How much should I donate to metafilter?
November 7, 2022 6:51 AM   Subscribe

Hi All, I would love some guidance on how much to pay for metafilter as an individual. I'm having a block with donating.

One, it just seems impossible. That no matter how much I give it won't be enough. That even if I give $100 lump sum, that it's just a drop in the bucket and not enough to make a difference to the enormous shortfall.

Two, I'm not comfortable with ongoing subscription. I have been giving what I would consider a years worth once or twice a year. I'm fine with continuing lump summing yearly myself but I want to do it myself not have it pulled by subscription.

Three, and my main question, is how to think about how much to give? Some helpful answers I've seen relate it to other costs such as Hulu subscription. I would find it helpful to get more answers like this. Like how do you think about how much to pay based on how much you pay for other things.
posted by halehale to Work & Money (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I definitely think of this in terms of its utility to me in contrast with other things. Netflix "standard" is up to $15 or so a month now, and I don't even necessarily watch Netflix every night. But I'm on Metafilter every day, for some period of time. So in my mind, I just kind of rounded up from Netflix to the next round number, $20/month, which would be $240 in one lump sum in your case.

I realize it's overwhelming to suddenly have all this come out at one time, I've felt the same. There is an emergency on every level of my life right now, it seems like, most of them are existential challenges that whatever effort I put in seems to be minuscule in relationship to the problem. But all these problems have one thing in common, and that's that each of us can do our part and have a positive impact. So if voting for Stacey Abrams seems like a drop in the bucket, so does whatever I can afford to tip out for this place, but I'm going to do it anyway. Some things are worth doing even if they feel like long shots.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:58 AM on November 7, 2022 [13 favorites]

The way I think about it is, how much would I donate to a charity / non-profit organization that supports democracy and provides a safe space for like-minded people?
posted by M. at 7:01 AM on November 7, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: One: We live in a big, connected world, and so we have big, connected problems that one person can never solve by themselves. But sometimes when I feel overwhelmed, I tell myself that I'm trying, and that's the best I can do. The best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago, but the second best time is today.

Two: Lump sums make sense; I get that. It's basic behavioural finance; lump sum payments feel more 'significant' at the time, while ongoing withdrawals are relatively painless and trickle out a little at a time. For the purposes of managing your money, lump sums have more clarity. I deliberately went with a subscription because I actually prefer the relatively painless withdrawal of a little money every month in this specific case; if I look back at the end of the year and add up all of my monthly spending on a cell phone or a subscription, I'm shocked and disappointed that it's so much. When I go back at the end of the year and add up all of my Metafilter spending, I'm glad I was able to give so much with relatively little friction.

Three: I thought in terms of two dimensions; the first is what value this place has relative to other online subscriptions. I'm here more often and spend more time here than other subscription services, so it makes sense to me that I should contribute at least what I would if this was behind a paywall. So that's my floor. And the second is what I can bring to the community; this is a community with a broad set of people from many walks of life. I'm a professional engineer, which doesn't make me Scrooge McDuck, but does mean I probably have more means than the average person in a broad community. So I contribute $20/mointh, which a little more than the average but helpfully is also "the same as in town".
posted by Superilla at 7:11 AM on November 7, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I pay US$10/month for a crossword puzzle subscription. Roughly the same for a news subscription. I give between US$2 and US$8/month to various Patreons. Roughly US$15/month for a handful of streaming services.

That is not even counting the stupid incidental stuff I spend money on.

This site is worth more to me than streaming services, to be honest. On a $-per-minute basis, it's not even close. So I have chosen to view this in the price range of "premium streaming service" for the time being, and I kicked in some more (and an auction item! ahem) for the emergency nature of things and because I know for a fact there are others who benefit from this site who CAN'T kick in that much.
posted by fruitslinger at 7:19 AM on November 7, 2022 [5 favorites]

What can you afford? I make very little income, so thinking of it in terms of a subscription helps me feel not so bad. If I had more money to throw around, I'd think of it more like a community organization or church group and give more. What are your limitations, where else are you giving, what are your priorities? $120 lump sum is $10 a month, which is not nothing. If EVERY user here gave, we'd be having a different conversation, I guess. I think the first goal is gettting a lot closer to universal participation (with more than just a token amount), and then see where to go from there.
posted by rikschell at 7:23 AM on November 7, 2022

Best answer: Here is one back of the envelope calculation. My numbers are off, I know, but perhaps someone can provide something more accurate.

Let's say there are 3,000 active members and that Metafilter needs a baseline of $30,000/month to maintain the site, pay moderators, pay for hosting, etc. That would come to $10/month for every active member.

But not everyone is going to contribute. Some people can't afford to contribute. Some people don't realize they should contribute. So let's say there are 2,000 contributors. That would come to $15/month from everyone who is active and paying attention.

Putting that on a sliding scale, someone who can only afford $10/year could pay that. Someone who can afford $5/month could pay that. To make up for those smaller contributions, someone who can afford $25/month or even $50/month could pay that.

Again, I know these numbers are off, but I believe they are close enough to be useful as a thought experiment when you are considering what your share could be to keep this community going.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 7:41 AM on November 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you can afford it, lump sum seems like a much better option. If things really are that dire, and I have no reason to believe otherwise, the site might not exist in a few months. Even a large monthly gift, let's say $100/month, would only be a total gift of $600 if the site goes under six months from now. A lump sum gift is the full $1,200 now, when it's needed. Monthly subscriptions are great for a stable business, because it's a lot easier to come up with $x twelve times than it is to come up with $12x all at once. But this is no longer a stable business, so your discount function should be skewed toward the present.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:08 AM on November 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

Remember that it's not all on you to save Metafilter! Even if you were a billionaire who could stroll in and fund the whole thing with pocket change, that's just another variety of instability (because you could change your mind at any point!).

Your contribution may feel like a drop in the bucket, but consistent drops in the bucket across the board that'll stay predictable from month to month are exactly what the needs for a stable financial footing.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 8:11 AM on November 7, 2022 [15 favorites]

Best answer: Whenever I have a decision to make that has an ethical aspect to (e.g., shopping choices, voting/endorsing, food and health), I try to worry less about what sort of impact or dent this will make OUT THERE and more on what sort of impact this choice will make on ME.*

For example, with MetaFilter, I know that my donation will not visibly move the needle for this community. Especially the difference between donating $5 or $20 or even £100. And that's ok.

However, that same difference has greater impact on what it means to me to do so. The difference for ME in my current circumstances and frame of mind to donate $0, $5 or $100 matters and has impact on my finances and emotional wellbeing. What it means to me changes.

Right now, I can't afford a monthly donation. So I know that whatever I do, it won't be recurring (for this month at least).

I want to do something — that is, the impact and meaning of donating $0 doesn't feel right for me. But neither does $100. That means too much financially and otherwise to me right now, even as a one-off.

So what was my sweet spot between 1-99?

I settled on a number that, for right now based on how I feel, felt meaningful to me without resentment or other unpleasant feelings. I may feel differently later when my circumstances and thoughts & feelings are different. And that's ok. I will decide what to do then.

*This approach helps me navigate around a lot of argumentation about whether recycling makes a difference or whatever other nonsense. It makes a difference to ME; it's important that I do the thing, to whatever degree I want to do the thing. Intention matters, not just impact.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:17 AM on November 7, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Like Medieval Maven, I compared it to other services I subscribe to, some of which, indeed I barely use and this has been a good opportunity for me to cancel Prime (which my wife also has so it's completely useless). $20 / month seems reasonable to me and I can afford it. I also made a lump sum contribution equivalent to $15 / month dating back to when I started donating in order to create some breathing space.

I occasionally go through my subscriptions and Patreon memberships and calculate how much I am paying per hour. So there are podcasts where I pay $5 / month for four podcasts, two of which are subscription only, I count that as $1.25 / hour of entertainment.

Netflix costs £10.99 / month and I figure that between us in the household we probably watch 3-4 hrs / week so that's £0.785 / hour.

I also compare these to my hourly earnings to determine if it's worth working for.

And so on. I spend and have spent enough time here that $20 / month seems reasonable to me.
posted by atrazine at 9:24 AM on November 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My approach was very similar to the other folks who chimed in here.

The highest Netflix plan is CAD $20.99/month. I used to contribute USD $10/month. I have quite a bit of disposable income, so I settled on USD $35/month as my new contribution amount. That converts to CAD $47 for me monthly. That's like one pricey lunch w/ an appy and drink for me.

If I were given the choice between one such meal vs. access to Metafilter for one month, which one would I choose? I choose to forgo the meal, and keep Metafilter. (In truth, my personal finance situation is good enough that I wouldn't have to forgo anything at all, but that's how I relate it to something of value, in my head.)

This talk about the short-term viability of the site is actually making me consider a one-time bigger donation as well. But I want the powers-that-be to know that they can count on my recurring $35/month for long-term planning.
posted by tinydancer at 9:51 AM on November 7, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I had no idea it was so dire and I am quite frugal and don’t pay for Netflix, etc. I gave a 100 dollar one off and I will probably do so again shortly and repeatedly if I keep being reminded.
posted by pairofshades at 10:33 AM on November 7, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I don't have any streaming services, so I can't compare it to that, but I donate as much to MF as I spend on haircuts.
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:44 AM on November 7, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'd like to push back against the idea that our small donations don't make a difference. And I'm not just talking in the warm-feelings theoretical kind of way. Sure, ~$20k / month compared to your $5-X? / month donation seems like a huge gap, but compare this to a lot of other things you may donate to. Political fundraisers can raise hundreds of thousands in one fundraising drive, and you can't be too confident how that money will be used, and whether the candidate(s) your supporting will prove to be useful to your interests. Your donation to Metafilter on the other hand has a rather large impact relative to a lot of donation drives, and the site has a long history and reliable userbase that indicates it will continue to be valuable, despite its many flaws, to us for many years to come - so long as it gets funded. Further, the difference between the site's survival and demise might be only a few thousand per month, so on this basis the value of your "small" donation becomes even more apparent.

I also appreciate that the site's financials are completely transparent now. I have no problem supporting something I get a lot of value out of when they are transparent about how my money will be spent. Anyway, maybe I didn't answer your question directly, but I think it's best to look at what you can spend right now (and feel free to adjust in the future) and know that your donation will make a meaningful difference.
posted by unid41 at 10:59 AM on November 7, 2022 [4 favorites]

I like it your question. It very much resembles my situation. I give a lump sum every now and then which probably adds up to more than ten bucks per month.

If I knew that kicking in more for a while would somehow "save the day" I'd do so. I really appreciate what Metafilter brings to my life. But, as with many other aspects of democracy (for lack of a better word), I'm pretty confident that if it all depends on me, we're doomed. I'm no superhero. I can't save the day.

I want the powers-that-be to know that they can count on my recurring $35/month for long-term planning.

I wonder if there's some way they could organize things such that a bunch of us could agree to an increased monthly instalment, but that the money would only actually flow once enough of us (to make a difference) had "signed on".

Perhaps this kind of thing is already on the table. I guess I'll just keep paying attention to the news/info I'm getting from the site (the steering committee, the owner, the fundraising projects)
posted by philip-random at 11:04 AM on November 7, 2022

Best answer: I agree with unid41.

It's not that big a site and the funding gap (especially post reduction of hosting costs) isn't *that* huge. Like $5k / month? My $20 / month is about 0.5% of that which is proportionately a much bigger impact than I usually am able to make on things. Definitely there are no things I can vote for or things I can fund where calculating that kind of % would even make sense.
posted by atrazine at 12:15 PM on November 7, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Three things that can help you make a reasonable decision:

#1. YOUR budget, and how much you can reasonably contribute that fits into that.

#2. How much you pay to other services, such as video, news, streaming, whatever subscriptions - others have discussed this above in detail.

#3. How much you give in charitable donations annually and how this might fit into it.

#3 is an interesting one, as some people give A LOT of their annual income to various charities (or churches etc) where as others give a little bit and some give practically nothing at all.

But figure out how much you give out in such donations annually, and then think about where MeFi might fit in that spectrum. Is it your #1 top priority? In the top 3? The top 10? Is it below the top 10 but in the next list of 20-50 nice charities that you maybe give $20 or $40 dollars to annually?

Also, does the fact that MeFi seems to be facing something of a crisis affect your thinking at all? Like maybe in the normal course of events this would be a nice $100/year donation for you, but helping avert this crisis situation is worth more - maybe $250 or $500 or $1000? (Or maybe it's $10/year in your budget situation, and the one-time would be $50 or $100 or $200. Either way, the thinking is the same: In ordinary conditions you would be willing to pay $X but in a crisis you're willing to go 2X or 5X or 10X or whatever.)

Just putting the donation in this context gives you an idea of how much you value it in your life, and thus how much that might translate to in dollar terms.

It's not a bad way to think about any charitable gift, or regular business you're considering, like a phone plan, streaming subscription, newspaper subscription, etc.
posted by flug at 8:48 PM on November 7, 2022

For reference, here's the answer I gave in the other thread
posted by aniola at 10:04 AM on November 8, 2022

Response by poster: These answers were super helpful and I was able to make a contribution that I feel good about as well as set up an annual my own personal subscription.

Special shout out to iamkimiam. Not at all the kind of answer that I was looking for. I wanted concrete numbers and comparisons. But I love your answer. It has really stuck with me and has allowed me to make more contributions to all kinds of other causes.
posted by halehale at 11:04 AM on February 19

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