Free and open source projects that are deemed to be genuine, substantial and significant may be eligible for associated project status.

Projects interested in becoming SPI associated projects should review these documents:

There is no cost to become or remain an associated project.

The application process

Informal discussions

Generally the process starts with informal discussions between project representatives and one or more board members, initiated either by the project representatives or the board members. These discussions carry no commitment on either side and are an opportunity for the project and SPI to establish if proceeding to a formal application makes sense for the project.

Projects interested in becoming SPI associated projects are welcome to contact the board for a discreet informal discussion on whether the project is likely to be accepted as an associated project. At this stage the board may offer advice that will improve the chance of acceptance later.

If a board member is personally satisfied that the project is suitable for associated project status they may agree to sponsor the project's application.

Formal application

If the project wishes to proceed, a formal application is sent to the sponsor.

The information needed is:

  1. The name and details of the project
  2. Which SPI services will be needed
  3. Who is going to be the liaison to SPI, and the process for selecting/electing replacements

If the project already has existing contracts, liabilities or pending litigations, they must also disclose their existence to SPI. The association to SPI shall not automatically transfer the project managers obligations to SPI.

Note: (2) above does not preclude the use of additional SPI services. This information is sought so that SPI can assess short term service requirements.

Following the formal application, and any additional discussion, the sponsor will draft a resolution similar to the template below if they are still satisfied that the project is suitable for associated project status.

SPI resolution


1. [Project] is a substantial and significant Free Software project. [Briefly
   describe the project and how it meets these criteria.]

2. The [Project] developers would like SPI's support and assistance, including
   taking donations.


3. [Project] is formally invited to become an SPI Associated Project, according
   to the SPI Framework for Associated Projects, SPI Resolution
   1998-11-16.iwj.1-amended-2004-08-10.iwj.1, a copy of which can be found at

4. [Liaison] is recognised by SPI as the authoritative decision maker
   and SPI liaison for [project].  Successors will be appointed
   [describe method of selection or election].

5. If the last known SPI liaison for [project] is missing in action, and no new
   SPI liaison is appointed for two consecutive years the associated project is
   deemed defunct.

6. In such a circumstance, the SPI Board will, in its good-faith discretion,
   proceed as follows: the Board will identify one or more other SPI associated
   projects or 501(c)(3) charities which can accept the project's assets and
   use them for a similar purpose, and transfer the assets to the identified
   destination or destinations as feasible. Assets for which no such transfer
   can be arranged within a reasonable time will become part of the SPI general

7. This invitation will lapse, if not accepted, 60 days after it is approved by
   the SPI Board.


This resolution will be presented to the board and contributing members, and discussed. If the project is in some way political or controversial, it may be necessary to champion it to the SPI contributing membership. This process is not intended to be adversarial - the members just want to avoid any difficult-to-rectify mistakes.

After sufficient time for discussion (normally at least three days), the resolution may be submitted for a vote at an SPI board meeting. These meetings are public and held monthly on (the OFTC network), channel #spi, according to a schedule published on the SPI web site. All are welcome to attend.


Board members will judge the application on several merits:

  • Free Software: is the project a genuine Free Software community project?
  • Substance: Does the project have an established development community, history of software releases, etc?
  • Significance: Is the project used by a broad audience, or does it have political or market significance?


If the resolution passes, the project is invited to become an associated project. The nominated liaison will be notified of the invitation.  They will then have the amount of time stated in the resolution, usually 60 days, to officially accept.

The project liaison

The Liaison is the person from the project to whom the Board listens for all authoritative decisions regarding project assets, fundraising, expenses and disposition.  While the Board is happy to talk to other members of the project, only the Liaison will be able to send any instructions regarding funds or assets, unless they delegate someone else.

The SPI Board does not stipulate how the Liaison is chosen in the project, as long as there are clear rules which let the Board know to whom to listen, especially in the event of disagreement.  For most projects, it is simply one of the project founders who volunteers and appoints their own successor.  A few projects, such as Debian and PostgreSQL, have well defined election procedures.

It is encouraged, but not required, that the Liaison attend Board meetings.

Participating in SPI

Contributors to the project are eligible for SPI contributing membership subject to the guidelines set out here but they each have to apply for it individually. The liaison can speed up the membership acceptance process by supplying the Board and Membership Committee with a list of eligible contributors for the project. The liaison will be consulted where there is doubt.

It is the contributing members who elect the Board and who are eligible to run for the Board. They also provide input into decisions which the Board feels are controversial enough to merit wide discussion. For these reasons, members of the project should join SPI to ensure the project is well represented.


All monetary activities in SPI are overseen by the Treasurer (, with the help of one or more volunteer Assistant Treasurers and paid contractors. In order to most effectively track request progress and distribute request-handling workload, requests for the Treasurer should normally be submitted to SPI's ticketing system; project liaisons will be provided with the address for this system.

SPI can accept donations for the project in three ways: checks, credit cards, and PayPal.  Checks must be in American or Canadian dollars and are mailed directly to SPI's mailing address.  Credit cards are processed by an external service, currently Click&Pledge.   The Treasurer should be contacted to set up access to credit card and PayPal donations, which may include the ability to create special donation pages for individual campaigns or events.

In all cases, it is important that the donor designate that the gift is to go to the project.  If a gift arrives without a designated project, SPI will treat it as an unrestricted donation to SPI's general fund.

Please note that as a US 501(c)3 non-profit organization, there are legal restrictions on what money SPI can accept.  Most common project fundraising activities are fine, but if the project plans to do anything unusual, please clear it with the Treasurer first.  Sales of fixed-price items (like T-shirts) are acceptable but the Treasurer needs to know about how the money was collected.

SPI qualifies as a domestic public charity for purposes of US tax law. Many US taxpayers can receive a tax deduction for their donations to SPI, excluding certain payments such as t-shirt sales and event tickets. As a US non-profit, SPI is unable to provide donation tax benefits under non-US tax systems, with limited treaty-based exceptions for Canadian, Mexican, and Israeli taxpayers who have US source income.

All transaction costs (such as the fees we are charged to process credit cards and wire transfers) are deducted from the contribution, to the extent we are able to identify and attribute these costs.  5% of the donated amount is deducted for SPI overhead. The remaining money is held on behalf of the project. 

A project can ask the Treasurer to separately track specific subcategories of funds on a temporary basis, such as for conferences or outreach programs. These requests will generally be accommodated but should be minimized because of the extra administrative burden.

Due to processing time, it can take between a few days and a few weeks for a donation to arrive in the bank account and be available to the project.  Under unusual circumstances an associated project can draw money from the SPI reserves against donations which are confirmed (i.e. check received) but not deposited, but this is not normal practice.

The liaison will receive notice of any donations made to the project, with donor details if available.   It is recommended to send personalized thank-you e-mails or letters to project donors.

Paying project expenses

The liaison can request payment of project expenses at any time by sending a request to the Treasurer using SPI's request tracker. If the expense is acceptable and project funds are available, it will be paid as soon as the Treasurer can reasonably manage it.

Requests for payment should be accompanied by the reimbursement form. They also have to include paperwork detailing the expense. All paperwork has to be electronic, i.e. either original PDF documents or scanned documents. Generally, it is expected that individuals will pay the expenses up front and be reimbursed by SPI, but advance payment can be arranged with sufficient advance warning to the Treasurer.  The Treasurer also has a Visa card for online purchases which for some reason need to be made directly by SPI.

There are tax law restrictions on what SPI can legally pay for as a 501(c)3 non-profit.  Common expenses like travel, equipment, flyers, booths, conference expenses and legal help are generally fine, but some items like software development contracting need to be handled carefully.  If the liaison is in doubt they should contact the Treasurer.

Transaction fees from paying expenses (wire transfer fees, cashier's checks and postage) will be paid out of project funds.  Funds may be transferred only to other 501(c)3 US non-profit organizations with a compatible purpose. Examples of such non-profits include the Apache Software Foundation, the Software Freedom Conservancy, and the Free Software Foundation.

The Treasurer will post a monthly report of donations collected and expenses paid for the project.