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The Money Issue and This Website

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  • Mon, Dec 15, 2008 - 02:19am

    #1

    jrf29

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    The Money Issue and This Website

 

This forum is to discuss money-raising methods which are employed by the website, how donations should be solicited, and how these money-raising methods should be managed to avoid conflicting with the academically neutral message of the Crash Course research.

 

I will start this thread off with a suggestion of my own, which I think ought to be seriously considered:

Granted, this web site needs to raise money.  The Crash Course Community needs to raise money.  Let’s talk about donations.  I am one of the members of the Crash Course Community who has the privilege of knowing Chris personally, and having met his family.  He’s a great guy.  The best kind, in fact.  Based on all the evidence available to me, I have no reason to believe that he is not perfectly trustworthy in every way.

But, business is business, and non-profit charity is non-profit charity.  I am not a person of means, but I am charitable.  Yet, I find that I simply cannot donate money to a cause, no matter how great, unless everything is Kosher.

What do I mean by Kosher?  I mean a chartered non-profit organization (doesn’t take too much effort), which discloses its income and expenses (easy as pie), and makes full disclosure about its operations and finances.  Periodic audits certified by a recognized accounting agency.  What goes in, and where it goes, and what goes out.  That’s just the way its done!

Erik of all people should be all over this.  Nobody would buy stock in a company that did not give material disclosure of its operations, costs, and liabilities.  Only a fool gives money to an operation that does not do the same.  It’s just not the way it’s done.

I really think that if PeakProsperity.com, and staff, are going to be serious about soliciting serious donations, then they ought to put themselves into a fiscal posture that is appropriate for a charitable or civic organization receiving donations.  I am convinced that many serious donors (more serious than I) look for that kind of stuff.

Not only is it the thing to do, it will help greatly to increase donations.  Schools, for example, have found that when they ask parents for money to pay for specific things, then they get a response that is overwhelmingly greater than if they simply ask for money to fund "general operation."

When people know what things cost, and know exactly what their money is paying for, it allows them to feel a greater connection to the results of their charity.  They can say, "I helped to buy that thing."  It’s a good feeling.  Christia Children’s Charity fund figured that out a long time ago when they started sending pictures of individual children to donors, telling them exactly what their $25 was going to buy for this, or some other child.  Same principal applies here.

 Don’t you think?

  • Mon, Dec 15, 2008 - 02:38am

    #2

    Erik T.

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    Re: The Money Issue and This Website

jrf29,

Thanks for starting this thread. I agree that a place for the community to comment on how we should go about raising money to cover the site’s expenses is important, and probably overdue.

Your specific comments about a properly chartered 501(c)(3) non-profit entity are spot on, and have been a topic of recent conversation. The reason this hadn’t been done yet is primarily that donations are a fairly recent part of the overall strategy, and until recently there was no practical need for a non-profit entity.

But all this fits into a bigger picture. I recently flew back to Massachusetts to meet with Chris and Becca for 3 days to discuss high-level direction and strategy. We made some decisions and came to some conclusions, but still welcome further feedback from the community. What really needs to happen next, however, is the following:

  1. We need to articulate our vision and strategy for the web site, the crash course, and the "cause" overall, and share that with the community.
  2. We need to announce some decisions we’ve already made about how we’ll pursue that strategy. This includes the business model for subscriptions, how we see the the Martenson Brigade developing, the possibility of a non-profit entity for promoting the message, and a number of other items.
  3. Once the "big plan" is in view, we’ll be able to have a more sensible community feedback discussion about it.

Chris and I (primarily, Chris) have been working on that "package of announcements" since concluding our meetings, but we don’t yet have it all written up and ready to announce. Please stay tuned… it’s coming.

I certainly don’t mean to discourage discussion here in the meanwhile, but I think that it will be easier to have a coherent discussion about fundraising after we’ve laid out the "big picture" for where we see all this going.

Erik

 

  • Mon, Dec 15, 2008 - 07:31am

    #3

    Nichoman

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    Posts: 140

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    Re: The Money Issue and This Website

[quote=ErikTownsend]

jrf29,

Thanks for starting this thread. I agree that a place for the community to comment on how we should go about raising money to cover the site’s expenses is important, and probably overdue.

Your specific comments about a properly chartered 501(c)(3) non-profit entity are spot on, and have been a topic of recent conversation. The reason this hadn’t been done yet is primarily that donations are a fairly recent part of the overall strategy, and until recently there was no practical need for a non-profit entity.

But all this fits into a bigger picture. I recently flew back to Massachusetts to meet with Chris and Becca for 3 days to discuss high-level direction and strategy. We made some decisions and came to some conclusions, but still welcome further feedback from the community. What really needs to happen next, however, is the following:

  1. We need to articulate our vision and strategy for the web site, the crash course, and the "cause" overall, and share that with the community.
  2. We need to announce some decisions we’ve already made about how we’ll pursue that strategy. This includes the business model for subscriptions, how we see the the Martenson Brigade developing, the possibility of a non-profit entity for promoting the message, and a number of other items.
  3. Once the "big plan" is in view, we’ll be able to have a more sensible community feedback discussion about it.

Chris and I (primarily, Chris) have been working on that "package of announcements" since concluding our meetings, but we don’t yet have it all written up and ready to announce. Please stay tuned… it’s coming.

I certainly don’t mean to discourage discussion here in the meanwhile, but I think that it will be easier to have a coherent discussion about fundraising after we’ve laid out the "big picture" for where we see all this going.

Erik

 

[/quote]

 

This is a step in the proper direction.  Expressed concerns about this weeks ago of us needing: organization…visions…goals…defined processes.   Though well meaning…were lacking beyond Crash Course…but discussion gets and keeps ball rolling.

 

Per Erik’s comments above…what do others think we should pursue?   For now…remained troubled were limiting Chris and the longer term effectiveness of the issue.

 

Thanks jrf29 for your post.

 

Nichoman

  • Mon, Dec 15, 2008 - 10:16am

    #4

    ckessel

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    Re: The Money Issue and This Website

Eric,

I thank jrf 29 for starting this thread and agree with your comments in clarification.

There is another issue that will likely arise quickly or in reality probably allready has. That is that as this site grows (exponentially I hope) Chris is going to become overwhelmed trying to manage all of the hats. Organizations are inherantly bureaucratic pits that will consume ever increasing amounts of time just for their management. The founders often become consumed by it and their original purpose is compromised because they no longer have the time to do what they originally intended. 

That said, Chris will need to have the time to do his research and comments and others will need to handle the site and related programs. I expect there will arise a model that local brigades will have/follow with each area being connected to a central org to act as a clearing house for information, ideas etc.

The key point I wish to make is that the organization needs to provide the support necessary so Chris can do what he does best and that is in the field of education and research.

You may want to post a list of the most needed and wanted organizational activities. There will be those that want to volunteer time or expertise as well as $.

  • Mon, Dec 15, 2008 - 03:52pm

    #5
    switters

    switters

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    Posts: 436

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    Re: The Money Issue and This Website

[quote=ckessel]

The key point I wish to make is that the organization needs to provide the support necessary so Chris can do what he does best and that is in the field of education and research.

You may want to post a list of the most needed and wanted organizational activities. There will be those that want to volunteer time or expertise as well as $.

[/quote]

I agree with this wholeheartedly.  The business activities must be kept as separate from the activities of the business as possible.  What I mean by that is just what ckessel said: Chris should be free to pursue his research and continue sharing it with us in the form of blog posts, Martenson reports, and whatever other vehicles emerge.  Chris’s insight and analysis are what drew us here in the first place, and his ongoing work is what will continue to increase the audience of the site.  There are many people out there who could successfully manage the organizational activities of CM.com, but there is only one person who can do Chris’s job – and that’s Chris!

I would also like to see a list of the needed organizational and administrative roles.  I’ve been thinking of how I could support Chris and this website for some time now, and it’s possible that I could fill one of those roles.  I imagine there is a tremendous wellspring of skill and expertise within the CM.com community that could be drawn upon.  If folks are more clear on what’s needed, they will be more likely to step forward and offer their services.  

I also agree that moving towards 501(c)3 status is necessary if charitable donations are intended as a source of funding, which I think they should be.  Perhaps this could be one of the organizational activities/roles that you identifiy.  It’s not difficult and doesn’t require a lot of expertise to set up.  Chris can be paid a salary as the Executive Director of the foundation so that he can continue to do this important work.

 

 

  • Wed, Dec 17, 2008 - 01:35am

    #6

    Erik T.

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    Re: The Money Issue and This Website

Thanks for the input, folks, and please keep it coming!

You are absolutely right about Chris having too many hats, and we are in wholehearted agreement that it would be nice if we had a real organization in place so that Chris could be director of market research and not have to trouble himself with the details of operating the site’s business affairs.

I’m doing my best to help out in that regard, but the inescapable truth is that we’re doing this on a shoestring, and Chris has no choice but to wear many hats.

We do have a plan here… It started with me flying back to have a 3-day pow-wow with Chris and Becca to craft a high-level plan. We did that and made great progress. The next step is to articulate that plan in writing and share it with this community. We’re working on writing everything up, and also verifying that we can make the changes we want to make. Some of them involve asking our webmaster to do new and different things, and we need to verify all this is possible before we can announce it.

I know it’s tempting to say, "Well, if you had this meeting and have a plan to share with everyone, why don’t you just write something up and post it already!". The answer is that we have to deal with more curveballs than you could imagine on the DVD project (like the shipping expenses that surprised all of us), plus run the site, plus have Chris do his "main strategic job" of keeping us all informed on what’s happening in the very rapidly changing world around us.

I hope this is helpful for now. Please stay tuned to the blog for new announcements from Chris about our vision, strategy and plans for 2009.

Erik

 

  • Tue, Dec 30, 2008 - 12:07am

    #7

    gauntlett

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    Re: The Money Issue and This Website

I came across another post that mentioned $5-$7.00 a month for subscriber access and decided to do a bit more digging as to what people are saying on this topic.  To reiterate I think $5-$7.00 is way to low and will put the site in the category of a cheap or discount website.  This would be unfortunate as the site and information is top notch and constantly evolving as it matures.  As the subscriber base matures I think a rate that says affordable yet very valuable information is important. 

 When I first came to the site many months ago, prior to the redesign I decided to subscribe after watching the crash course and have never looked back.  I have noticed the growing pains as the message spread and readership grew.  However, that was to be expected.

 What seems to be transpiring is two separate functions for the site.  Well, at least this is how I’m seeing it. On one hand there is the Crash Course, which ought to be integrated into classrooms.  This is the message that Chris wants to get across to people willing to listen and be open to the reality that the future is going to be very different from the past.  The DVDs were a great step forward and I’m in the process of distributing them.  Thank You!!  

At mention of a 501c3 I thought Crash Course.  Granted there is more of a headache for filings etc…  but as far as getting volunteers and donations I’d agree with previous posters that this is a great idea.  Have Crash Course groups in various cities around the world and get the message out!  Setup the crash course and forums for posting on its topics as a separate entity from the for profit site providing recent and upcoming information to subscribers.  Essentially, the crash course is donation based, while the site is subscription based and for Chris % co. to make a living if that is what he desires.  

I noticed that I stopped reading many of the comments on each post because there were many that were just filler and they took forever to sift through.  I don’t know the ideal solution for this but as a subscriber I’d like to see more areas dedicated to subscribers.  Perhaps this means separating the crash course from the site (at least symbolically) and then setting up the majority of the  forums for subscribers only.  There could also be forums on the crash course open to all.  Lastly, maybe have a non-subscriber forum so non-subscribers can ask questions and be involved, however I like the idea of subscriber only forums to help reduce the noise. Perhaps the subscriber / non-subscriber model would also apply to posts as well.  Perhaps remove posts on articles all together and keep them in the forums that way there is a clean seperation with information presented and information discussed.

 

my2cents,

  • Tue, Dec 30, 2008 - 02:37am

    #8

    ckessel

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    Posts: 165

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    Re: The Money Issue and This Website

[quote=gauntlett]

I came across another post that mentioned $5-$7.00 a month for subscriber access and decided to do a bit more digging as to what people are saying on this topic.  To reiterate I think $5-$7.00 is way to low and will put the site in the category of a cheap or discount website. 

<snip>

I noticed that I stopped reading many of the comments on each post because there were many that were just filler and they took forever to sift through.  I don’t know the ideal solution for this but as a subscriber I’d like to see more areas dedicated to subscribers.  Perhaps this means separating the crash course from the site (at least symbolically) and then setting up the majority of the  forums for subscribers only.  There could also be forums on the crash course open to all.  Lastly, maybe have a non-subscriber forum so non-subscribers can ask questions and be involved, however I like the idea of subscriber only forums to help reduce the noise. Perhaps the subscriber / non-subscriber model would also apply to posts as well.  Perhaps remove posts on articles all together and keep them in the forums that way there is a clean seperation with information presented and information discussed.

 

my2cents,

[/quote]

I’d like to toss some coinage into the kitty in support of what gauntlett posted. I agree that the above mentioned price is too low. 2 more cents!

"There could also be forums on the crash course open to all.  Lastly,
maybe have a non-subscriber forum so non-subscribers can ask questions
and be involved, however I like the idea of subscriber only forums to
help reduce the noise."

I totally agree ;  2 more cents! Now we are compounding exponentially!

Coop

  • Fri, Jan 02, 2009 - 09:02am

    #9
    lconapin

    lconapin

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    Re: The Money Issue and This Website

I was going to post the following as a new thread, but it is more appropriate here.   I very strongly encourage that you convert this endeavor to a 501(c)(3).   If you do not, or you start a 501(c)(3) in addition to your for-profit LLC, be prepared to explain to this community why you did not fully convert.  This will be a huge issue as your community grows, because this blurry line that you have going will open up the whole message to collateral attack as more people understand your business model (push out DVDs to drive hits to the website, hence paid subscribers to the reports and podcasts, etc.).   Anyway, my post:



I’ve been reading on issues relating to the three “E’s” for a
few years now, but nonetheless was impressed by the Crash Course for its
succinct and clear presentation, as well as the fact that Chris brought these
topics together in an integrated whole, which are usually discussed
separately.  Also, he was astute enough
to recognize that video is the preferred media of choice for many people, as
many people aren’t willing to read a book from cover to cover.

 

But I have to say that I am confused, and, to be frank, a little
bit leery of this website generally.

 

My overall question:  if
this is really about “promoting the message” of the three E’s, and not about
promoting one individual (Chris), why is this site organized as a for profit limited
liability corporation, rather than a not-for profit organization?  

 

Related to that, why is there the “Martenson Brigade” and
not the “Three E Brigade,” or something of that sort?  Titles have a lot of significance, as that is
what people most remember, so I find it significant that both the web address
and its associated volunteer brigade emphasize the person (Chris) rather than
the message (the three E’s).

 

I have absolutely no problem – and indeed very much hope –
that Chris can earn his family a few bucks (or even more than just a few bucks)
while promoting a message that needs to be heard.  

 

But what gives me pause about this website is that, in my
personal opinion, it unduly blurs the line between casting off the image of
being a non-profit promoting a good message, yet actually constituting for
profit enterprise.

 

I got this feeling after watching the video encouraging
people to distribute Crash Course DVDs for a profit.  (https://www.peakprosperity.com/distribute-crash-course-dvds)
 This video strongly emphasizes Chris’s
altruism in supposedly not profiting off of distribution of his Crash
Course.  But while he may not profit from
direct distribution of the DVD, he will promote hits to this site and thus gain
other benefits (more paid subscribers, more speaking engagements which are
further promotional efforts, etc.)  and
thus benefit his corporation.  This
indirect profit channel is becoming the standard mechanism for profit for many
online businesses, and this site is a classic example of good use of that
business model.

 

My suggestion for improvement of this website is
that, if this is really about the message, then open up the books of your
corporation for the community to see. 
Show the ad revenue, subscriber revenue, other royalty revenue, etc.,
and show the expenses for the site (design, bandwidth costs, consulting costs,
any hired employee salaries, etc.).  Then
show us the long term business plan for if and when your Crash Course reaches its
next major milestone in terms of distribution. If you need money at that point,
I bet this community will take care of you.

 

In one of the forums, someone suggested having an open
reporting of donations to this site (as does Wikipedia, which is organized as a
not-for-profit), but no one commented on this. 
I second this suggestion for improvement.

 

In my opinion, this general suggestion for your site will
serve you well in the longer term. 
Again, I am completely for you profiting from your works and this
website.  But I am leery that as your
site grows in popularity, this blurry line that you have going — between
promoting the message and promoting your corporation — will prevent you from
taking your endeavor to the next level that you desire.  It will surely become a target of growing criticism,
both on this website and from external sources, which will deflect from the
power of the message.  It would be better
to take steps to cut that criticism off early, before it takes hold like a
strong weed and threatens your efforts. Because it really will — both (1) your business model (push CC DVDs for free, but profit from subscriber base growth) and (2) the potential backlash phenomenon (from pushing a not-for-profit image too much while being a for-profit LLC) are not that new these days on the internet.

 

  • Fri, Jan 02, 2009 - 06:52pm

    #10

    Nichoman

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    Posts: 140

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    Re: The Money Issue and This Website

Iconapin…

 

You bring up excellent points.

 

Nichoman

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