Solana Foundation

Delegation Program FAQ

Since the Solana Foundation re-structured the Delegation Program, the community has had some great questions and feedback. The FAQ below seeks to answer the most common questions. If you have additional questions please feel free to ask them in the #delegation-program Discord channel.

Onboarding Questions #

Do I need to be onboarded or go through the SFDP to start a validator on mainnet? #

No, Solana is a permissionless network and anyone can start a mainnet validator at any time. You do not have to wait until any specific stage of SFDP or even have to participate in the SFDP to start a mainnet validator. In fact, once you are comfortable with validator operations, we encourage participants to begin their mainnet node ahead of their SFDP mainnet onboarding. This will get you a head start in attracting stake and make the beginning of your validator journey accelerated.

I’m running a validator on testnet now. When will I be onboarded into the Solana Foundation Delegation Program on mainnet beta? #

To see your onboarding number, search by your testnet identity key on https://solana.foundation/validators-search. If you divide the onboarding number you see by 25 you will get a rough estimate of how many weeks it may take to be onboarded.

The onboarding numbers are calculated according to the following criteria: 1) % average Bonus performance since Epoch 207 on testnet, and 2) % average Bonus performance in the last 13 epochs on testnet. You can read more about the specific weights and calculation of these metrics in the onboarding formula.

What does getting onboarded to the Solana Foundation Delegation Program mean? #

Getting onboarded means receiving an email from the Solana Foundation notifying you that 1) your status is now approved and 2) you are eligible to receive a delegation of stake from the Solana Foundation if your validator node on mainnet beta meets the stated performance criteria outlined in the delegation criteria.

How long will it take for me to get staked by the Foundation once I’m onboarded onto mainnet beta through the Foundation Delegation Program? #

Once your node on mainnet beta meets the stated performance criteria outlined on the delegation criteria page, it may take up to 6 epochs for the stake delegation from the Solana Foundation to become active.

Do I need to keep running my validator on testnet after I’ve been onboarded to the Delegation Program? #

Yes. In order to remain eligible to receive stake delegation from the Solana Foundation, all validators in the Delegation Program must also maintain a well-performing (i.e. staked) testnet node.

Ecosystem Contributor Priority Queue (Experimental) #

What is the Ecosystem Contributor Priority Queue? #

The Ecosystem Contributor Priority Queue is a specialized pathway within the Solana Foundation Delegation Program (SFDP) designed to recognize and accelerate the onboarding of validators run by individuals and teams who have made significant contributions to the Solana ecosystem. This initiative aims to prioritize those who actively engage in activities that enhance and grow the Solana network.

This queue operates in parallel with the standard priority queue, ensuring that valuable ecosystem contributors have a streamlined path to joining mainnet, reinforcing the network's robustness, decentralization, and long term.

What are the eligibility requirements for the Ecosystem Contributor Priority Queue? #

To be eligible to join this queue, applicants (individuals, DAOs, or teams) must be able to explain and demonstrate that they have contributed to the Solana Ecosystem in some meaningful way and be able to provide an explanation on how they will be able to run a performant validator that attracts outside stake. Contributions to the Solana ecosystem can materialize in many forms and we will rely on the applicants to make a case for their contributions.

Some examples of contributions include, but are not limited to:

  • Building a protocol on Solana with real users.
  • Organizing or hosting community events such as meetups, hackathons, and conferences to engage the Solana community.
  • Building developer tools that achieve significant adoption.
  • Building public good utilities that are widely adopted.
  • Producing Solana-based educational content with a significant audience (videos, articles, etc).
  • Authoring or participating in the SIMD process.
  • Entering and getting recognized in a Solana Hackathon.
  • Developing Solana-focused, open-source tools and libraries.

Note: The program may be implemented subjectively in this experimental stage, as we evaluate impact and effectiveness.

What are the steps to apply? #

  1. Sign up for SFDP
  2. Pass KYC requirements
  3. Begin operation of your testnet node
  4. Fill out this form to apply to Ecosystem Contributor Priority Queue
  5. Allow 2-3 weeks for your application to process
    1. If accepted begin your mainnet journey while maintaining your testnet node
    2. If rejected, consider starting on mainnet anyway or continue to operate your testnet node and await onboarding through the standard priority queue

What if my Ecosystem Contributor Priority Queue application is not accepted? #

If you are not accepted into the Ecosystem Contributor Priority Queue, it will not affect your status in the standard queue. You can still participate in the SFDP, and by running a well-performing testnet node you will be onboarded onto mainnet in due time.

If you have a body of ecosystem contributions, you are in a better position than most to attract stake on mainnet. You should consider starting your mainnet node operation in conjunction with your testnet node while you are waiting in the standard priority queue for SFDP.

Will I still have to run a testnet node? #

Yes, all SFDP participants are required to run a testnet node to receive a delegation from the Foundation. Just like all SFDP participants, those who are accepted into the Ecosystem Contributor Priority Queue will have to prove themselves on testnet. Participants are required to meet the baseline stake criteria [link to testnet criteria] in at least five out of the previous ten testnet epochs to be eligible for mainnet delegation by the Solana Foundation.

Does getting into the Ecosystem Contributor Priority Queue give any other benefits? #

No, all SFDP participants will be on the same playing field once onboarded onto mainnet. It will be up to each participating validator to attract their own stake and make a sustainable validator operation whether they go through ecosystem priority queue or the standard priority queue.

Why is this priority queue labeled ‘experimental?’ #

The Solana Foundation aims to continually assess community response, our own ability to process applications efficiently, and our ability to adapt to unforeseen challenges. The “experimental” label signifies that, based on these factors, the initiative might undergo modifications, including the possibility of pausing or discontinuing it in response to practical learnings and evolving needs.

What if I stop contributing to the Solana ecosystem? #

The Ecosystem Contributor Priority Queue is for priority access only. Once accepted, participants will be fully governed by the criteria of the program, irrespective of their contributor status.

Newly Signed up Validators #

How do I sign up for the Solana Foundation Delegation Program and what can I do after I sign up? #

Here are four short steps:

Step One: Create your testnet and mainnet keys using the solana-keygen program, which is installed with the Solana CLI.

Step Two: Sign up with your testnet and mainnet keys on the Delegation Program homepage.

Step Three: Assuming you’ve passed KYC and signed up successfully, you can now start running your testnet validator. Follow the steps in the validator docs to do so.

Step Four: The stake-o-matic bot will pick up all new testnet keypairs within twelve weeks of registering. In the meantime, you can follow these instructions to airdrop yourself some testnet SOL and start voting!

How do I get SOL on testnet to start voting? #

After you’ve started up your testnet validator, you can airdrop yourself some test SOL to get started. You can follow these instructions to learn how to do so.

I just signed up for the Solana Foundation Delegation Program and received an email from the Foundation saying “Thank you for registering”. Am I approved? Is this the same as getting onboarded to the Solana Foundation Delegation Program and receiving stake? #

No. This email confirms that you have registered for the program. You will not be onboarded and receive a delegation as part of the Solana Foundation Delegation Program until you are onboarded. To understand when you will be onboarded please refer to the questions above.

I just signed up for the Solana Foundation Delegation Program at solana.org/delegation-program. When will the stake bot on testnet see me? #

Please note that you can start your testnet validator at any time. The stake bot will see your testnet validator in the order you signed up. 100 new validators will be added to the stake bot at a time, each week, according to when they signed up. Depending on the backlog of validators that signed up, it may take weeks or even months to be added to the testnet stakebot. To determine approximately when you will be added to the testnet stakebot, locate your validator page on the validators search page and find the approximate date under “Program metrics” on your page.

When will the stake bot stake me? #

After the stake bot sees you (see question above to understand what this entails), and you meet the criteria outlined on the delegation criteria page, you will be eligible to receive stake from the stake bot on testnet. Note: In order to meet the criteria you need to start voting. You can airdrop yourself some testnet SOL in order to start voting with these instructions.

I’ve signed up for the Solana Foundation Delegation Program. When do I get my onboarding group number? #

For validators who sign up for the program after August 1st 2021 and meet certain performance criteria, they will receive an onboarding group number starting September 30th, 2021, according to the following criteria: 1) % average Bonus performance since Epoch 207 on testnet and 2) % average Bonus performance in the last 13 epochs on testnet.

Do I have to run a testnet validator without rewards or compensation until I am onboarded to the Solana Foundation Delegation Program on mainnet beta? #

There are no rewards for running a validator on testnet which means you run the validator at your own cost. Running a testnet validator for months without compensation is a financial decision that every validator must make for themselves. Please note if you stop running your testnet validator, you will lose your place in the onboarding queue.

I won’t receive a delegation from the Foundation for another 9 months but I want to start my testnet node and start receiving delegations now. What can I do? #

Great question! You can of course start a testnet (and/or mainnet) node at any time. You can self stake or attract external stake in many ways. A few such options could be 1) starting a website and explaining why delegators should stake to you, 2) starting a stake pool that promotes decentralization, or 3) joining a stake pool and receiving additional delegation from them. These are just a few ideas, your fellow validators will have more (and better) ideas for how to do this well.

The following criteria apply to all validators #

What is the criteria for receiving stake from the Foundation on testnet and mainnet beta? #

To see the most up-to-date requirements for receiving a delegation from the foundation please see the delegation criteria page.

How are onboarding numbers calculated? #

Onboarding numbers are calculated based on the following criteria: (% average Bonus performance since Epoch 207 on testnet x 50%) + (% average Bonus performance in the last 13 epochs on testnet x 50%).

The % average Bonus performance since Epoch 207 metric and the % average Bonus performance in the last 13 epochs metric are both calculated as (# of epochs where validator has earned Bonus stake/ # of epochs in the metric’s timeframe).

How can I calculate my vote credits? #

If you would like to calculate your vote credits from scratch, you can run solana vote-account <vote_account_address> --output json. You may have to run this over a few epochs to get a full 64 epochs worth of data.

To see your total vote credits (used in the numerator of the vote credits score calculation) and the max vote credits for each epoch (used in the denominator of the vote credits score calculation), you can refer to the expanded table in your validator page. You can find your validator page by searching by your testnet identity key on https://solana.org/validators-search.

What are vote credits? #

Vote credits are earned when a validator submits a consensus vote on a block that becomes finalized by the network. Each vote on a finalized block earns 1 vote credit. You can learn more about what vote credits are in the stake delegation and rewards doc and the importance of them to the Delegation Program on the delegation criteria page.

Vote Cost Coverage #

Are there any performance requirements for getting vote costs covered? #

Yes, to be eligible for vote cost in any given epoch, participants must have be onboarded and eligible for mainnet residual stake outlined in the delegation criteria. If your performance for a given epoch is below the requirements for residual stake then you will not receive any vote coverage for that epoch.

How will vote cost be calculated and distributed? #

Assuming sufficient performance, after an epoch has ended, the total number of vote credits earned during that epoch for each participant is computed. Then for each validator the tapering percent is computed by by looking at the number of epochs since onboarding. The table below shows the tapering schedule. Once the total for each validator is computed, the appropriate amount of lamports are sent to the validator identity account.

Time since onboarding
0-45 Epochs 1.00 × 5000 lamports × vote credits sent to identity account
46-90 Epochs 0.75 × 5000 lamports × vote credits sent to identity account
96-135 Epochs 0.5 × 5000 lamports × vote credits sent to identity account
136-180 Epochs 0.25 × 5000 lamports × vote credits sent to identity account
After 180 Epochs No longer eligible for vote cost coverage

Stake Matching #

What are the performance requirements for stake matching? #

To receive a stake matching delegation from the foundation you must meet all the performance requirements for the residual stake outlined here and low skip rate across five epochs

How does stake matching work? #

After each epoch, the total stake the validator has that is not from the delegation program is computed and matched 1:1 (up to a total of 100,000 stake) and that stake is added to the residual stake that all SFDP participants receive.

Example stake calculations with an assumption of 15,000 SOL as residual:

Example 1 (less than 100k non-SFDP stake):

Non SFDP stake:30,000
Matching SFDP stake: 30,000
Residual Stake: 15,000
Total Stake: 75,000

Example 2 (greater than 100k non-SFDP stake):

Non SFDP Stake: 220,000
Matching SFDP stake: 100,000
Residual Stake: 15,000
Total Stake: 335,000

How long will it take for me to receive extra stake from the SFDP after getting stake from the community? #

Stake has a warming up and cooling down period of 1 epoch (~2 days) so participants can expect to wait 2-3 epochs until their actual SFDP stake is reflective of their target SFDP stake.

Residual Stake #

What are the performance requirements for a residual stake delegation? #

An up-to-date and comprehensive list of all the performance requirements for receiving residual stake can be found here.

How much stake is the residual stake amount? #

The residual stake amount varies from epoch to epoch. The residual stake amount is computed by dividing the remainder of the SOL in SFDP after all stake matching has been computed by the number of SFDP participants that meet the residual performance requirements. Then each validator receives this residual stake on top of any matching stake they received from the SFDP.

If the number of validators increases or more sol is matched through stake matching then the total residual stake will decrease. Conversely if less stake is matched or there are less validators to split the remainder between, the residual stake amount will increase.