Sponsorware is a release strategy for open-source software that enables developers to be compensated for their open-source work with fewer downsides than traditional open-source funding models.
How does it work?
Simply stated, the “Sponsorware” model for releasing a project is made up of a few simple steps:
Build something people want! – This is easier said than done, but we believe this model works best for open source projects with significant pre-release hype. The more interest you are able to build in your product before launch, the better your results are likely to be.
Make it available only to “sponsors” – These “sponsors” are people who give you recurring revenue. This can be through any of the big sponsorship platforms (i.e. - GitHub Sponsors, Patreon, OpenCollective, etc.) or it can be a system you roll yourself. The important parts are A) that the revenue is recurring, and B) that either your number of sponsors or your net revenue is publicly viewable
Set a sponsorship threshold, and after crossing it, make your thing freely available to the world! – This can be a number of monthly sponsors, an amount of monthly revenue, or whatever you like. It should be PUBLIC though. Transparency is huge in this process and people need to be able to see progress toward the goal.
For an in depth look at the release story of a real-world SponsorWare project, go check out Caleb Porzio’s blog post about Sushi.
If you want to hear the conversation that birthed the idea, go check out this episode of the “No Plans to Merge” podcast.
Caleb was also recently interviewed about Sponsorware on The Changelog, a popular podcast covering the world of Open Source.