I have recently become an avid podcast listener. I love it. So much information that I can pack into my head while doing mundane things is just wonderful to me. I get history, skepticism, science, culture. Love it. My list of podcasts I am listening to is on the right (I need to update it).
I also read tons of blogs because I not only like the content, but also the personalities. I write an ‘amateur’ blog and I know how much time I spend on researching topics, sometime performing experiments, and so forth. So I have a small idea of how much time and effort goes into putting together a real one like the guys over at SGU, or the JREF. These guys and many others, not only have a web site, but routinely perform trials, or put on pod casts, organize conventions, and do so much for the skeptical community.
None of this is without cost. Websites, materials for trials, recording and editing equipment, travel, personnel, etc etc, all cost money even though most of them don’t do it for money. So I am totally not surprised that most of these groups ask for donations.
So I donated. I gave Andy Kaiser at Digital Bits Skeptic some money. I have grown to like his show a lot. But what this means to me is that Steven Novella and Gang aren’t going to get any money, neither is JREF, or Center for Inquiry or Skeptoid any of the other of the groups that I enjoy listening to. I’m not really happy about that.
So I was thinking…
What about a SkepticDonor website? At this website people would visit to donate money to the skeptical groups they like. It could work as follows:
A number of skeptic groups are participants of this site. They have links to the site at their blogs or homepages. When someone wants to donate they click on a link to get to the SkepticDonor website.
At SkepticDonor, all the participating skeptical entities are listed, with links back to their sites. It would look something like a blogroll or check boxes next to their names. The donor would check the boxes they would like to donate to and hit “submit”.
They are then asked how much money they would like to donate. Credit card information is asked for and the amount is entered. This amount is split between the groups that the donor specified.
An email is sent to the donor with a receipt and an acknowledgment of how much went to each of the skeptic groups he chose.
A database tracks all donations and the way they were split. Every once in a while, a transfer is made or a check is cut to all the groups involved.
The main advantages of a system like this are twofold. First off, it’s more efficient with regard to money. Instead of processing fees on smaller amounts of cash only one processing fee is made. This leaves more money available for the actual groups.
Second, its far more convenient than doing a donation multiple times. This would lower the bar that may be preventing people from donating to more than one group (like myself). More total money would be directed at skeptical groups, even if the amount that each group gets from a donor may be smaller. Besides, I don’t think there is anything stopping anyone from donating even more to one specific group if they like.
Variations on a theme:
While I am usually a big fan of “simpler is better”, there are other alternatives. For example, instead of a check box for the groups you want to donate to, there could be amounts you want to send to each group. Or instead of amounts, it could be percentages, something to allow you to send more money to one group than another.
Another variation is that the money that gets donated could just go into a pot. Then the skeptical groups that are involved could battle it out as to how it gets split. Groups that have more costs could get more money, or something like that. I like that idea less, because if I am giving the money I would like to direct it where I like (if only taxes worked that way).
Effort Sisyphus is not a good place for SkepticDonor
This is why I entitled this post the way I did. I would love to be the organizer for this thing. I would love to be that involved in this little movement we have. But I gotta face some facts. I’m nobody. I have no clout. People would feel weird giving me money and trusting that it is going somewhere useful.
Further, in order for me to do that, I would have to create a non-profit, and create the website and so forth and that will add costs to the thing that is trying to save on costs. Other groups like SGU and JREF are already non-profits and already have strong web presence and manpower.
If this existed, I would use it every year. While throwing this idea at Mr. Kaiser, he responded that he had a similar idea, so I can’t be totally nutz. So, here I am, I’m imploring a larger, more established group (hello SGU? hello JREF?) to create something like this.
What do you think?