Announcing GItHub Sponsors

FAQ with the GitHub Sponsors team

Image of Devon Zuegel

Hello, this is Devon from the GitHub Sponsors team! It’s been incredibly motivating for us to see the outpouring of enthusiasm for the launch and to hear your ideas for where you’d like to see it go from here. We’re just getting started, and your input is important to keep us going in the right direction.

Open source funding is a nuanced, important topic, so we wanted to share our thinking on how GitHub Sponsors fits into the story and the frameworks for how we’ve made certain decisions about the product.

We’ll continue to add to this FAQ as more questions come up. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, don’t hesitate to send us a note at opensource@github.com. You can also find more details about how GitHub Sponsors and the matching fund work in our help docs.

Table of contents:

Why did you build GitHub Sponsors?

Everyone building GitHub Sponsors is passionate about the problems we’re tackling for their own particular reasons. Here’s how each member of our core team answered this question in their own words:

“Online communities have always been a huge part of my life—from connecting with others to growing as an individual. I’ve been designing tools and systems for communities on GitHub to be productive, welcoming, and safe. Coming from that perspective, I’m thrilled to work on GitHub Sponsors to financially empower developers in the open source community in their current and future work! I’m excited to see how funding can give maintainers, mentors, organizers, and beyond more equity and access to building communities on GitHub.”

Kat Fukui (@katmeister, Designer)

“I believe great software is built on the shoulders of giants. As cliché as it sounds, it truly takes a village to solve interesting problems in a scalable manner without reinventing the wheel unnecessarily. Open source provides an accessible avenue for creators and developers to tap into that digital infrastructure.

I’m building GitHub Sponsors to support the human beings behind open source and to allow users to give back to maintainers and help the open source ecosystem thrive.”

– Yumin Wong (@itsbagpack, Engineer)

“The world runs on open source. For decades, both integrators and end users have enjoyed the benefits of open source work without considering the cost of labor necessary to build and maintain the infrastructure on which our modern world operates.

I’m excited by the opportunity to call attention to these people; to normalize the idea that their time and effort is valuable, and by extension, increase the pool of prospective open source contributors. Win win.”

– Mike Kavouras (@mikekavouras, Engineer)

“Open source is such an exciting phenomenon because it gives anyone with a computer and access to the internet a way to positively affect thousands of lives.

Funding open source means empowering even more people to contribute, grow, and build together. I’m so proud to work on GitHub Sponsors because we have the opportunity to make open source not only more sustainable but also more accessible to people all over the world.”

– Katie Delfin (@yassskatie, Engineer)

“Open source is freely shared without the expectation of great reward, but that shouldn’t preclude maintainers from accepting funding to support the great deal of work, often on personal time, that goes into its creation, maintenance, and management.

I’m excited to work on the Open Source Economy team and GitHub Sponsors specifically because we are in a great position to normalize the idea that open source creates value worthy of compensation. In the long term, I believe successful and generally accepted funding models will create more opportunity in open source.”

Derek Prior (@derekprior, Engineering Manager)

I’ve been maintaining the Homebrew project for ten years and seen huge growth in the size of the project and number of users. As the current Project Leader, the hardest problems in Homebrew for me to work on have moved from being technical to efficiently raising and allocating resources. It’s been invigorating to spend my day job building new ways for maintainers and projects on GitHub to raise the resources they need to grow and maintain their projects.

Mike McQuaid (@mikemcquaid, Engineer)

What’s the story behind GitHub Sponsors? How did it all start?

Many people at GitHub have been thinking for years about how to make open source thrive—including but not limited to funding models. We have lots of maintainers on staff who have a personal connection to and passion for the topic, and Nadia Eghbal’s extensive work, including her 2016 Roads & Bridges report, deeply impacted how the team thinks about the challenges faced by open source communities.

These problems are not abstract but rather deeply personal for me, too. Many of my closest friends are or have been open source maintainers, and I’m a passionate believer that building, supporting, and funding infrastructure is one of the highest-leverage ways to make a difference in the world.

With this in mind, I dove deep into independent research into this problem space last year. I spoke with hundreds of open source developers all around the world; I read everything I could get my hands on the topics of open source, gift economies, shared resources, and infrastructure development; and I learned so much from talking to amazing people at GitHub and beyond who’ve been working on these problems for years.

Open source is the heart of GitHub, so it was a no-brainer for us to build tools for developers and communities that make the community even stronger. After this extensive research, I approached the leadership team with a proposal of what I thought was an important responsibility for GitHub to take on, as the place where so much software development happens and one that is so indebted to open source. GitHub Sponsors is a first step to building those tools.

The conceptual groundwork laid by previous GitHubbers, combined with the whole team’s love of open source, made this an easy sell. The team that built the first version of GitHub Sponsors, which we launched on May 23, is incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about the problems that open source developers face, and we’re so excited about what’s to come this summer and beyond.

How does the waitlist work?

As we scale up operations for Sponsors, we want to be fair and welcoming to all of the amazing developers who’ve applied. We’re inviting people off the waitlist in randomized order, prioritizing folks who’ve received recommendations from others.

We’re sourcing recommendations from two places:

  • Recommendation form: We’d love to hear who you’d like to see receive sponsorship in the program! If you’d like to recommend another developer for GitHub Sponsors, please fill out this form.
  • Waitlist applications: When a developer applies to Sponsors, one of the questions we ask is: “What developers would you like to sponsor through GitHub Sponsors who aren’t already part of the program?” We’re using these recommendations to better understand which contributors the open source community is most eager to support.

How do you determine if FUNDING.yml will natively support a platform? Why isn’t my platform of choice supported?

Several of you have reached out asking why we don’t support certain platforms (including PayPal and Venmo) natively in FUNDING.yml, the file for configuring a “Sponsor” button on a repo. Great question!

We decided to leave PayPal, Venmo, and others out of the set of supported platforms because there is a less explicit social contract for where the money is going compared to platforms like Patreon, Open Collective, Tidelift, and Community Bridge, to name a few of the platforms we do support. Those are community, creator, open source, or developer-focused—and they make it clear that you are supporting the work of the person or team developing code in that repository.

We support custom fields so we can monitor funding methods we might not have known about, and iterate accordingly. Good news is you can put PayPal—or any other link—in the custom field, too.

Learn more about funding links

Do you plan to support corporate sponsors and sponsored teams? Why did you start with individual sponsors and sponsored developers?

We want to make it as easy as possible for those who benefit from open source—whether they’re massive corporations, students, small startups, non-profits, or beyond—to sponsor the amazing people, teams, and projects they depend on. Companies in particular receive tremendous benefit from open source, and a huge portion of the open source that exists is built in teams of people and not just individual developers, so we’re especially keen to offer better tools for both corporate sponsorships and sponsored teams in the future.

Today’s GitHub Sponsors is just the first step, and we plan to extend the types of sponsorships it supports. We launched small and simple, but our mission is vast: to expand the opportunities to participate in and build on open source. We’re just getting started.

We began with developer-to-developer sponsorships because it’s a great tool for individual developers to receive grassroots support from their community. For some, that’ll look like small tokens of gratitude and moral support. For others, that might mean it’s possible for them to work on open source full time, or it could mean some extra funds for a nice vacation. We don’t expect it will solve the funding problem for everyone. Rather, it is a key building block that enables us to build a rich suite of tools for all sorts of open source developers to fund and coordinate their work with other models of open source funding, too.

Funding is a nuanced issue, so it’s crucial for us to build Sponsors based on your feedback rather than going off in the direction our own untested assumptions. We’ve intentionally prioritized taking an iterative approach to get feedback on what’s working, what we can improve, and where you all would like to see the program expand. If you have ideas about how GitHub Sponsors can serve the open source community, send an email to opensource@github.com. We’re excited to hear from you!

How will you ensure sponsorships are diverse and inclusive?

We want GitHub to be the home for all developers, and we have a lot more work to do to reflect the growing global industry. We also want to recognize all types of contributions, like mentorship, design, documentation, organizing, and non-profit work. We’re actively elevating the current and future work of underrepresented groups through the recommendations of community organizers and maintainers, and working closely with developers to set them up for success. We believe better representation in open source communities makes technology more accessible and addresses more diverse needs.

Why did you create the GitHub Sponsors Matching Fund?

We had several goals for the Matching Fund:

  • The first one is pretty straightforward: we just plain want to give a lot of money to open source developers! This community is what it is today because of the amazing developers who build shared tools for each other, and we want to give back to them.
  • Like all software companies, GitHub uses open source extensively, so we have a responsibility to support the development and maintenance of that infrastructure. We want to set an example for software companies to give back to open source.
  • We went with the matching fund format because we want to empower you, the community, to decide where that funding should go, instead of just deciding ourselves where that money should go. We’re excited to see how you surprise us!
  • We want to make sure the developers in the program can get their sponsorships off to a good start. Our goal with Sponsors is to help them thrive, and the matching fund makes it all the more attractive for others to sponsor them in the first place. Their contribution goes twice as far.

Can’t people just steal money from the matching fund?

We have a rigorous vetting process for the sponsored developers who receive the match. If you happened to see the application form at github.com/sponsors, you’ll notice we ask a lot of questions that support this process. We’re also introducing more measures—including an extensive identity verification and antifraud program in partnership with Stripe—as we grow the program this summer.


We’ll continue to add to this FAQ as more questions come up. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, don’t hesitate to send us a note at opensource@github.com. You can also find more details about how GitHub Sponsors and the matching fund work in our help docs.