Directing new contributors to areas of need

Silhoutte of a road post at sunset.

Congratulations! Your project has attracted the attention of a bunch of new contributors. They love your project and are eager to help. They just don’t know where to start. So how do you get them to the right places?

If you followed the advice in Preparing for Hacktoberfest contributors, you’re already partway there. The “good first issue” label, which is a standard-ish practice, helps find things they can work on when they’re new to the project. But projects typically use that label for contributors who might need a little more help. What if they’re experienced, just not with your project? You can use the “help wanted” label for these issues.

But issue labels aren’t enough. What’s your project’s direction? Do you have a roadmap written down somewhere, even if it’s vaguely defined? What do you need that isn’t code?

This is where having a team directory (or something like it) can help. Your new contributors are, by and large, aware of their skills and interests. They know if they can write documentation, design logos, write code, give conference talks, or whatever else. So your job is to make it easy to find the people in your project who are doing that work.

If nobody in your project is doing that work, that’s okay, too. You need the new contributors even more! But have an easy-to-find list of things that you wish you had the time and/or skills to make. Don’t just say “we welcome non-code contributions, too!” Be explicit about what you want. “We’d love to have someone manage our Mastodon account” or “We’re looking for help editing videos for our YouTube channel”.

If you have a list of things your project needs and empower people to take them on, you’ll find that newcomers self-direct to the best places to contribute.

This post’s featured photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash.

Ben formerly led open source messaging at Docker and was the Fedora Program Manager. He is the author of Program Management for Open Source Projects. Ben is an Open Organization Ambassador and frequent conference speaker. His personal website is Funnel Fiasco.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.