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How to use funding for your open source project

Brenna Heaps
by Brenna Heaps
on October 4, 2018

Updated on November 9, 2018

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We’ve been speaking with a lot of open source maintainers about how to get paid and what that might mean for their project, and the same question keeps popping up: What do I do with the money?


First things first: this is your money

When you lift a package on Tidelift, we're paying you for assurances and responsibilities that will take some of your time and energy.
You are earning this money. We are not making a donation to your project. Tidelift subscribers are paying for valuable work.

If you're a lifter on Tidelift, the money we pay you is your money.  You can do what you want with it. And we believe paying the maintainers is an appropriate default use.

That said, projects are diverse. When maintainers already have a day job or there are multiple maintainers, it can make sense to find uses for Tidelift payments that benefit the whole project.

Fund the project

Project health is important, and a project that is actively maintained, updated, and properly documented provides a sense of security for people considering using it. Earmarking some of the funding to improve and properly maintain the project can help with visibility and increase popularity.

Pay yourself

You’re one of the core maintainers on a project that provides real value and takes real time, even if you have a day job. Your ultimate goal may be to quit your job and focus on your project full-time, or start a consultancy that still allows enough time for your open source work. Whatever the end goal, using funding to support or reward yourself is supporting the project.

Say thank you to the core contributors

Say thank you to contributors who provide valuable assistance by sending a financial gift or making a donation to an organization of their choice.  

Project maintenance costs

Pay for hosting fees, hardware upgrades, and other expenses that are all part of building and maintaining an open source project.

Bring in some experts

Maybe you’ve been thinking of a redesign, or you could really use some help with documentation. Hiring contract designers, developers, project managers, and documentation experts can help take the project to the next level, as well as freeing up time to focus on the code.

Community engagement

Engaging with your community can help you learn more about how people are using your project and provide the opportunity to hear about up and coming projects in your ecosystem.


Meetups are a great way to meet people in the community, and hosting a local meetup or sponsoring an existing meetup is a relatively low cost commitment. And there’s no need to go it alone–use the opportunity to gather your co-maintainers in one place and schedule some working sessions.


Send your team to an event, or sponsor a team member to speak at an event. Events are a great way to learn about what’s happening in the ecosystem, as well as engage with users.  You can also sponsor someone who needs assistance with tickets or travel expenses.

Pay it forward

Open source software depends on contributions, so consider using some of your funding to support the community.

Support the ecosystem

Chances are you depend on other open source projects, so why not use some of the funding to support your project’s dependencies? Whether it’s a highly visible project that already receives funding or a new project that’s just starting out, consider supporting the projects you rely on and believe in.


There are a lot of organizations doing great work that need your donations. Find a group within your ecosystem or reach out to a community that focuses on educating and empowering the next generation of developers.

Lifter guide