What is a #FOSScan?

A #FOSScan is a can for depositing loose change and small bills, with the money collected going to support Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) development.

Many of us use Free Software every day, but it's easy to forget that Free Software requires human and financial resources to produce and distribute. It's only natural for us to take for granted that which is made available to everyone, generally at no direct cost to the end user. But if we as a community want to ensure the continued development of Free Software we all need to do our part. For some, that is writing code. For others, contributing their time and skills.

One thing we can all do is to open our wallets and give a little to help the projects that produce, support, and distribute the great Free Software we use everyday. But sometimes that thought to give gets lost in the hustle and bustle of our busy lives. As the saying goes, "out of sight, out of mind."

The goal of the #FOSScan project is to raise individual awareness about the funding of Free Software in a simple way, and to help everyone remember to contribute to its development - by chipping in just a little every day.

Make your own #FOSScan

You can have a #FOSScan of your very own. There's no account to create or service to sign up for - you can make your #FOSScan from materials in your own kitchen in just minutes!

Materials needed

A can, tape, and a marker

To make a #FOSScan you'll need the following materials:

  • A clean, empty can with the label removed. A soup can or coffee can will work well.
  • A roll of masking tape (1 inch / 25mm width works best).
  • A marker (color of your choice).

Step 1

Wrapping tape around the can

Wrap a single band of masking tape around the perimeter of the empty can. If practical, try to place it on a flat part of the can. Some cans are smoother than others.

Step 2

Writing on the tape

Using your marker, write #FOSScan on the masking tape band in big, bold letters.

Step 3

Locating the can

Place your #FOSScan in a visible location like on your kitchen counter or your desk. The best place to put it is wherever you empty your pockets each day.

How it works

When you empty your pockets at the end of the day, collect up any loose change and drop it in your #FOSScan. Find a quarter in your washing machine? Drop it in the can. Penny on the street? That's a community contribution! That crumpled old single you got at the gas station that was kind of moist? Eww. You don't want that. But the #FOSScan does! When you clean under the couch cushions vacuum up the pretzel crumbs but put the coins in your #FOSScan.

In time, your #FOSScan will fill up (probably faster than you think!). When it does, dump it out and count the money. Then straightaway, give that amount to a project or developer that produces or distributes the Free Software you use and depend upon. You might simply make the donation from your usual accounts and then use the #FOSScan change for your normal cash expenses instead of hitting the ATM. Or deposit the money in your bank account and then send a donation via check or electronic means. If you don't have a bank account, you can probably take the money to a local convenience store and exchange it for a money order you could send.

However you choose to do it, just remember: that money is earmarked to support FOSS - you deliberately set it aside for that purpose. No cheating! [It's not pizza money.]

Special contributions

The great thing about having a #FOSScan is that it makes donating easy and immediate. Rather than thinking, "These folks just [ did a great release | fixed a troublesome bug | helped me debug a config ], I need to remember to donate to the project..." - you can just reach over and drop money into your can. Maybe also drop in a sticky note with the project or developer's name so you don't forget that when it comes time to donate the money.

The more cans, the merrier

You don't have to limit yourself to only one #FOSScan! Eat more soup and raise more money for Free Software development. If the company you work for uses Free Software, set a can on your desk so your co-workers can contribute also. Not only will you be raising more money for FOSS but you will be raising awareness in general about funding Free Software. That simple can on your desk may spark conversations or initiatives at the corporate level to start giving back to the projects that your company relies upon in order to do business.

FAQ: "Who should I give the money to? And how?"

The simple answer is that you should give it to a developer or project that produces or distributes Free Software that you personally use, enjoy, or rely upon. The #FOSScan project intentionally does not provide a listing or directory of projects that need or deserve your support. Any such list would be subjective and incomplete, and by that nature would almost certainly exclude some worthy project or developer. Take an inventory of the Free Software programs you use the most. Pick one or two and reach out to the maintainers. Tell them you would like to donate funds and ask how they prefer to receive the money. Almost everybody likes to get money so they are likely to be very helpful in that regard.

At the end of the day, the specific project or projects to which you contribute is not really that important. What is important is that you are contributing somewhere.

Show off your can!

After you make a #FOSScan don't keep it a secret! Tell the world about your can and spread the message about how easy it can be to support Free Software a little bit every day. Post a photo of your can on your website or social media accounts, and use the hashtag #FOSScan.

Together, we can make a difference in Free Software funding.

© 2020 by the #FOSScan project. All images and text are available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license.