This page lists various fundraising models and their pros and cons.
In the major donor model, funds are raised by taking comparitively large donations from a small number of people. This model is in widespread use by charities.
- does not require a large supporter base, which may not exist for controversial or simply less known work or people
- may connect an activist with their biggest supporters, including the donors in the activist work in more ways than giving alone
- major donors are fairly loyal and motivated, and will follow you through, eg, technical difficulties and payment processor switches
- supporter base needs to be relatively wealthy (how wealthy depends on your fundraising goals)
- some major donors are "high touch", requiring significant contact from and reporting from the activists, which may diminish time available for your core work
- activists may be consciously or unconsciously influenced to placate their donors or serve their interests in order to continue the relationship
In the small donation model, funds are raised by taking comparitively small donations from a large number of people, often on a subscription model. This model is popular with activists.
- does not require a wealthy donor base
- allows many people to express their support for you in a way they can afford
- does not give any individual donor an undue influence over your activism
- it can be very hard to raise a significant amount of money this way unless you already reach a lot of people (the Wikimedia Foundation uses this model and is the extreme example of having lots of reach) through prior, presumably unpaid, work
- moving your donors to a new payment processor is an enormous amount of work, because there's a lot of them
- you may have trouble figuring out what factors lead to more or less donations
Whether or not you know your donors' identities is orthogonal to how much they are giving.
This may be required by some setups, eg, charities may be required to report the identity of large donors in their annual reports or tax filings.
- you can talk to your donors and find out why they're donating and what interests them about your work
- you can help your donors become activists themselves
- you can inform your donors of, eg, payment processor switches
- you can be influenced by your donor's opinions in a way that harms your activism
In this model, an activist group's work is funded by the community you intend to benefit, and in return they control your activism by being members of the group and, eg, voting for its board, or taking part in concensus meetings.
- the interests of your funders and your community are very closely aligned, you aren't necessarily tempted to hurt your community to preserve your funding
- your funders have an obvious path into activism, they can become more involved in the group's activism
- if the governance is good, you are able to closely stick to nothing about us without us
- if your activism benefits a clearly defined group of people (such as a neighbourhood) membership will increase both community support of your activism and community control of it
- this is the extreme example of funders controlling activism: if the leading activists disagree with the community about the direction of their activism, they usually have to cease that activism, modify it, or leave the group
- your group can be taken over by a small, determined group of members, and have its direction changed in ways that don't necessarily adhere to the mission or benefit the community
- if your community is not wealthy, you may not be able to fund activism from membership, or not solely so
- if you're aiming to share very widely used resources, it can be difficult to work out who your members should be or what you can offer them that differs from the public benefit of your work
Corporate sponsorship is a pretty common model for groups working in spaces where there is a lot of corporate money (eg, tech).
- corporations have a large amount of money and can spend a large amount relative to a typical activist budget on both marketing and charitable giving
- corporate sponsorship can fund quite expensive projects (eg, events with paid travel) if aligned with their interests
- much activist work is not well aligned with corporate interests due to, eg, an anti-capitalist activist philosophy
- corporate sponsorship is usually in return for publicity, which means that your work is publicly aligned with corporate interests
- this is a highly distorting funding model: very large amounts of money rely on you continuing to be aligned with your corporate sponsors
- you will be perceived to be, or actually be, complicit in any actions your sponsor takes that hurt your community
- corporate sponsorship is fairly conservative and typically relies more on an existing history of successful events and activities, and may not adequately fund early activism
Crowdfunding is essentially a fundraising campaign run in a particular style, through websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
- can be a great way to plan a community or project; it forces you to specify it and budget for it fairly well
- great way to build excitement around a new idea or community
- if you design your rewards well, you can make them align with your goals (eg, distribute relevant books as rewards, give a talk to high funders on your mission, etc)
- crowdfunding requires a huge time commitment both in planning your campaign and in the time period it runs for: plan to constantly be on social media etc
- fufilment of rewards can be very expensive: time involved together with any manufacturing costs, writing time, design time, trips to the post office etc may consume your entire earnings or, worse, exceed them
- it can be difficult to do more than once, even though your need for funds may be ongoing
- Feminist reviews of payment processors : how suitable are they for your activism? What dangers are there in using them?
- The Ada Initiative Founders on Funding Activism for Women in Open Source
- Snowdrift's guide to crowdfunding
- Your first fundraiser: what the Ada Initiative learned the hard way, a series of posts by Mary Gardiner