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Welcome supporters (and goodbye smartcard)

Written by Jonas Öberg

Earlier this year, after a public consultation, we took the decision to change the name of our supporter program, the Fellowship of the FSFE, and talk about our supporters by their true name: Supporters. This is an exciting change for us, as it brings our Supporters much closer to the organisation, by making them an integral part of the FSFE. Today, with the change almost complete, we're also taking the opportunity to say goodbye to the Fellowship Smartcard, which has been a part of FSFE life for more than ten years.

These changes do not come easy for us. They have been a part of the FSFE for as long as many of us, and many of us have at times identified as being part of the Fellowship. But what's become apparent is in creating the Fellowship, we also introduced an artificial divide between the FSFE and its supporter program.

In order to have a closer connection to the FSFE, anyone who has felt part of the Fellowship should, and will, be encouraged to think of themselves as a part of the FSFE. Rather than talking about Fellowship Groups, meeting locally to discuss Free Software, we're now talking about FSFE groups. Instead of being a Fellow of the Fellowship program of the FSFE, you will be a Supporter of the FSFE.

FSFE Supporter patch

A photo of the brand new FSFE supporter patch which all new (and old!) supporters will receive, as an exclusive gift for supporters.

This connection between our supporters, volunteers, and the FSFE is important to us: as a volunteer organisation, anyone who participates in our work, regardless of whether they support us financially or through volunteer contributions, should feel a part of the FSFE. You can choose to do either, or both.

By changing the name we also make clear that a Supporter is someone who contributes to the FSFE, not someone who gets funded by the FSFE (as some have thought it to mean to be a Fellow).

At the same time as we're completing this change, we're also decomissioning our old Fellowship SmartCard, an OpenPGP SmartCard which all our Fellows have traditionally received as a thank you for joining. As we say goodbye to the Fellowship, we also say goodbye to the SmartCard, but for different reasons.

We love the SmartCard, and many of us still use it. But the number of of supporters who actually use it is small. The fact it requires a SmartCard reader, which most people do not have in their computers, further limits its use, especially amongst the non-technical supporters who increasingly join us. Most of the questions we receive about the SmartCard are also about how to use it. Which we would love to help with, but the FSFE is not setup to handle support inquiries related to OpenPGP smartcards.

Since the FSFE is not the only provider of these SmartCards, we've decided to stop offering them to new Supporters. These days, you can get similar SmartCards and other crypto devices from other vendors for those of our Supporters who still want to get a hand on one. Without the SmartCard, the FSFE can focus its ressources better at what is at the core of our mission: Promoting Free Software. It's also a way for us to be more welcoming towards new Supporters: you don't need deep technical skills to become a Supporter.

So with this, it's time for us to say; Goodbye Fellows! Welcome Supporters!