Sustainability of the donation business model


#1

To the power that be that runs this place (and whoever can answer this question):

I like this website a lot and am thinking about running a donation based website for book exchange. However, I would like to know how likely people are to donate and if the donation is enough to sustain a website like this.

I know the details of the finances might be confidential, but if possible, please give an idea of how much it costs to run this site, how many volunteers needed, how big the webiste is, the bandwidth requirement, etc.

If anyone has run similar websites previously and can answer this question, that would be great too

-Li Chu


#2

If you want to generate a revenue stream, you have to have “sales people” out there in the field, making calls, lining up advertisers, coordinating promotion, passing out leaflets, making presentations, collecting feedback, and convincing advertisers to put their budget on the line. You also have to collect convincing data in order to convince advertisers that advertising with you makes sense.


#3

How about without advertising? Can you guys survive soly on donations?


#4
quote[quote]I would like to know how likely people are to donate and if the donation is enough to sustain a website like this.[/quote]

There were some enthusiastic donors when I first put up the donor button, but its been quiet since then. So far, about $120 was contributed.

To answer your question: No, I do not believe donations alone can cover the actual costs of the website over time. They will help tho

quote[quote]how much it costs to run this site, how many volunteers needed, how big the webiste is, the bandwidth requirement[/quote]

Short version
We pay www.hostexpress.com about US$25 per month. I do not forsee any extra webspace requirement for the foreseeable future (but then, I haven’t been looking terribly far ahead lately – I’m a bit pre-occupied these days ) – I believe 50MB is more than you’d need. We use more than this, but this is because there’s a lot of clutter backstage here.

Longer version
It’s a bit more complicated than this, tho. In addition to this website, we can tap the webspace of www.freeclassifieds.com.tw – where we place most of the graphics used on ORIENTED.org. Thus, if you add in the extra $17 for that account, the basic monthly costs climb.

And then, we are not quantifying the amount of time we put into this project. Over the past 3 years, a lot of time has been spent here. A lot. This site was built largely from 3 sources: the founders, direct volunteers (like Mingson, Carson, and the forum moderators) and you folks who use the site (Forum, Jobs and Events visitors).

Bandwidth requirements? Hmmm. This is a tricky one to answer becuase different users have different experiences. Mine, however, have been pretty consistent.

What do you think of your connection to the site right now? Many people complain (particularly dial up users). I guess I’m blessed because I normally don’t have problems (on regular bases, I dial up from Taiwan or the Philippines, use DSL in Taipei and Manila, and have connected via leased line connections from Taipei and Singapore)

We host from the ever friendly, extremely responsive folks at www.hostexpress.com out in New Jersey. On rare occassions, there have been a few performance kinks. Overall tho, I’m happy to recommend them. Please refer to their account guide for the bandwidth we use.

In Short
The biggest cost, imho, is the time we’ve all volunteered on this gig. Except for the Forum moderation and the Events of the Week writeups, the site has been administered by two people who normally have very heavy “non-ORIENTED” workloads. Our committment includes a painfully manual weekly bulletin procedure, slow fixes to the various Perl scripts that make up this website, and (not-so-timely) complaint handling.

Advertising
This is becoming more and more of an issue for ORIENTED.org. Presently, all the banners you see rotating on the site are gratis. They are the result of back-scratching banner exchanges, or they are sites owned/run by friends of ours. THIS MIGHT CHANGE, but only because prudence says we should never rule out anything. Plus, the advent and success of ORIENTED.com should impact this somehow.

All that said, in all honesty I haven’t spoken definately about this with Christine. That building an advertising model for ORIENTED.org has not been a priority for us, however, should tell you something. But ORIENTED.org is meant to be a continuing resource for Taiwan as long as I can cover the US$25 bucks a month. Donations will help, but I think I can cover for now


#5

Oh wow, just $120 huh? That’s pocket change. Now I know not to run any website on a donation bases.

Also, doesn’t AOL charges like 15% per donation? Won’t it be more profitable if you have people directly e-mail you the donation via Paypal?

I definately think this site is very useful and enough for people to pay money for it. Since you seem quite frank about the financials of the website, why not have a box on the sidebar that disclose how the site is doing financially?

For example, the box would say how much debt the site has incurred (those $25 + $17 a month add up) and how much donation has been received. And a note that says something like, “Hi Jane, so far you have donated $1 to the site. An average user donate $3 to the site. Any help from you would be appreciated. Thanks.” People might be willing to pay so there are no ads on the site. The ads also slows down the site. You can also have information like, "To have such and such extra features, we are saving up to meet the goal of $100 dollars).

I have always been on campus network or DSL connection, so the site is not slow for me, but it might be another story for other users.


#6

Thank you for the nice comments about the website. And thanks for the tip about PayPal.

At the time I set up the Amazon Honor System, it was the easier of the two for me to do. You are right that they cut out A LOT of it, tho. This was the smallest 120 bucks I’ve ever seen (it was closer to 90, I think). I’ll look into PayPal sometime.

I originally wanted to use a “fuel guage” feature so patrons could see the impact of their donations. We chose not to do it simply for flexibility. I mean, hey, we don’t have a problem about charging advertisers per se.

Could this website charge for advertising? We have been receiving inquires. Actually, we are receiving more each week – someone even called me just now – believe it or not… and I’m not even in the country!

So the jury is still out about whether we should (a) charge for ads or (b) remove the ads and go with a straight “support this site” plea to its visitors.

Until a permanent decision is reached, the policy at ORIENTED dot ORG is to exchange banners. If an exchange partner does NOT have a website up (like a restaurant) then we would seek exposure at the location - like posting an ORIENTED dot ORG poster or being a pickup point for our bookmarks, newsletter, etc. (CAVEAT: this advertising policy could change soon)