So, your open source project is ready for community financial support. Great! Here’s how to nail it.
1) Involve your community.
Open Collective is designed to fund collaborative communities, because that’s how open source is built. So it’s important that your key contributors feel like it’s theirs. Because it is! Start a discussion wherever your community hangs out, to let people know what to expect and give them a chance to share their ideas and concerns about raising money. If contributors feel a sense of co-ownership with fundraising, like they do with the codebase, they will be your first donors and most passionate champions.
2) Clarify your mission.
Have you ever sat down and very succinctly articulated why exactly your project exists, and what it offers the world? Can you explain your mission in one paragraph? How about one sentence? The better you communicate what you’re doing, the more people will support you. It’s ok if you’re not a marketing expert! You just need to be clear and honest about the value your project provides.
3) Ready your champions.
Early momentum is important in crowdfunding. People like donating to projects that other people are also supporting, because they want to have collective impact. Reach out to your potential funders before you launch, and ask them to donate on the first day to get the ball rolling.
4) Publish a blog post.
Launching your collective is exciting news for your project. Write a blog post so people know what’s going on, and so people have a link to share. Explain what you do, why you’re raising money, and how people can donate. Address any concerns people might have. This is a great opportunity to celebrate your community and paint a picture of what funding could make possible in the future.
5) Offer a menu of contribution options.
List the different ways people can contribute to your project on your website and README, donating money being one of them. The more options available, the more people can participate.
6) Celebrate your financial contributors.
Feature your community of contributors proudly, on your website, social media, and your repo. You can connect your Twitter account in your Open Collective settings to automatically thank donors.
7) Get the word out.
Many people need to hear about something new through a few different channels to get inspired to act. Tweet about your Collective and encourage donors to share on social media. Submit your blog post link to forums where your users and supporters congregate. If you have a mailing list, send out a special update.
8) Reach out to potential sponsors.
Having lots of small donors is great for community building, but big budgets are usually funded by companies giving larger amounts. An Open Collective page helps your pitch by showing your enthusiastic and active community and clearly stating your mission. What businesses rely on your project? Who might be harmed if your project wasn’t being maintained as well? These companies will have a real interest in your continued success.
9) Submit expenses
People donate because they want you to use their money to power up the project. So get proactive! Print stickers and other merch, cover costs associated with conference talks, and financially support people who make key contributions. Think about your community’s priorities for the project, and how money could help. For some projects it’s about code, but for others it’s more about community support, documentation, and outreach. If you’re not sure what’s most important to your community, ask them!
10) Keep engaging
Tell stories about what financial support has made possible. Listen to feedback about what tiers funders want and update your offerings. Set funding goals, and describe what that next level could look like when you reach it. Keep listening, learning, and sharing.