April 2017

April was a bit of a mess, from my point of view. V’s vacation care bookings always need to be done many weeks in advance, using the worst app on the entire Internet; among other things, Excursion 1 and Excursion 2 are the same booking each day but mean different things each day, so you need to sit there with a cheat sheet to book it. It also books out within hours. It wasn’t something I had time for during oncall training at work, so we ended up with a very patchy set of vacation care bookings for the Easter holidays and both Andrew and I had to pick out a bunch of days to take off work to supplement V’s vacation care.

Since I’ve switched jobs a couple of times in the last few years, I’ve had weeks off at a time (in fact, months between the Ada Initiative and Stripe). Andrew on the other hand hadn’t taken a holiday in years that didn’t involve a load of packing and driving the kids somewhere, so he took a few weeks off and spent several days alone with a cryptic crossword.

It was a month of birthdays. For Sarah’s birthday we zipped up to the mountains on the 8th for lunch with Mum’s entire family after one of V’s soccer games and drove back down the same night.

My birthday fell on Good Friday, which happens not infrequently (also in 1995 and 2006, in contrast my birthday was last on Easter Sunday in 1974 and won’t be again until 2047, happy 66th birthday to me). It’s always a little strange to celebrate on Good Friday; I’m just Catholic enough to feel the dissonance. I also feel the dissonance of the children needing me to celebrate my birthday, which usually involves me having to make my own cake. We spent our Easter weekend at home, thank goodness. It took me a long time to realise as an adult that visiting family isn’t a mandatory use of long weekends.

Sam’s 30th birthday was that month too, and he had a small family party on ANZAC Day, a nice afternoon but also with a strange edge as a gathering of people who were mostly seeing each other in Tamworth caring for Rob, rather than in Sydney.

Otherwise, on the last Friday of Andrew’s time off, we realised our long-held dream of going to Wet n Wild together without kids. By the time we did it I was dreading it; we went in late March with the kids and I took V a second time on one of my days off with him and I went just wanting to check the box with Andrew. But we had a lot of fun, even though he tipped me forward off the raft at the end of T5, and I refused to go on the Bombora, the last of the high adrenaline rides to go. Always leave something to aspire to.

Remembering Robin Gardiner

My uncle, Robin Gardiner, died two weeks ago. He was my father’s younger brother, he leaves his wife, Cassie, and my three cousins, Jock, George, and Avril.

There’s a little about his professional life on the Australian Property Institute’s website and as a member of the large and close Gardiner family, he is very much missed.

I was humbled to be able to spend a little time with Rob late last year as he pursued treatment for the brain cancer he ended up dying from. Each step was difficult and painful, and the news was always always bad. He was unexpectedly leaving a good life, and teenage children. The Rob I saw during that time was always patient and accepting, always in the moment, and always generous and kind, particularly as I concluded my own (very different) cancer treatment not long after his diagnosis.

There are many right ways to live and die, but I want to honour the way Rob lived the last year of his life in particular, with strength and love, patience and courage. Goodbye Rob.

Donations in Rob’s memory can be made to AngelFlight.

Untitled
Untitled, by Jo Gardiner

Feburary & March 2017

How fortunate I’ve been, to not have had a weekend job in basically my whole life. I worked night fill in my teens, which is a weeknights thing, I tutored university to get through undergrad, and while the jobs I had between undergrad and ending the Ada Initiative were all varying degrees of soft money, they were all weekday jobs, aside from the travel. And even work travel involves weekends where I can lie in a hotel room eating sashimi and trying not to be too sick from jetlag. (Protein, fat, and sheer misery: the bitter diet of the jetsetting class.)

February was the last month without working weekends for a while to come. But they were still parenting weekends, with V having both athletics and swimming on Saturdays. We made a one night trip to see my parents before the end of summer, which was worth it, but the eight hours of driving in two days hurt. Last days in the pool, lots of threatening clouds and not a lot of rain.

March was the brief interregnum between hauling everyone down to King George Oval for athletics on Saturday morning and hauling everyone down to Callan Park Oval for soccer on Saturday morning. Just swimming lessons on Saturdays, luxury. We had Sam and Hannah over for dinner in one of our rare and always nice uses of our outdoor furniture, and we went around to Mark and Tim’s so that V could turn up his nose at all their child-friendly food, but I also kicked off my weekend work for the first time. Rather gently so; I did a secondary oncall, for which I need to be half an hour away from starting work at all times, not primary oncall (five minutes from beginning work). It wasn’t until April that a real trial by oncall fire kicked in at work. Perhaps gentle March is what I should aim to return to sometime soon.

January 2017

We finished January this year with a week away at Lake Macquarie. I realised last year that we hadn’t had a holiday as a family that didn’t involve winter sports for a couple of years. So we went away to a cabin in a little resort and mostly had a relaxed time.

Because of timezones, V’s birthday falls across US presidential inaugurations every fourth year (so, twice now). He celebrated his seventh birthday dubiously by reading the TRUMP skywriting that someone placed over Sydney above the protests as we drove out of Sydney. And so kicked off bad news year.

The holiday was a gentle thing, which we wanted. There was a heated pool next door. V learned to dive badly, and A took many flying leaps into my arms, way out of her depth. We managed to get to the actual beach every day. I celebrated the first day with a bluebottle sting at Blacksmiths Beach. We had not been to the area before, so we vaguely thought that Caves Beach was named for someone Caves, perhaps. No, it’s named for actual caves. Fortunately we learned this during our holiday and got there at low tide to see the caves several times. We ended the trip with a swim at Catherine Hill Bay, admiring the rundown wharf and the weatherboard shacks, and drove up over the headland into the middle of an eerie empty luxury estate; the roads laid down to build out beach views, but no ground broken on housing yet. There will be a north-south divide in Catherine Hill Bay soon, clearly.

I went back to work around the time of the attempted US refugee and immigration ban, and put together a fundraising campaign for several tens of thousands of dollars for Australia refugee organisations. Among other things, it was a strange flashback to my previous career. My main memory of that week is literally dark because the main gathering at work was around an internal staircase in a dimly lit area. I haven’t had the needed energy and will to stick at it constantly since, but I’m glad I started the year with some focus on Australian immigration politics and activism.

Book review: The Wife Drought

My quest to be a paid book reviewer remains stalled for two reasons: first, I’ve never once asked anyone for money to do a book review, and second, this book review comes to you express, hot out of the oven, fresh from the year two thousand and fourteen.

Annabel Crabb’s The Wife Drought: Why women need wives, and men need lives is titled and marketed on the old “women need wives” joke, ie, an adult in their home to make meals and soothe fevers and type manuscripts for free.

Crabb is also a well-known Australian political journalist — the ABC’s chief online political writer — who is best-known for hosting a cooking with politicians TV show, and probably next best known for her comic writing style, eg:

Right then. The parliamentary consideration of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act has concluded. The nation has experienced the special thrill of watching its elected representatives fight like ferrets in a bag over a legislative clause even John Howard couldn’t get excited about, and can now dully register the fact that all this fuss has produced exactly zero changes to the clause in question.

Annabel Crabb, There is nothing free about Mark Latham’s speech, April 1 2017.

One or the other of the title’s reliance on the hackneyed complaint about women needing wives, or Crabb’s journalist persona, caused a lot of people I know to write off this book unread. The marketing runs with this too:

Written in Annabel Crabb’s inimitable style, it’s full of candid and funny stories from the author’s work in and around politics and the media, historical nuggets about the role of ‘The Wife’ in Australia, and intriguing research about the attitudes that pulse beneath the surface of egalitarian Australia.
Penguin Books Australia

I suggest you don’t write it off, at least not for those reasons. It’s quite a serious book, and Penguin has buried the lede: intriguing research about the attitudes that pulse beneath the surface of egalitarian Australia. The research is central to the book: Crabb did a lot of one-on-one work with demographers to extract answers to questions that no one had answers to about gender, work, money, and career progressions in Australia. Some of the findings the book contains are in fact new findings prompted by Crabb’s questioning of demographic collaborators (who are acknowledged by name, although not as co-authors).

I found two discussions especially interesting: the way in which Australia makes part-time work fairly readily available to women with young children and the many limits of that as a solution to pay and career progression disparities between men and women; and the evidence suggesting that, contrary to the widespread perception that men are hailed as heroes by men and women alike for participating in the care of their young children, they are actually discriminated against by their workplaces when they do so.

After that Crabb’s writing style is just an added bonus to keep you going through the book. If you’re going to read a demographic exploration of gender and labour in Australia in the 2010s, it’s certainly a nice bonus that it happens to be written by Annabel Crabb of all people. Instead, the major caution I would give is that it’s very middle-class in both point of view and content, without much discussion of that limitation; and is largely focussed on women partnered with men. Assuming that the work lives of middle-class women partnered with men in Australia is of interest to you, recommended.

Don’t trust Livejournal? Delete your account.

In December 2016, LiveJournal moved their servers to Russia and in April 2017 they updated their terms of use in a way many users find unacceptable.

In January 2017, as people considered the implications of the server move to Russia, I saw a number of people hesitant to delete their accounts as they were hoping to overwrite their data on Livejournal before deleting, by, eg, replacing their entries with Shakespeare’s plays, or with random nonsense, so that Livejournal didn’t have the entry any more. This won’t work and you might as well just delete your Livejournal account.

Here’s a loose analogy for the way that data on a site like Livejournal may be stored:

There’s a journalling website. It stores its entries on vast reams of paper in a giant library and new entries are scribed onto paper and filed.

The “overwrite with nonsense” strategy assumes that any journal entry you make is at a fixed location on a fixed bit of paper for all time. When you update the entry, the scribe goes to the existing bits of paper and writes on top of them. While this is technically possible with hard drives and similar, in a way that it isn’t with literal paper, here’s what more likely actually happens:

You update the entry, replacing it a Shakespearean play. The new version is written on entirely random empty paper (maybe blank, maybe where someone else’s deleted entry once was), and an index in a different part of the library is also updated. It used to say that your entry of January 7 was on floor 6, shelf 216, and now it says that your entry of January 7 was on floor 12, shelf 16.

But the contents of floor 6, shelf 216 are likely not overwritten for some time. Perhaps they’re marked as available to be overwritten, to be reused whenever it seems sensible, but you won’t know when that is. On the other hand, perhaps they are deliberately marked in the index as “an old version of the January 7 entry” for the sake of users having an edit history, or to have an audit trail, or because a lawsuit demands it, or because a government demands it. This may or may not be visible to you.

Even if floor 6, shelf 216 is marked available to be overwritten, it may not be actively erased, and if it isn’t actively erased, it’s available to be searched by a sufficiently determined or empowered person. (And searching unindexed digital storage is a lot faster and cheaper than searching paper, so not one thousandth as determined or empowered as you need to be to search a library full of unindexed paper.)

And even if floor 6, shelf 216 is no longer marked as “an old version of the entry of January 7”, on any moderately well-run website, floor 6, shelf 216 was never the only copy of your entry anyway. What if there was an accident with fire or water or whiteout? There are backups of your entry, probably at least two in the same library and at least one in a different library. These backups are usually moments in time, ie, the state of the entire journalling website as of New Years. The state of the entire journalling website as of New Years the previous year.

These backups are almost certainly never wiped of entries that are simply edited, and without adding a system that searches back through backups and selectively deletes backups of deleted accounts, they most likely contain the complete contents of deleted accounts as well.

So what you’ve ended up with is a situation where floor 12, shelf 16 contains a Shakespearean play, floor 6, shelf 216 likely contains your original entry, and there are several backups around that almost certainly contain your original entry and are designed in such a way as to be found and restored relatively quickly. This is not a much more secure situation than before you replaced the entry with a Shakespearean play; probably not worth the work you did.

All that said, it’s important to know that there are trade-offs in adding secure, permanent deletion. People quite often edit or delete their data accidentally, or temporarily — for example it is quite common to disable social media accounts temporarily to enforce a social media break — and it’s also common to be hacked and have your data deleted by the hacker. Enthusiastic data scubbing will actively harm you in all these cases. On top of that, storage systems fail (in my analogy, the library burns down, except hard drives fail more often than paper does), and backups are especially important then. And any system that goes back in time and edit backups has risks; what if it has a bug (all software has bugs) and deletes things it shouldn’t? System design to balance securely deleting data that users want to permanently delete with rarely or never deleting data they expect to keep is not easy.

So Livejournal or another site has your personal data, what should you do? I suggest that when you no longer use an online service, or you no longer trust in its management, that you take a personal backup of the data if possible and if you want it, and then delete your account.

You cannot usefully take any additional steps like overwriting your account with nonsense to ensure that actual data scrubbing took place and you should assume that it wasn’t scrubbed unless you can find some written guarantee otherwise. However, over time, backups will get selectively pruned, outages will happen, the business may eventually fail and your data will most likely become slowly less available and complete. That’s the best you can do.

For online services you actively use and where you do trust the management enough to keep your account, ask for written descriptions of their data scrubbing practices to be developed for deleted data and deleted accounts, including deletion from backups and handling of disused hard drives.

Elsewhere:

Tim Chevalier, PSA: Switching to Dreamwidth? (January 2017).

Disclosure: I am an employee of Google. This post does not describe Google’s data deletion practices, in which I’m not an expert in any case; it’s a general description of easy, sometimes harmful, defaults that systems designers could fall into. For Google-specific information, you can view privacy.google.com and Google Infrastructure Security Design Overview.

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Don’t trust Livejournal? Delete your account. by Mary Gardiner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Your first fundraiser: a timeline

In 2011, I co-founded the Ada Initiative, a charitable organisation promoting and supporting women in open technology and culture. Between 2011 and 2014, we ran five fundraising drives, four successfully. This article is the conclusion of a series sharing what I learned in the hope that new women in technology groups and other activist groups can skip to advanced level fundraising much sooner and spend the least time and the most joy on fundraising that they possibly can.

Timeline

Below is a possible timeline for a fundraising drive, emphasising quick launch rather than the kind of preparation you will need to do as your organisation grows. Many large organisations will have longer timelines and probably have dedicated staff planning the next fundraiser as the previous one winds up, but this timeline is designed to be do-able for an organisation aiming for their first fundraiser, which won’t have the ability to go for many months without funds while putting together the perfect fundraiser.

Two to three months before launch: form your core fundraising team or committee and begin meeting at least weekly. Make a budget for your funding needs if you haven’t already. Choose your organisation’s name and get your website and social media set up. Decide to pursue individual fundraising, Search for and engage a fundraising consultant, accountant, or lawyer, if needed. Establish bookkeeping if you haven’t already.

Begin researching and testing fundraising platforms and, if they require applications to use their platform as some crowdfunding sites do, prepare and submit them. Start planning thank you gifts.

One month before launch: decide on your fundraising platform. If you have existing donors or major supporters, have a consultant or other outsider conduct a few exploratory interviews with them. Are they happy with you? If you have existing work or projects, find any that have outcomes or major milestones that can be released during the drive. Develop a timeline for releasing them and tying them into your drive. Order thank you gifts.

Two weeks before launch: contact potential major donors and ask them to pledge a specific sum of money, or to act as a matching donor. Track the pledges that they commit to, and review your fundraising goal in light of the pledges. Test your fundraising platform beginning to end with real payment methods. Based on your pledge results and your ability to take donations, have an explicit “abort/delay campaign?” discussion with your decisionmakers.

One week before launch: soft launch your donation page if possible (crowdfunding software may not allow it). Ask key volunteers or staff to test donations for you with, eg, international credit cards and similar. (Important: do refund their test donations!) Do a test package and shipment of thank you gifts. Continue reviewing whether you should abort or delay.

Hours before launch: soft launch your banner, counter, and any explicit “we’re having a fundraising drive!” text you’re placing on your website. Make any donations you have direct control over (eg, you or your board are making them!). Email your pledged donors and let them know the campaign has kicked off with “help us off to a great start!” information.

Launch: announce your fundraising campaign in blog posts, tweets, to your email lists.

Throughout the campaign: As each donation comes in, send a brief thank you email, which will normally be a form letter although for donations from your personal friends or the very largest donations you will want to write something personal. Ask each donor why they donated and track their answers. Reshare people’s endorsements and calls to donate selectively, and like/favourite the remainder.

Ship thank you gifts at least weekly, if possible, so that early donors can share them while the drive is still running.

Every Tuesday during the drive: (and more often if you can) release some news or updates (“we signed a lease on a community space!”), an interview with a donor, a limited time thank you gift, or a matching campaign. Explicitly call for donations in any news items.

Every Tuesday and Wednesday during the drive: (and more often if you can) update your social media with information about how you’re doing, where to donate, and how to share information.

Three days before close (Monday): launch your largest matching campaign if any.

Last three days of campaign: Promote your matching campaign, and stay in touch with the matching donor. Assign fundraising team members to be paying attention to the fundraiser all day, if possible, and updating social media three times a day during your major donation periods.

Close: send out “we did it!” blog posts, emails and tweets and then stop your publicity promptly. Send thank you cards and emails to the largest donors and everyone who volunteered for the drive. Ship your last thank you gift batch. While you’re no longer actively soliciting donations, do not turn off the ability to accept donations and keep an eye on social media for people wondering if they can still donate; be sure to tell them “yes”.

Since you’re small, you almost certainly are seriously risking burnout and need a break now. Take it, but remember to check in with your donors after no more than 2 months and ideally sooner with your first news about what you’ve done with their donations.

Next time: once you’ve had your needed break, review what worked and didn’t work about your fundraising drive. If you’re going to rely on donations long-term, figure out when your next drive will be, at least approximately, and begin planning for it now.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Lana Baldwin, Selena Deckelmann, Kellie Brownell, and Katina Bishop for their valuble advice to the Ada Initiative between 2011 and 2015. Thanks to the Ada Initiative’s board of directors, advisory board, matching donors, and other volunteer fundraisers during this time, as well as our 1400+ individual donors.

Finally, thanks to my co-founder and the Ada Initiative’s Executive Director, Valerie Aurora, who did the lion’s share of the work and worry on each fundraising drive we did.

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Your first fundraiser: a timeline by Mary Gardiner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Gender and religious discrimination in resettling refugees… in Australia

As folks from the US in particular know, on January 27 Donald Trump signed Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States. It includes this text:

Upon the resumption of USRAP admissions, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, is further directed to make changes, to the extent permitted by law, to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.

Trump has explicitly clarified that this is intended to prioritise Christians:

In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network earlier Friday, Trump was asked whether he would prioritize persecuted Christians in the Middle East for admission as refugees, and he replied, “Yes.”

Trump signs order temporarily halting admission of refugees, promises priority for Christians, The Washington Post, January 27 2017

Australia has done this too

As my readers may not know, but Australian refugee activists will, this is not novel policy among the US’s friends and allies. It’s policy in Australia, and has been at least mooted in Canada as well. In September 2015, Australia made a commitment to resettle 12,000 Iraqi and Syrian refugees in addition to the existing resettlement quota. (The Sydney Morning Herald, September 2015).

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection says:

Priority for 12,000 Humanitarian Programme places will be given to people displaced by the conflict in Syria and Iraq who are… assessed as being most vulnerable – persecuted minorities, women, children and families with the least prospect of ever returning safely to their homes…

Australia’s response to the Syrian and Iraqi humanitarian crisis, accessed January 29 2017

This discriminates against men, especially single or unaccompanied men, and Muslims. Here’s a (News Corp) press description: Australia will minimise its intake of single Sunni men as it vets the 12,000 Syrian refugees the government has pledged to take from Syria, prioritising instead Christian family groups who can never return home… [t]he government has said it would prioritise persecuted min­orities in choosing the 12,000, widely understood to be code for non-­Islamic migrants [my emphasis]. (The Australian, March 2016)

I haven’t found 2016 or 2017 statements, but discrimination against Muslims has also been floated by Canada (CBC News, December 2014) and as of 2015 Canada also prioritised other refugees before unaccompanied men. (The Guardian, November 2015.)

Action for Australians

In general you can support refugees and asylum seekers (and recall, seeking asylum in Australia rather than being granted a visa through UNHCR processes makes you subject to internment here, in some cases in offshore torture camps) by supporting activists and advocates. A thoroughly non-exhaustive list includes RISE: Refugees, Survivors and Ex-detainees (run and governed by refugees, asylum seekers and ex-detainees), the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and Refugee Legal.

Contacting politicians in support of Muslim and single male refugees: the Refugee Council of Australia suggests contacting your representatives, relevant Ministers, and the Prime Minister and other party leaders. They suggest contact by postal mail, asking questions that require a response. I am writing to Peter Dutton, the Minister for Border Protection and Immigration; Shayne Neumann, the Shadow* Minister for Border Protection and Immigration, and my local member Anthony Albanese (who is also a member of the opposition).

The Refugee Action Coalition (Twitter, Facebook) is one place to find out about rallies and protests in Sydney.

Incidentally, Australians, if Australia was ever to start turning back residency visa holders at the border, would we end up rallying on the streets outside Kingsford-Smith and Tullamarine?

* For readers outside Australia/the Westminster system, the opposition appoints a Shadow Minister to each portfolio, who speaks about how the opposition would approach that ministry, if it were the government, and pay special attention to the actions of that Minister and department. Since the opposition isn’t the government, the Shadow Ministers do not actually have a department reporting to them.

Your first fundraiser: getting the word out

In 2011, I co-founded the Ada Initiative, a charitable organisation promoting and supporting women in open technology and culture. Between 2011 and 2014, we ran five fundraising drives, four successfully. This article is part of a series sharing what I learned in the hope that new women in technology groups and other activist groups can skip to advanced level fundraising much sooner and spend the least time and the most joy on fundraising that they possibly can.

Publicity planning

Once again: don’t be original. The publicity other fundraising drives have done is by definition public, so you can study it and use it for your planning.

It’s also not the time to be coy. People will not give you money if you aren’t invested enough in your mission to straightforwardly and clearly ask for money to work on it. Write scripts for yourself in which you ask for money directly, clearly, and non-defensively. Edit them down into “elevator pitch” or tweetable lengths. Some good phrases are “support us” and “help us”. Look for other short verbs that speak to your particular mission: “teach”, “defend”, “grow”, “build”, “reach”, “begin”, “lead”, “support”, “save”.

Don’t forget about your other audiences aside from potential donors! Earlier in this series, I wrote:

[A] good fundraising drive has a complementary goal: raising awareness of your organisation, and getting people involved. There’s at least two possibilities here. If you’re raising funds from the same community you’re going to benefit, your launch donors are likely to be among your key volunteers or members shortly thereafter. If you’re raising money from a different community from the one you’re going to benefit, your launch donors will be key in reaching other donors, and developing your fundraising strategy in future.

Make sure that it’s really clear where people can sign up for news and memberships etc, even if they aren’t donating. Otherwise you lose the recruiting part of the drive. As the drive goes on, remember also that you’re speaking to an increasing number of people who’ve already donated; they will also need suggestions on how to support you that aren’t giving money. For both people who can’t donate and people who already have, calls to action are key. Encouraging others to donate is one possible call to action, but you should help them incorporate your mission into their daily lives by encouraging them to join your organisation, advocate for your target community, take classes, contact political representatives, go to meetups or protests, or change their consumption habits among many other actions.

Your website

I’ve written about the basics you should have on your website before your fundraising drive, including answers to the questions “Who we are”, “What we do”, and “How you can help”.

During your drive, you also want to have every page of your website linking extremely prominently to your fundraising drive. Prominent promotion is a page-wide coloured banner at the top of each page of your site. Anything less (eg placing info in your sidebar) will fall prey to people’s ad-filtering neurons. The banner should have an extremely short (25 words or less) call to donate, along the lines of “Donate today to support [our target community]!”, linking to your donation page. If you have a donation amount counter, include it in the banner.

If your organisation already has projects underway, your fundraiser is a great time to release milestones, reports, calls to action, and so on on your website or blog. When you release them, add a call to donate to the end of the page discussing them.

If you want additional website content, interviews with supporters and people in your community are useful during fundraising, because you’re looking for social proof to potential donors that other people already trust and support you. You can also prepare this kind of content in advance of your fundraising drive rather than doing it as needed as you will need to do for social media.

All that said, the conversion rate from “person who landed on your website looking for information about Ada Lovelace” to “person donating” is unsurprisingly pretty low. The reason your website should point to your fundraiser is not to convert casual visitors into donors, it’s to help people who were searching for your fundraiser to find it, to help people who were researching you before donating find their way back to it, and to make sure your regular visitors know about it.

Launch!

People want to support something that is already successful. The key to your launch day is to get a number of donations very early, to lift your total raised well up off zero. This means having your most committed donors agree to give on the first day: reach out to your pledged donors at launch time and explain that an early donation will encourage others to donate, particularly if they’re willing to share with their communities. If possible, do this during a short “soft launch” phase, prior to ramping up your drive.

While you’ll be focussing matching campaigns on the second half of the drive, it can be good to have some very limited edition thank you gifts at this point too, to reward your committed donors for supporting you early.

Once you go live, own it! Share your fundraising goal publicly in your blog/website, to your email list, and to your social media. You’ve done individual asks by this point, make your first broadcast asks to the world.

Social media

Plan to make social media central to your fundraising drive. The Ada Initiative found that Twitter and to a lesser extent Facebook sharing drove most of our general public donations and Zeynep Tufekci recently ran a Twitter-only campaign for Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders that raised $230,000. Social media could easily drive 75% or more of your total funding.

Get your social media set up and active in advance of your fundraising drive. Make it easy for multiple fundraising staff or volunteers to post to your social media; the Ada Initiative used Hootsuite but we didn’t do a lot of comparison shopping of social media tools.

Aim for a sustainable social media style; you’ll probably post a lot more during fundraising, but it should be in a recognisable voice. If you’re not doing hashtags or emoji or memes the rest of the time, fundraising isn’t a great time to start. On the other hand, it also isn’t a time to stop if that’s been your style so far. Aside from the pretty high risk that you’ll sound stilted in any new social media genre, you’re also hoping to gain followers to stick with you for the long term; this won’t happen if your social media style is totally different when fundraising.

Messages along the lines of “[Organisation] is raising funds to [accomplish mission]. Support us today! [donation url]” are a good default. The Ada Initiative surprised ourselves in having much better re-share results with straightforward progress reports on our drive than inspirational quotes: our followers responded well to “we’re ⅔ of the way there!” and “our donation total is currently prime!” (yes, really, but tech workers were our target audience) and less well to “I loved AdaCamp!” or “As Grace Hopper once said…”

Unlike project releases and interviews with donors or supporters and some other long form content, it’s difficult to draft your social media in advance. Social media moves fast and you’ll want to have your posts move with it. Your fundraising drive can also go any number of ways, and drafting a lot of contingency social media is plain impossible: “it’s week 3 and we now have the largest capitalisation in the world/have reached our total early/are relying on your help to make it this week!” But at the very least, there needs to be a timetable of communications and a person or people who understand that they are going to be writing the week 3 announcement and in charge of scheduling 4 tweets about it. As with announcements, focus on weekdays, especially Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and especially mornings through to early afternoon in your donors’ timezones.

Ada Initiative donors were very attentive to our graphic counters showing our total raised and the amount still needed. Quite a few used it as part of their calls to donate. I tended to over-engineer our counters, so that they had these features:

  • they could be embedded in other websites
  • they updated in close to real time
  • new signups for recurring donations showed up as a year’s worth of their donations

That was fun, but while you can certainly include graphic counter functionality as something you evaluate when choosing a donation platform, Zeynep Tufecki’s experience suggests that simply regularly stating the figures will get you most of the way there.

Other than counters, the Ada Initiative, always a thoroughly textual organisation, only ventured into visuals a few times. Our biggest successes were related to our pretty thank you gifts and their packaging.

Aside from your own social media, you need to encourage your supporters to publicly share their support. In my article in how long your fundraiser should be, I wrote:

The Ada Initiative donors told us that they often donated after seeing around three calls to donate from different sources

Social media is where they were seeing those three calls to donate. There are several things to try:

  1. If your donation software supports it, suggest a tweet or post to your donors once they’ve donated. Again, something straightforward along the lines of “I donated to [organisation] to support [mission]. Join me! [donation url]” is great.
  2. Ask your volunteers and enthusiastic supporters to re-share your social media posts.
  3. Make your social media interesting enough that people reshare without being asked.

Maintaining contact

The Ada Initiative, after our first drive, assumed that our generous donors would follow our activities on our blog or social media if they wanted to. A year later we heard from our fundraising consultant that many of them wondered where the hell we’d been!

Plan to stay in contact with your donors; they deserve it. Offer them all the ability to opt-in to your email newsletter, and keep your largest and most enthusiastic donors up to date with the occasional one to one email, phone call, or meeting.

Always remember the key principle of fundraising when doing publicity: no one will commit if you won’t. Your confidence in deciding that you need money and asking for it is a major proof your donors need that you will use their money well.

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Your first fundraiser: getting the word out by Mary Gardiner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Your first fundraiser: stickers beat t-shirts

In 2011, I co-founded the Ada Initiative, a charitable organisation promoting and supporting women in open technology and culture. Between 2011 and 2014, we ran five fundraising drives, four successfully. This article is part of a series sharing what I learned in the hope that new women in technology groups and other activist groups can skip to advanced level fundraising much sooner and spend the least time and the most joy on fundraising that they possibly can.

Thank you gifts: ideally beautiful, always time-consuming

Thank you gifts, rewards, and similar are a standard part of crowdfunding campaigns, and useful in other fundraising campaigns. Good thank you gifts:

  • let people feel and show their alignment with your organisation and its mission
  • help newcomers learn about your organisation and its mission
  • (if you’re producing something) let people experience the work they helped you create

Displaying the rewards is a key part of showing alignment with you, which usually leads you to things that can be worn or can be used as decorations. This will also help your donor teach their friends about your organisation and its mission. So thank you gifts, like fundraising drives themselves, can help achieve your mission.

On the other hand, thank you gifts cost a lot. They literally cost a lot in design, manufacture, and shipping, and they take a lot of time. It can be tempting to write labour costs down to zero if it’s going to be volunteer labour, but remember opportunity cost: the time, energy, and goodwill you spend on an all-weekend T-shirt mailathon is not getting spent on other things.

Like fundraising overall, the best way to cut down the opportunity cost is to line your rewards up with your mission, and, where possible, have less time-consuming rewards.

If possible, pay for design and artistic expertise when designing your rewards, both for ethical reasons and because it’s more effective. Consider how to stand out from other laptop stickers and hats and decals and pens and so on. The Ada Initiative had great luck with rewards that were pretty and striking. Consider the portrait of Ada Lovelace or the Not Afraid to Say the F-Word sticker: both were designed by artists, both in a visual style not easily found on your laptop or t-shirts already.

At the Ada Initiative, we often gave rewards at 10× or more the cost price of the rewards. Eg, our sticker rewards were for a donation of around $100 and t-shirts for $200.

Which brings me to: don’t do t-shirts. Why? There’s a very limited number of suppliers who will do enough sizes for you, especially in curvier (“women’s”) styles. Once you’ve found the supplier, you have to distribute a size chart, correspond with donors about their size, and find a printer who will work with, say 10 sizes each with 5 shirts. Once printed they’re just bulky enough that shipping is pricey. It’s a big big pain. (Yes, we did do t-shirts. Twice. We’re experts on how much doing t-shirts is a bad idea. I don’t think you should.)

Stickers proved to be a great reward for the Ada Initiative: they’re cheap to produce, they have few design constraints (if it’s 2D, you can get someone to print it as a sticker), it’s easy to do them in high quality, they’re one-size-fits-all and can be shared with friends, and they can be paired with your donor’s identity easily (we had people use them on laptops, motorcycles, and, as a joke, fedoras). We also, in our final campaign, paid attention to our shipping design, making sure the experience of receiving and opening the envelope was itself fun, and including encouragement to share photos of the stickers on social media. Donors also liked scarves and pendants, which are one-size, and which are not as commonly given as rewards as t-shirts are.

Stretch goals

If you hit your fundraising goals, you might choose to set “stretch goals”. These aren’t usually thank you gifts to donors, but rather additional things your organisation will do if you reach the new, higher, funding goal. But they share the problems of thank you gifts: it’s very tempting to pledge things that will cost more than the stretch will earn. Don’t get stuck promising to send a woman to the moon for another $5000 raised.

Planning reasonable stretch goals before your drive is thus important; they’re often things that are on your roadmap anyway, or adjustments to things on your roadmap. Once again, don’t be original: study other organisations’s stretch goals.

Elsewhere

For more on crowdfunding rewards, particularly for raising funds for creative projects where delivery of the project is a key reward, see Marian Call’s Kickstarter Math is Weird.

Creative Commons License
Your first fundraiser: stickers beat t-shirts by Mary Gardiner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.