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Launching and Growing Your Contributor Program

August 17, 2023
Patrick Woods
Co-Founder & CEO
Launching and Growing Your Contributor Program
Welcome to The Observatory, the community newsletter from Orbit.

Each week we go down rabbit holes so you don't have to. We share tactics, trends and valuable resources we've observed in the world of community building.

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🌟 Launching and growing your program

Congratulations! If you’ve come this far, you’ve identified the benefits of a contributor program and laid the foundation by planning it out in detail while building excitement and alignment among key stakeholders. What’s next? Here’s a step-by-step guide to launching your program.

This is a three-part series

  1. What is a contributor program?
  2. Planning a successful contributor program
  3. Launching and growing your contributor program (you are here)

Step 1: Create an application form and announce your program

To launch, you’ll need an application form so people can join your program. This form collects relevant information such as name, contact details, experience with your product or service, reasons for wanting to join the program, and upfront self-sorting data points that can help you filter the type of contributions they’re willing to bring to the table.

Here are some examples of great program application forms: 

Do I really need an application? 😅

Putting together an evaluation process can seem like a daunting task at first. 

For early-stage startups with a limited user group, an application process might not seem vital, since you likely have personal familiarity with all your users. But even a simple application form can bring organization and credibility to the process, while also granting insights into your applicants' intentions to actively engage in the program.Establishing an application process in the early stages can also future-proof for scalability and succession planning.

Ultimately, an application process maintains order, reveals a more holistic grasp of candidates' profiles, and adds a level of expertise and exclusivity.

Step 2: Vet program members

Now that you have a growing list of potential program contributors, it’s time to review applications to select candidates that best align with your Ideal Member Profile. 

In general, look for individuals who have a strong affinity for your brand, are passionate, knowledgeable, and show an intrinsic motivation to be a part of your program. 

Then, look for proof that these particular contributors will help you achieve the goals you defined during the planning stage. If you are looking for content creators, you’ll want to assess the quality of their sample articles or videos. If you’re looking for volunteers to host local meetups, you can pay extra attention to their history of organizing successful events.

Some programs even conduct interviews to better understand the candidate's motivations and capabilities.

💜 Use Orbit to review and manage applications

Orbit can help you manage the pipeline of your program candidates. You can import applications via CSV or by pointing your form directly at Orbit, where you’ll see all applicant info in a single view. 

With Orbit Programs, you have all the information you need in one place to quickly and accurately vet your applications. 

The Program Pipeline

The Pipeline consists of different statuses your program members can be in. These different statuses are:

  • New - New applicants who have yet to be reviewed
  • Accepted - Members who have been accepted into the Program, but have yet to onboard fully; often this status is the “landing zone” between new applicants and those underway with onboarding, often either awaiting official onboarding outreach, or sometimes, awaiting additional input or review from the program team. 
  • Onboarding - Members who have been accepted and are in the process of onboarding onto the Program.
  • Onboarded - Fully fledged members who have been accepted and completed all onboarding steps. Members in Onboarded will appear in the “Champions” tab in your Program and their activities will appear in the “Feed” tab of the Program.
  • Rejected - Members who applied but did not qualify.

Step 3: Onboard new members

Once you've accepted your contributors, it’s time to provide them with a delightful and comprehensive onboarding process. 

The onboarding process should include an introduction to the program's goals, expectations, and any support, tools, and resources available to members. This often includes specific tasks that members need to complete, like joining a forum and saying hello, sharing their t-shirt size, and sometimes administrative formalities like signing contracts (like NDAs). Onboarding can also include organizing a kickoff meeting to get the partnership started and to go over mutual commitments.

Onboarding new members is a great opportunity to foster a sense of community by introducing new members to existing contributors and encouraging them to engage with each other. If you have an existing forum or chat platform in place, consider creating a private section for your program members to connect and converse.  

💜 Use Orbit to Onboard your contributors

Orbit's Program manager helps you automate new member onboarding with custom checklists. With Orbit, you can configure an onboarding checklist and track progress as new members tick items off the list. No more chasing people down to check in on status.

Encourage contribution from program members

A vibrant contributions program hinges on its ability to inspire participation - the key is to create an environment that nurtures creativity and collaboration. 

Start by clearly communicating the types of contributions you're looking for. They might be things like:

  • thought-provoking blog posts
  • insightful case studies
  • social media or Discord posts
  • GitHub stars or pull requests

Engage potential contributors through various channels. Leverage your social media platforms, email newsletters, and online communities to spread the word about your program. Host webinars, workshops, or virtual events that not only educate but also provide a glimpse into the impact their contributions could have. Encouraging engagement and showcasing the value of their involvement can ignite a sense of purpose and belonging. Share your contributor form link so your program members can submit their work.

Measure impact

Metrics are vital for gauging the impact of your contributions program. Establish clear performance indicators to track the effectiveness of your contributors' efforts.

First and foremost, focus on the goals you set during your planning process. You can also analyze key metrics such as the reach and engagement of contributed content, the growth of your community, and the overall sentiment around your brand. Certain key performance indicators (KPIs) like customer retention, referrals, and product feedback can also be useful. These metrics provide valuable insights into how your program is resonating with your target audience and whether it's aligning with your goals.

Use these insights to make informed decisions and improve your program over time, and don't forget to share the program's successes and the value it brings to your company with key stakeholders and cross-functionally within your organization to maintain (or capture for the first time) their support.

(When it comes to stakeholder management, consider blending quantitative with qualitative information to bring a potent mixture of data and story. For example, “Not only did contribution program members write 14 blog posts that contributed 15% of our overall blog traffic in Q1, here are some quotes from program members about the impact we’re having.”)

Reward Contributors and Incentivize

Saying “thank you” can go a long way, but recognition and incentives are the cornerstones of a successful contributions program. Consider offering tangible rewards or incentives as well as intangible options and opportunities. While financial compensation is one option, other rewards like exclusive access to premium content, early product releases, or personalized feedback from your team can be equally enticing. Revisit your program’s value proposition and remember to keep in mind what your program members want and what they expect. These rewards not only express your gratitude but also provide contributors with a tangible sense of the value they bring to the table.

Everyone benefits from a contributor program

Developing a contributor program demands ongoing and dedicated strategic nurturing of relationships with program participants, but brings with it numerous benefits for your whole organization. In return, contributors not only enlighten and engage through their contributions, but also enjoy benefits. From exclusive event invitations and product discounts to unique branded swag (and more), the concrete perks are complemented by the exposure and credibility that come with being associated with your program.

If you want to learn more about using Orbit to build and scale your program, sign up at, and if you want to talk with others building similar programs, join us at

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