Help Metafilter survive! - Annual Fundraiser week 1 update
November 2, 2022 12:35 PM   Subscribe

It’s Metafilter’s annual fundraiser! Contributions from the community keep the lights on, and we’ve been asking you to help fund Metafilter. Here’s an update on MeTa about our first week of fundraising.

It’s time for Metafilter to pay the bills, and we can’t do it without your help. Go here to set up a recurring amount, or give a one-time contribution to keep one of the world’s oldest online communities going.

Spread the word! Download a graphic and let your past and present MeFite friends know that we could use their help. Need a script? We have you covered.

Sponsor a post by jessamyn, Rhaomi or Eyebrows McGee on a topic of your choice!

Here’s our Fundraiser announcement, and an update on week 1.

Here’s some lovely new swag.

We've just put up a detailed financial update to help members understand the site's financial situation, the changes that are coming in, and the way forward.

Also coming up: an auction, live events, your holiday shopping guide, and much, much more.
posted by tavegyl (19 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks for the detailed update here and on the grey. I hope this will inspire past users to come out of the woodwork - maybe even an angel donor from one of our more successful long-time members or lurkers? I know there must be an angel somewhere!

I haven't been consistently active in years, but I've never stopped lurking. Plus, I've been donating monthly since the Matt days. I recently made a one time donation and will up my monthly.

I greatly appreciate all the efforts of this most excellent steering committee.

Metafilter is one of the best places on the web - not to mention an important part of web history. hope we can come together to get by this rough patch.
posted by madamjujujive at 1:28 PM on November 2, 2022 [18 favorites]

I just donated - it's not a lot but it's something! This place is remarkable.
posted by SNACKeR at 1:50 PM on November 2, 2022 [8 favorites]

I had to stop the monthly donation when Covid started, but I recently started again.

This is the very best place on the web, and I am very happy to contribute.
posted by Tunierikson at 2:00 PM on November 2, 2022 [7 favorites]

Alright I'm a monthly contributor. Started using MeFi in 2008 out of frustration with the direction reddit was headed. What a sweet summer child I was. I've been on and off here since but I guess this is where I'm ending up.

I wish the internet could have been primarily thoughtful, user driven communities. That will never happen but at least we have our niche.
posted by Hume at 3:57 PM on November 2, 2022 [3 favorites]

Just upped my donation! Very much a fan of the clearer and more pragmatic communication around site finances.
posted by Wretch729 at 4:12 PM on November 2, 2022 [2 favorites]

I have donated and would also be happy to craft a post for you on the topic of your choice if you do too. $100 minimum.
posted by y2karl at 6:08 PM on November 2, 2022 [2 favorites]

We upped our donation and I have posted to my socials about this.
posted by rednikki at 7:11 PM on November 2, 2022 [3 favorites]

I've made a new one time donation. I wonder if it would be possible to do some kind of graphic, perhaps on a linked page, that would show some kind of progress/gap for what the site needs?

If funding is running slow I'd be happy to add to it.
posted by aleph at 10:08 PM on November 2, 2022 [2 favorites]

I'm keeping my monthly running. Keep up the good work!
posted by Harald74 at 2:33 AM on November 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

> I wonder if it would be possible to do some kind of graphic, perhaps on a linked page, that would show some kind of progress/gap for what the site needs?

Yeah, I'll say that a definite goal, with a definite timeline for reaching it, and keeping that very visibly in front of people until it's met, works like magic in fundraising.

Something like a fundraising thermometer or the like . . .
posted by flug at 8:48 AM on November 3, 2022

Yeah. I don't need to wade through the financials but it'd be nice to have some summary of what's needed and what's the gap.
posted by aleph at 8:55 AM on November 3, 2022

(member of the Steering Committee here but speaking in my personal capacity)

TL;DR: Our main target is to raise an additional $7,000 in monthly revenue. For now, this effectively means increasing recurring contributions by this amount. Anything that comes as a one-time contribution is extremely welcome and goes into site savings that will, necessarily, be used to tide over months when we don't hit that recurring target, but in the longer term we hope will go towards building the site's cash reserves as a functioning and responsible business.

At the end of the first week of fundraising, we had raised $2,439k in additional recurring contributions towards that +$7k target. Additionally, the site raised one-time contributions of $12,137. Put them together and (back of the envelope calculation here and I'm not the accounts whiz in the Steering Committee so please forgive any errors) that means, we have roughly enough cash reserves to tide over 2.5-3 months, assuming we didn't get any more recurring contributions over the rest of this fundraising drive. There are also savings from reducing expenses on Amazon Web Services which were figured out after all the calculations are done, so they aren't factored into this, for simplicity's sake.

This +7k target is the amount we calculated is needed for the site to keep going as is: it's what we called the Survive scenario. We are, I guess, a third of the way there, with the $2,439 in additional recurring donations received thus far.

The other thing I'd like to emphasise is that we don't think that an exclusive reliance on user contributions for revenue is a great idea. So, eventually, that 7k figure (or the higher figures we've calculated for the Revive and Thrive scenarios) will at least partly (and personally I hope mostly) raised through other means, whether that's advertising, events, Amazon referral links, whatever. All options will be on the table when we have the breathing space to start thinking through what is right for the site's viability, but also its identity and its community.
posted by tavegyl at 12:49 PM on November 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

Yeah, so something like this in that top line that appears on every page re: "MeFi Fundraising Season":

"Status: $2,439/$7,000 needed in monthly donations by Dec 31"

Some of you can make it prettier or shorter/punchier (maybe it could be a simple graphic or thermometer).

But that's the info that needs to be in front of everyone who visits the site from now until that goal is met: How much is needed, how much has been raised, what the goal date for reaching that amount is.

Front & center, where everyone can see it & track the progress.

These threads with details etc are great, but lots of people never look at them. Or they look and think, "OK, I'll do something later when I have my credit card" then forget about it.

The basics, and the progress towards the goal & due date, need to be front & center in front of everyone's eyeballs until the goal amount is reached.

Out of sight, out of mind . . .
posted by flug at 2:02 PM on November 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

"Out of sight, out of mind . . ."

Maybe. But people seem to be more sensitive to being "poked at" nowadays. Some highly visible link/graphic at the top with "Fund raising status" or something might be better. Opt-in kind of poking.

But I'll let the people doing it figure out what works better/best.
posted by aleph at 2:39 PM on November 3, 2022

> Maybe. But people seem to be more sensitive to being "poked at" nowadays.

It can be pretty simple & unobtrusive, like a little thermometer graphic that gradually fills up.

All I know is, I've raised a similar amount from a similar (well actually quite a lot smaller) base every year for the past 20+ years and it's all about remind, remind, remind. When people get those reminders, it happens easily, every time. When they don't, it doesn't just doesn't happen.

We have a little thermometer type thing that appears at the top of every page on our web site all throughout fundraising season, with current status & our goal date for reaching it. Over the years, exactly zero people have ever complained.

(And even if a couple of people do complain - you have to weigh the importance of reaching your fundraising goal, upon which the literal survival of your organization depends, against the downside of making like 0.01% of your members mildly irritated enough to complain.)
posted by flug at 3:45 PM on November 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

I worry more about messing with the user experience that people just put up with and don't complain... until they finally don't.

Glad I don't have to make those kind of decisions.

But I know what you're saying, and if it's necessary it's necessary.
posted by aleph at 9:45 PM on November 3, 2022

Maybe. But people seem to be more sensitive to being "poked at" nowadays. Some highly visible link/graphic at the top with "Fund raising status" or something might be better. Opt-in kind of poking.

I hear you.

But (you knew there was a but, right?):

1. This is a life-or-death moment for Metafilter. The graphic isn't for donations to raise the staff's salary or let them have a lavish holiday party. It's to make sure the lights stay on. The alternative of being poked at is nothing existing to poke or not to poke.

2. Has anyone ever stopped using Wikipedia over their page full ads when they are in donation season?

If it's a risk (which I don't think it really is, but I can see why you would), I think, given the situation, it's one that needs to be taken.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 6:29 AM on November 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

(Steering Committee member here but speaking in my personal capacity and as a non-tech person)

I absolutely hear the comments about more prominent fundraising calls, a thermometer and other ways to get users motivated to contribute. I also completely agree with you and until a couple of weeks ago I had lots of ideas, both my own and from community suggestions over the years. For instance, one of my top priorities was simply to improve the Help Fund Metafilter page, make it more intuitive and increase the ways people can donate. I'd love to have big reminders, I'd love to have popup surveys or nudges to join for non-logged in visitors, I'd love to have funding thermometers updated in real time that appear prominently on the site.

But there is a very large brick wall there, which is that all of this needs coding and development capacity that we simply don't have, both for reasons of time (the fundraising had to be done quickly), the nature of the codebase (to my understanding, it's baroque in both its vintage and its style), and human capacity (t's not at all straightforward for people to just go in and make changes so it's all on frimble at the moment). We've got Steering Committee members working very hard with frimble to make it possible to bring volunteers into the coding side, but I had not realised that this is really not a trivial matter and it needs more time than the fundraising drive permitted.

In the meantime, we're making do with what we can do - whether it's the crouton meter we knocked together and put in the fundraising update, or simply changing the static text of the Help Fund Metafliter page but without altering its structure to become more intuitive.

One of the most encouraging things has been how community members have stepped up to help out. We've had members bring their time and expertise to help clean up accounting procedures, work on improving the affiliate linking and set up a fundraising auction. We've had many members offer to help over the years and I'm so relieved and grateful that so many are still willing to come in and improve a specific aspect of the site. In the future, I hope we'll be able to put out more proactive calls for help, whether it's 'develop a funding thermometer' or 'design a social media campaign to attract more users'.

I'm hopeful that a lot of these ideas can be implemented next year - and I'm also hopeful that next year's Steering Committee will not need to put out such an urgent call for funds because they will be building on a more robust business operations foundation, a strong volunteer pool, and more revenue streams than 'please please give money'.

(Over in MeTa there is a lot of discussion of how we can move to an easier-to-manage and more attractive platform than our current baroque variety. I'm not a tech person so I don't want to stick my neck out too far, but I'm definitely sympathetic to the general idea as long as we think through it carefully and strategically. However, again, it's not something that can be implemented overnight and without careful community and expert consultation and feasibility studies, and I imagine any fundamental change like this would take time.)
posted by tavegyl at 3:24 AM on November 5, 2022 [3 favorites]

Got off my lazy butt and set up a recurring donation today.

Thank you(?) to the pandemic for bringing me back to MeFi on a regular basis, and thank you MeFi for continuing to be so interesting.

ETA: Whoops, this probably should've gone in the newer post, huh?
posted by May Kasahara at 8:27 AM on November 6, 2022

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