for people to support you, the more people will give. The concept is similar to writing good contributing guidelines and a good README. Curating these documents helps folks understand your project's objectives and how they can get involved. This blog post will give you top tips on creating a GitHub Sponsors profile that will better appeal to potential sponsors.

What is GitHub Sponsors?

The mission of GitHub Sponsors is to provide opportunities to participate in and build on open source. The advent of GitHub Sponsors and other third-party sponsorship models helps our industry take the right steps in making open source careers possible. GitHub Sponsors offers a native solution for individuals and corporations to sponsor open source maintainers and contributors.

How can I determine which projects I depend on?

If you’re interested in sponsoring projects you depend on, you can check out the GitHub Sponsors Explore Page. This list will include a list of projects your accounts depend on, and indicate which ones are eligible for sponsorship. Here’s how it looks for me:

This is a screenshot of Rizel's GitHub Sponsors explore page. It includes babel and remirror as top projects she depends on, with a sponsor button next to each.

How to Sign Up

To enable GitHub Sponsors for your profile or organization, you have to join the waitlist. The waitlist exists because the GitHub Sponsors team reviews applications to ensure they comply with GitHub's policies. Head over to this link. It will show you a list of your organizations and profiles that are eligible to join the waitlist for GitHub Sponsors, similar to the image below:

This screenshot includes a heading that says GitHub Sponsors eligible accounts. Underneath the heading, it shows three accounts An organization called All In Open Source, An account called blackgirlbytes, and An organization called GCode House .Each of these accounts has a button that reads, "Join the waitlist."

Learn more about creating a GitHub Sponsors account from the official GitHub documentation.

Elements of an Appealing Sponsors Page

For a Personal Developer Profile

Introduction - Use this space to explain who you are, what your project is about, and why people should invest. Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine!

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Feature relevant work - This is your chance to show people you or your organization’s most impactful repositories.

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Meet the Team (for organizations) - For organizations, it's nice to highlight the team members who brought the vision to life! It can bring a more human element to the project, inspiring potential sponsors. The below image shows how dj-stripe opted to highlight their team members.

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Sponsor tiers with amounts and descriptions - Sponsor tiers create clarity for potential sponsors, so they’re not trying to guess how much they should give you. Each sponsor tier has the option to include a description. I suggest:

* Using the description section to briefly explain why that tier exists, what those funds will go to, **or** rewards sponsors can receive for that amount. Rewards can be as simple as a shoutout in your newsletter.
* Including at least four tiers with an option to choose a custom amount (in case sponsors can afford to give more or less than your preferred tiers)
* Including options to sponsor the project once and monthly

This image shows that you can opt to sponsor a custom amount one-time

This image shows that you can opt to sponsor a custom amount or set amounts monthly. Each tier includes a cute description stating what the money would go towards. For example, $15 a month will help this technologist buy technical books and other learning materials.

This image shows rewards for sponsored tiers

Your goals (number of sponsors or target amount) - Sponsors are curious about your progress and how they can contribute to you reaching your goal faster, so it’s a good practice to share your goals in public along with a reason for that goal. You can choose to share a goal of how many sponsors you aim to reach or your monetary goals.

  • Here is an example displaying an organization’s monetary goals:

In this image, Babel shows that they’ve 14% towards their $12,000 per month goal

In this image, Babel states that they have a goal to earn $12,000 per month with a description that says, “Part of what we need for our three paid maintainers.”

  • Here is an example display an organization’s sponsors goals:

In the image, this maintainer shows they are 28% closer to their goal of 50 sponsors.

In this image, the maintainer explains that having a goal of 50 sponsors would be an achievement for their open source career.

Highlight the accounts sponsoring you - To show your gratitude, highlight the folks who sponsor you. This may also indicate that your project is worth supporting if other folks sponsor you. Check out what highlighting accounts that sponsor you may look like:

This screenshot shows that 49 sponsors are funding M0nica’s work! It includes their profile pictures.

The FUNDING.yml file

After you build your profile, set up a funding.yml file in a .github folder at the root of your project. This special file exists so that when people click the sponsor button, it will show a list of funding options for your open source project. The various funding options can include multiple GitHub accounts, GitHub organizations, and third-party funding options like Patreon or Tidelift.

An example of a what a .github/FUNDING.yml file from the Babel project:



# These are supported funding model platform

github: [babel] # Replace with up to 4 GitHub Sponsors-enabled usernames e.g., [user1, user2]

open_collective: babel # Replace with a single Open Collective username

custom: https://gitcoin.co/grants/2906/babel-compiler-for-next-generation-javascript # Replace with a single custom sponsorship URL

The YAML generates the following results:

In the screenshot, it shows that you can sponsor Babel through GitHub Sponsors, open collection, or Gitcoin.

Curated List of Awesome GitHub Sponsors Profiles

I compiled a list based on Chris Traganos’ favorite GitHub Sponsors Profiles along with my own to help inspire you:

Chris’ favorites

DJ-Stripe

Chris loves this profile because “it is really clear pricing tiers for sponsorship and they know their audience well”.

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You can view this Sponsor Profile in more detail at github.com/sponsors/dj-stripe

Chris Oliver

Chris Traganos chose Chris Oliver’s profile because “he makes it about more than his project - he lets you in on what he's thinking and building.”

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You can view this Sponsor Profile in more detail at https://github.com/sponsors/excid3

Ricardo Sánchez

Chris loves Ricardo’s profile because Ricardo gets specific in what they're willing to do with sponsorship.

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You can view this Sponsor Profile in more detail at https://github.com/sponsors/richnologies

Dries Vints

Chris feels Dries uses the Sponsor profile to truly demonstrate their impact!

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You can view this Sponsor Profile in more detail at https://github.com/sponsors/driesvints

Rizel’s favorites

Dayhaysoos

I love this profile because it clearly identifies which project’s Nick is maintaining and the significance of each project within developer communities.

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M0nica

I love this profile because there are multiple options for sponsorship tiers and the introduction gives you reason to sponsor M0nica.

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Jay Miller

For this profile, the sponsorship tiers and the rewards folks can gain from contribution caught my eye!

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Miguel Raz Guzmán Macedo

I appreciate this profile for the humor it brings. Miguel’s personality shines through and encourages sponsors to fund him, so he can work to improve Julia full time!

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Twitter Space about Open Source Sponsorships

I co-hosted a Twitter Space alongside Denise Yu, Senior Engineering Manager for GitHub Sponsors, listening to maintainers about their experience with Sponsors. The guest panel included Bekah Hawrot Weigel, Santosh Yadav, Joshua K. Goldberg, Ankur Tyagi, and Logan Kilpatrick. You can listen to the raw recording and read the transcript here.

In the comments below, show off your Sponsors page to inspire other maintainers! Share tips for how you're managing sponsorships so we can improve the experience for you.

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