How To Sponsor Open Source
Open source software can be used freely and without obligation by any individual or company, with the world relying on open source to power all kinds of technology. Despite this, maintainers of open source projects often struggle to find enough time, money, and/or resources to keep things running. At Wayfair, we expect our most senior technology leaders to exhibit the competency of “sponsoring” open source projects, which can mean supporting open source in a variety of ways. We’ll go through some of those support options below.
The main takeaway for those reading is to understand the myriad ways you can support open source as an individual who can dedicate some (or all) of their working hours to the cause. This call out is purposely different to how a company might sponsor open source, which happens primarily through financial means, such as joining foundations. Wayfair are Silver members of The Linux Foundation and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), and have also sponsored events such as PyCon, KubeCon/CloudNativeCon, and more. We’re excited to extend our support to other foundations in the future; take a look at our community page for our latest updates in this space.
What Sponsorship of Open Source Can Look Like
“Sponsoring” in the context of individual support for open source can look like the following:
- Becoming a financial backer of a software maintainer or project
- Working as a regular contributor to a larger project
- Earning a leadership or governance position in a project or community
- Advocating for specific projects as an official company liaison
At Wayfair, the last three points listed above are the possible avenues senior technical leaders can take as a way to sponsor open source work. When it comes to financial sponsorship, GitHub Sponsors is one popular way of providing monetary support, however, for the purposes of this guide, we won’t be diving any deeper into this option. Feel free to check out Github Sponsors if you’re interested in financially sponsoring projects you’re interested in or maintainers you’d like to fund for their continued open source contributions.
Open source contributions can take many forms. Bigger open source projects such as Kubernetes, for example, need more than just PRs to run the work of their many special interest groups. Hence, how folks can get involved in open source up to the point of sponsorship also varies.
Regular Contribution as Sponsorship
The first way we recommend Wayfairians to take up the mantle of open source sponsorship is to become regular contributors to a project. While contribution is highlighted as a preferred option to advance our technology goals, the definition of “regular” can mean improvements to a project, consistent reviews of PRs, project management for larger projects, or a combination of all of the above. It’s important to call out that contribution doesn’t need to equal feature development – maintenance and PR reviewing are also important aspects of open source projects that Wayfairians can take on. Every project has a different path of being recognized as a regular reviewer, but the way to get started is consistent across the board: begin contributing reviews in an “unofficial” capacity, giving LGTMs (looks good to me) on PRs coming in from other contributors to move the needle on PRs and reviewership.