Keeping contributors engaged after their first contribution

To keep contributors engaged, the human element is important. Building a warm and fuzzy environment spreads like wildfire. While it may sound obvious, it’s easy to forget, so make sure you:

  1. Thank contributors publicly and privately (some community CRMs auto populate a thank you tweet and email for first PRs).
  2. Engage them in a conversation on Slack and show interest by asking questions about their project, their interest, etc.
  3. Suggest the next step when reviewing their PR.
  4. Invite them to join your next community meeting to introduce themselves.
  5. Shout out during community meeting.
  6. Develop recognition programs.

Each PR can potentially lead to something else. Maybe it’s part of a larger goal or will lead to an easy next step of a contribution. Have those conversations and try to guide contributors so they continue building on their work.

Not only should the new functionality be added in the docs, but talk about it in your community meetings and/or invite the contributor to talk about what they did. In short, make people feel appreciated and that they belong. For small projects that means a lot of one-on-ones and guidance. While it’s tempting to say “we want you to contribute again. Go find an issue,” that generally doesn’t get you far. You must engage.