The Maintainer Council Template

Audience of this HowToAudience of The DocumentRequired by CNCF
MaintainersContributorsYes, graduated

This HowTo is for project maintainers who need Governance documentation for their project. The goal of a file is to inform contributors about how your project is run, and encourage them to get involved in project leadership.

Great governance docs will:

  • Show potential contributors that their contributions will be treated fairly
  • Show contributors that leadership positions are attainable
  • Provide a framework for decision making and resolving disagreements
  • Define a process for promoting contributors and improving maintainer continuity

Fill out the template

The template is located in the CNCF project-template repository.

Copy the template file into your repository, and rename it

There are instructions for filling out the template that look like the example below:

screenshot of the template, there is a link to instructions, and a warning emoji with text explaining how to fill out this section of the template

Some links are specific to your project. Search for the word TODO in the markdown for links that need to be customized. When you finish editing the template, remove the Instruction links that explain how to fill out the template. Also remove any ⚠️ prompts and their explanatory text.

Maintainer Council Governance

Maintainer Council is the most basic formal governance for projects, and as such used by more projects than any other. TAG Contributor Stategy developed it to cover a very common circumstance, where the overlap of repository approvers and people who handle other governance issues is 100%. It was originally based on the governance of the Jaeger project.

This template defines a simple structure where the project Maintainers perform all governance functions, optionally delegating one or two things to other small teams.

Is This Template For Us?

The Maintainer Council template is for you if your project:

  1. Has relatively few maintainers, likely fewer than 12, definitely fewer than 20
  2. Lacks distinct subprojects, or if the subprojects share an overlapping pool of maintainers
  3. Does not have any particular reason to run elections, such as employer representation limits

If you have a relatively uncomplicated project with a small pool of contributors – like the vast majority of Cloud Native projects – Maintainer Council is probably for you. It’s even appropriate for a project that will eventually need a more complex governance, but does not need or want it yet.


What Do I Need To Know?

This simple template really only requires you to know a few things about how your project actually works, today. These are:

  • A list of your current maintainers
  • Locations of your repositories and files
  • Details on your project’s existing developer meetings
  • Details on mailing lists or other official communications channels, including both public and private channels for the Maintainers

What Do I Need to Customize?

The sections that you will be most likely to customize include:

  • Values: figure out your actual values
  • Becoming a Maintainer: adjust maintainer requirements
  • Meetings: fill in with how your project communications actually work
  • Code of Conduct: who handles CoC reports?
  • Security Response Team: who handles security reports?
  • Voting: where do Maintainers take votes?

See the section details below for notes on how you’re likely to customize them.

What Else Is Required?

This template assumes that you have already adopted the Code of Conduct, added the CNCF-required security practices, and added a Scope section to your README. If you have not yet, you will need to do that as well. This template does not assume that you are using the Contributor Ladder, although doing so is recommended.


Project: Your entire CNCF project, rather than individual repositories or subprojects.

Maintainer: Someone who is both a Project Maintainer for CNCF purposes, and is an approver for critical parts of the project.

Maintainer Council: the collective group of all project Maintainers.

Template Details


Like the other templates, you need to place a list of values here that define what your project strives for. Some of these will be general (like “fairness”) and some will be specific to your problem domain (like “asyncronous operation”). The Values are listed in your governance template because all project leaders are expected to follow these values. Deciding your values is a good topic for a general community meeting.

See our documentation on Charters for some examples.


This section outlines the definition and responsibilities of a Maintainer, which in this governance is identical to being a merge approver (also known as a “committer”). Since your Maintainers are the only authority in the project, it is critical to document how that authority is earned.

Your Maintainers should customize the list of requirements to become a Maintainer with requirements that match their actual qualifications. It’s better if you can define a path for substantial non-code contributors, such as documentation leads and community managers, to also become Maintainers.

If you have a separate, full Contributor Ladder, you will want to cut this list of requirements and refer to that document instead.

This section covers both how new Maintainers are selected, and how existing Maintainers may be removed. Removal is critically important to prevent project paralysis when Maintainers move on to other things.


You need to explicitly describe the venues at which official project decisions get made. This may happen at a public weekly developer meeting, through GitHub issues and PRs, on a mailing list, or all of those. This is both so that contributors know where to go with requests, and so that they are reassured that important project decisions will not happen in the private meeting rooms of any Maintainers’ employer.

As such, you may need to modify this section to cover your actual communications channels.

CNCF Resources

This covers one of the powers of Maintainers, which is that they can ask the CNCF to do things for the project. This outlines one possible process for this to happen, based on community meetings. If you prefer to handle this by GitHub instead, the language would be something like this:

Any Maintainer may suggest a request for CNCF resources, by filing an issue in
the [community repo](TODO:main or /community repository URL).  A simple majority 
of Maintainers approves the request.  The Maintainers
may also choose to delegate working with the CNCF to non-Maintainer community
members, who will then be added to the [CNCF's Maintainer List](
for that purpose.

Code of Conduct

This text assumes that your Maintainer Council is the first recipient of most CoC reports. If you wish reports to go straight to the CNCF Code of Conduct Committee without the involvement of maintainers, then use this language instead:

[Code of Conduct](./
violations by community members will be referred to the CNCF Code of Conduct 
Committee. Should the CNCF CoC Committee need to work with the project on resolution, the
Maintainers will appoint a non-involved contributor to work with them.

If your project has an actual CoC Committee, it should be outlined here, including how the committee is appointed and their relationship to the Maintainers Council.

Security Response Team

Vulnerability reports can be handled by the Maintainers, or they can delegate that responsibility to a smaller team. The language given here covers both possibilities, but your project will need to decide which practice they will follow. You will also need to create your security response documents using the templates from TAG-Security.


This clause defines how votes are held and counted, in order not to repeat that information several times in the document.

First, it asserts that most “voting” is informal, using what is called Lazy Consensus. This is materially true of most maintainer-led projects, because you simply don’t need to take a tally of votes for most group decisions. Generally, there are three different reasons why you would take an actual vote:

  1. There is expressed disagreement on the issue
  2. The action is something major and even irreversible for the project, so that you want to be extra-sure that every Maintainer is aware of it
  3. The decision is something covered in as requiring a vote, such as adding or removing a Maintainer

The text assumes that most voting happens on a Maintainer or developer mailing list and public meetings. Some projects prefer to handle votes via GitHub issues. If this is your project’s practice, change the text here to refer to GitHub, for example:

A vote can be taken by filing a GitHub issue labeled with "VOTE". The issue will
be open until a majority of Maintainers vote for or against it, at which point 
it will be closed.

The overall principle employed here is that every vote requires counting against the number of Maintainers who exist, rather than which Maintainers are participating in the vote. For example, if your project had 8 maintainers and you were voting on a design proposal, and six maintainers participated in the vote, five of them would need to approve it, rather than four, since five is the majority of all Maintainers.

The advantage of this approach is that your project can be extremely flexible about where and how votes are held since there’s little danger of deliberate exclusion.
If you instead want to hold votes based on a count of participants, you’ll need to be very prescriptive about where votes can be held, what notice is required, and how long they need to be open.

We also advise reserving 2/3 votes to things that require substantial deliberation, such as removing a maintainer or changing the charter. Otherwise, routine project business can get blocked simply by people being on vacation.

Last modified May 22, 2023: fixed a link to the Charter doc (44250fe)