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Your donations are keeping the site alive

Thursday, November 20, 2008, 5:45 PM

Six weeks ago, I posted a note to this blog introducing myself as the site's volunteer Business Manager, and describing my decision to add advertising to the site to recover some of the site's operating costs. 

That announcement led to some lively discussion, and suggestions from members that we should also consider other options such as an easier-to-use mechanism for direct donations, and an affiliation with Amazon.com. I'm writing today to update you on our progress, and to report that overwhelmingly, direct donations have been of crucial importance to keeping the site just barely running in the black.

Our Google AdSense ads have worked reasonably well, and are now generating enough revenue to cover our direct site hosting bill, which is only a few hundred dollars per month. But the ad revenue only makes a small dent in our overall operating costs, which also include the services of our webmaster and small administrative staff. The Amazon affiliate program has only produced minimal revenue to date. However, the generosity of a few donors has been our salvation.

In the six weeks that have elapsed since that post, we have received 2 large donations totaling $3,000, plus a whole bunch of smaller donations - literally from all over the world - which collectively brought in another $3,800. So overall, we're averaging about $1,000 per week in donations, which really helps to defray our overall direct operating costs which have been running about $4,100 per week on average for the past 10 weeks. This does not include any potential salary for Chris which has equaled exactly zero YTD. Well, less than zero if you count his past direct investment before some revenue came in.

We're really excited to be announcing the Crash Course on DVD, and never could have made the DVD version available for free without your generosity. We urgently need the continuing financial support of the community, and I respectfully ask everyone to consider making a donation if your financial circumstances permit it.

We also have a new sponsorship program on the drawing board. We think some people would feel more comfortable making larger donations if they knew how their money was being spent. So in the future, if you are not comfortable making a large donation to the cause in general, we'll give you the option of (for example) sponsoring the production of 1,000 Crash Course DVDs for all the public libraries in your state. We'll then use our Martenson Brigade volunteers to physically distribute the DVDs. There are countless other ways someone might want to make a targeted sponsor donation, and we'll be open to working with people to find the best sponsorship fit for them. If you're interested in sponsoring something - DVDs for worthy causes - T-Shirts advertising the Crash Course for our volunteer brigade - or anything else, please contact us.

There are several projects we've contemplated for our new volunteer brigade, such as targeted campaigns to mail Crash Course DVDs to congress, TV talk shows, etc. But these would all require a donor to cover the cost of producing the DVDs to be sent to these recipients.

What I'd really like is to produce an abbreviated 1-hour version of the Crash Course - with Chris live on camera - as a TV documentary that could be sold to A&E, the Discovery Channel, etc. We'd need someone willing to make a six-figure investment to step up as Producer, but who knows - it might actually make a profit if successful on cable TV. If you ever had dreams of being a Hollywood big-wig, here's your chance!

In summary, we need your continuing help at all levels, and we look forward to working with larger donors to assure that their money is being spent in a way they are comfortable with. Please contact us through the site's contact page if you can help.

Erik Townsend
Business Manager
PeakProsperity.com

 

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9 Comments

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 13 2008
Posts: 2244
Re: Your donations are keeping the site alive

Thanks for the update, Erik.  I like your ideas for giving people a chance for donations directed towards a specific goal, like DVDs for the public libraries in your state.  I find being able to give a donation for a well-defined outcome gratifying.  I always liked the idea used by the charity Heifer International, whose catalogues let you choose whether you wanted to "buy a goat"  or "buy a flock of geese", among other choices, for needy people  (BTW, they may be a good organization to affiliate with in developing self-sufficient communities!).

I do have one question: In the subscription area, if we want to sign up for additional time on our existing subscriptions before they run out, to help with your operating costs now, will that work?  I.e., will the additional months or year(s) get added to our existing time left on the subscription?  If so, maybe there are others like me who would be willing to sign-up now for additional subscription time, to help with costs, rather than waiting for our subscriptions to expire.

Thanks for your and everyone's good work!

vegas316's picture
vegas316
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 13 2008
Posts: 15
Re: Your donations are keeping the site alive

I second this. I wouldn't mind contributing more money. But on the other hand, it would be cool if we could also extend our subscription while we are at it.

 

Erik T.'s picture
Erik T.
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 5 2008
Posts: 1234
Re: Your donations are keeping the site alive

Excellent comments, guys! Thanks for offering them.

I have to be honest: The subscription system has been a major headache for us. Without a doubt, the way it should work in a perfect world is that when you make a big donation, we should automatically recognize your contributio and grant you an appropriate duration complimentary subscription period as thanks for your donation.

That is the perfect world fantasy. In the real world, we are spending a fortune just trying to make these darned auto-renewals work as advertised. This has to do with open-source web site software, and it gets complicated. Suffice it to say that IT should never drive the business model, but it usually does.

I'd like to keep this discussion going, and try to find the right solution. The problem is that the software module that deals with subscriptions is totally separate (and invented by different programmers) from the software module that deals with donations. For really big donations (upwards of $1k), it's no problem - we appreciate those big donations so much that somebody (usually Chris himself) stops what they are doing and manually goes in and changes that subscriber's paid-thru date, overriding the automated system.

But we can't have Chris drop what he is doing every time someone donates fifty bucks. The guy who donates fifty bucks certainly deserves a free month (valued at $30), but we just can't do this manually, and we are slaves to our open-source web site software. One solution is to ask the person involved to first extend their subscription by a month ($30) and then make a separate donation transaction of $20, It makes my skin curl up to even suggest that we should be inventing work for people who are generous enough to donate to our cause, but we are stuck with the software infrastructure that is available to us.

Please keep the comments coming, guys. We are realizing that the generosity of those who choose to donate is our bread and butter, and we want to treat those people right. But I'm sure the last thing those people want is for Chris to drop whatever project he is writing about to manually adjust their subscription status in recognition of a small donation.

It's so easy to say "You should just integrate the subscription extensions with the donations", but I'm sure the software professionals in the audience will understand why that's easier said than done.

Erik Townsend
Business Manager
PeakProsperity.com

 

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 13 2008
Posts: 2244
Re: Your donations are keeping the site alive

Hi Erik-

   Thanks for writing back.  I understand what you are saying about the Donation software being different than Subscription Software, and that the two are not linked together.  Got that.  But I am looking at this strictly from the perspective of using only the Subscription software.  What I am still unclear about is, if I go directly to the Subscription button, and sign up for additional months, will it extend my current subscription?  Or will it just change my subscription length to whatever amount of time I now pay for?  E.g., if I have 2 months left on my current subscription, and pay for an additional 3 months, will I end up with 5 months (current subscription extended 3 months) or just 3 months?

    I hate sounding so cheap, vs just going to the Donation button and making a donation!  But I have bills to pay and debt to pay off.  So while I can come up with some additional $ to help the cause, it is better for me if it also covers a future bill (my subscription).  I wouldn't even bother you with this issue just for myself, but I suspect there are others in my situation as well, and that by answering this for me, maybe you will answer it for several others and thus benefit from several of us extending our existing subscriptions.

  I guess I also have one other assumption baked into this.  I am assuming that if I extend my subscription, the money would then be available so support your operational costs, just the same as a donation would.  Is that right?  If so, my thought was that if folks like me extend our subscriptions, you still benefit by getting additional $ for operating costs, we get an extended subscriptions, and we both benefit.   

   Thanks Erik!

Erik T.'s picture
Erik T.
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 5 2008
Posts: 1234
Re: Your donations are keeping the site alive

pinecarr,

On your last question, yes, subscription money and donation money goes to support the same cause. So if you wanted to donate $300, my advice would be to just extend your subscription for a full year, which costs $300.

On your earlier question, I believe that if you already have a subscription and you go sign up for another one, the system will automatically extend your existing end date by however many months you buy. But I'm not the expert on the subscription system, so I'll ask Amanda Witman to confirm that. Stand by for her reply...

Thanks again for your support,

Erik

 

Brak's picture
Brak
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 10 2008
Posts: 34
Re: Your donations are keeping the site alive

Erik,

Your report discusses donation revenue but not subscription revenue. Out of personal curiosity more than anything, how are you doing with  subscriptions? Or are you simply lumping those together? Second question, how many paid subscribers are there, if you're willing to say?

As a side note, I am impressed with the amount of participation and readership that seems evident and as a potential Internet entrepreneur (aren't we all?) I find it a bit discouraging that the ends are tough to meet.

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 13 2008
Posts: 2244
Re: Your donations are keeping the site alive

Thanks for the answer, Erik.  That clarifies things for me.  I'll just wait for Amanda's response, and if she confirms new subsciptions will be added on to existing ones, I'll go ahead and extend mine for a year.  Maybe if there are enough of us who can extend our subscriptions now, since we already know that we'll renew them in the future anyway, we can help ease your tight funding now, when you really need it.  Hopefully down the road there will be enough more new subscribers to the site that funding will not be so tight.

 Thanks again for taking the time to answer, Eric, and best to all of youl!   

admin's picture
admin
Status: Administrator (Offline)
Joined: May 6 2007
Posts: 346
Re: Your donations are keeping the site alive

pinecarr,

I'm going to answer this one for you. For the time being, as long as
someone clicks the "Renew" link under "Subscriptions" prior to the
expiration of their current subscription, the time is additive. 

For example, say I place an order for a one month subscription on
10/27, which will expire on 11/27.  Then on 11/4, I go to "My Account
> Subscriptions" and click the "Renew" button.  Taking this step
will extend the current subscription expiration from 11/27 to 12/27.

However as an important point, there is no easy method at the moment to "upgrade" your subscription.  For example, you suggested "if she confirms new subsciptions will be added on to existing ones, I'll go ahead and extend mine for a year." 

The "Renew" link allows you to renew your existing subscription, which if it is for one month, would be one additional month.  You *can* choose to buy 12 "one month" subscriptions, but then you would not immediately receive the $60 discount you get from buying the 12 month product.

Let me know if this makes sense or if you have any further questions.

Ron

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 13 2008
Posts: 2244
Re: Your donations are keeping the site alive

Hi Ron-

   Thanks for the info.  I didn't immediately understand what you were saying about not being able to upgrade a subscription.  But once I went into My Account > Subscriptions and checked it out for myself, it did make sense.  I had originally subscribed for 3 months, and so my only renewal option was for 3 months, or some other multiple of 3 months.  So to extend my subscription by 1 year, I set quantity to "4" for my 3 month subscription renewal.  That was fine for me.  I got an additional 1 year's subscription, which I would have signed on for eventually anyway, and you guys got a little more near-term operating cash.  I can handle not getting quite the same break I would have gotten for a single 1-year renewal, since I already consider myself lucky to be getting something of good value for my "donation".

  Maybe others who can afford it might consider doing the same thing to help Chris and his team get more funding now, when it is so needed.  

   Thanks again for taking the time to answer my questions, Ron.

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