denise: Image: Me, facing away from camera, on top of the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome (Default)
Denise ([staff profile] denise) wrote in [site community profile] dw_biz2010-03-23 11:18 pm

Restocking the War Chest

As discussed in this week's [site community profile] dw_news announcement, the last three months of lowered income has done a lot to deplete our "war chest" -- the amount of money we keep in reserve to cover our future operating expenses. We'd already been running in the red from month to month, and the past few months have seen some additional expenses over and above the usual.

So, we're looking to run a DW fundraiser, once the credit card payment system is up and running again, to 'repay' the reserves that we've had to tap into over these past few months. It costs us around $10,000 a month for operating costs + what we pay ourselves (and we really don't pay ourselves much -- thank God for spouses with day jobs and the willingness to let us follow our dreams), and we've had some pretty big one-time expenses since the beginning of the year, including the tax bill being due. (We had money set aside for it, but let me just say, ouch.) With credit card payments, we were taking in about $6,000 a month, and we obviously hope that we can get out of the red, month-to-month, sometime soon!

In order to repay what we've had to raid the piggy bank for since the beginning of the year, our target goal is to raise $50,000 in the month of April. In order to repay the piggy bank and be able to support the kind of expansion, marketing, and improvements we'd like to do for the rest of the year, our pie-in-the-sky fundraising goal is $100,000 -- it's a bit of a stretch, but since we know a lot of paid accounts are set to expire on the one-year anniversary of open beta (5/1), we think it's totally doable if we hustle.

We haven't decided exactly what form that fundraiser might take, though, so we thought we'd put it up for discussion. Each of the plans we've been able to think of so far have pros and cons, and we'd like to make sure we hear everyone's thoughts before we make a decision.

One possibility is to sell another batch of seed (permanent) accounts. We said that we weren't going to do it again, since permanent account revenue is good in the short term but not so good (for you or for us) in the long term, but many people have asked us if seed accounts will ever be available for sale again, since they missed the first sale or weren't yet Dreamwidth members, and we think there'd be enough interest to support another sale. (Like the last time, seed accounts would sell for $200, and we would only place a limited number, probably 200-300, on sale.) We're really hesitant about doing that, though, because we told you guys that we weren't going to do it again except in dire emergency, and this isn't dire emergency -- we don't want to go back on what we said.

Another possibility is to do a paid account special sale -- along the lines of the December holiday promotion, where buying 6 months of time for someone else would give you 2 months for your own account, but not necessarily exactly that. (Details of what exactly the sale would consist of could be totally up for discussion.) The advantage of that would be that we wouldn't have to do something we said we wouldn't do (offering seed accounts for sale again), and we'd be able to design the sale to be as attractive as possible, to give people a chance to support Dreamwidth at any financial commitment level and get a bargain in the process. (We know that $200 is a lot to ask from people!) The disadvantage is that whatever promotion we come up with might be hard to distinguish from the changes to the paid account/credit system, which might make adopting the credit system more confusing, plus it might be hard to find an incentive that would encourage people to buy paid time credits.

A third possibility is to run some sort of unofficial Dreamwidth fundraiser, where individual people would offer up goods/services/what-have-you in exchange for DW credits, once we have the credit system going. The advantage of this would be that it might get people used to using the credit system, while the disadvantage would be the amount of overhead it would require -- it would have to be something unofficial, since we don't have the resources necessary to handle disputes or conflicts, and it might wind up with things going really wrong when people can't or don't deliver on what they promised. Also, this is the kind of model that's usually used on Dreamwidth and LiveJournal for charity fundraising, and Dreamwidth isn't a charity -- it might be weird, and we don't want to devalue the important charity fundraising work that people do.

So, there are advantages and disadvantages to each option (and there's nothing saying we can't do a mix of any/all of the above, as well as things we might not have thought of yet). We want to throw the question open to the floor, though, and see if people have perspectives and ideas that we haven't thought of:

* Which of the options do you prefer?
* Do you have any other ideas that might help us reach our sales goals?
* What kind of sale would inspire you to buy DW credit?

(One thing we're not looking for, for this post at least, is feedback on what kind of features and benefits would make paid accounts more appealing to you. We know there are a lot of things we can do there -- we've got a list of them scheduled for the rest of the year -- but they take more senior-developer time and effort than we have to schedule right now. Later on in the year, we'll revisit the question of paid account features and how we can improve them!)

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