A little over two years ago, a small group of us started Worldchanging because we saw a need.
We knew that there were plenty of places to go for the bad news, for the critiques, for the problems, for the dire warnings that, perhaps, the planet had no future.
What we couldn't find was a place where smart people shared meaningful conversations about solutions. Sure, there were a few sites with "positive" takes, but in too many cases, that "positive" outlook masked a deep lack of critical thinking and intellectual engagement, and we didn't want sugar-coating, we wanted to tackle the big problems we saw all around us. We didn't want to be positive, we wanted to be worldchanging.
We never could have predicted the effects. We've now published more than 4,000 articles on tools, models and ideas for building a better future. We have an amazing community of readers. We're publishing a book. We are now one of the largest blogs on the Net, while, we hope you'll agree, retaining a strong sense of mission and intellectual integrity.
This last bit is critical. We've never accepted advertising. We aren't here to sell you anything. Indeed, we've consciously decided to house WorldChanging in a non-profit corporation in order to focus on the mission and dismiss any pressures to commercialize this site.
We're doing this because we believe in it, and we hope it shows.
But along with the choice not to commercialize the site come certain pressures, not the least of which is that we need to raise money to support the running of the site.
We need your help.
We need to raise $150,000. Thankfully, two of our biggest supporters, Ed Burtynsky and the Sapling Foundation, have each offered to contribute $50,000 apiece, if our readers step up and give another $50,000. Ed has also very generously lent us the use of his amazing photography to help promote the site. Check out this amazing slideshow of Ed's work, accompanied by a musical score from Michael Montes. We think it makes the case in pictures better then we ever could in words precisely why searching for new solutions is so important.
We have a great opportunity here, to raise $50,000 from you, our readers, and turn it into $150,000. That money will power this site and everything we're doing for months to come.
Please, give generously. Then tell your friends about WorldChanging, and Ed's slideshow. Now is the time we need you to step up and help keep WorldChanging going. We need your help.
Together, we can make this site even more extraordinary. We may even be able to help change the world.
I'm in. Thanks for doing what you do guys....you make all of our jobs so much easier! Wish we could hand you $50K on the spot and then some.
Yes indeed. Good luck.
So, what are you going to do with $150k? It's a lot of money for a blog to ask for without specifying what you're actually going to be using it for.
Sympathetic as I am, Olivia has a point, folks.
Care to enlighten us on the details?
Hey, devoted and concerned readers:
In response to your queries over why we are asking you for money...there is a post, which you can find in the top of our Features section, or right here: http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/004108.html , where you can hear a little bit more about what we'd do with your dollars if you gave them.
While we do dream of rooftop hot tubs and relaxing vacations, we actually want to spend your money to do some really phenomenal, community-building, worldchanging stuff. Read about it, and we'll keep sharing more with you in the next few weeks.
Thanks for your support!
Your campaign was also noted on Smart Mobs this evening.
Sarah, I'm afraid the given link doesn't work.
(although the Features link is OK)
So, this is for initiative to access the WC ideas from the non-english (and non connected) parts of the world? That's fine, and I can see it will cost money. But I would like to see a little more detail of what expenses you envision. (It's not a matter of trust, or I wouldn't even bother enquiring. Hey! I'm interested, hot tubs or no!)
Thanks so much for the supportive comments and questions.
The link should work now, and over the next couple weeks we'll be unveiling much more information about what we're already doing and where we're going as an organization.
A hot tub would be OK if it was used (for example) to demo for a prototype sonofusion water-heater.
I made my contribution, small but something. I would like to see a counter to see how this is going and how much has been raised.
I wish I had more cash to donate, but I'm wondring if this point I could offer more via free ads on my blog. If you think this might be helpful for worldchanging, please email me at green LA girl at gmail dot com, and I'll set you up with a free month-long ad.
Wish I could give you cold hard cash, bud dammit, I don't got that stuff right now --
JW -- thanks! Every contribution counts, and the idea of a counter is a great one. Let's see what we can do.
Siel -- That's an awesome offer. Thank you. I'm having Chanel get you the right info.
Stefan -- Sonofusion hottub it is!
Umm. No critical comments allowed?
Taran, I'm not sure what happened to your previous comment. We're checking now.
As far as the question of what the plans are for $150K, I know that Alex is putting together a more detailed discussion of that for posting soon, and that should answer your concerns.
Some clarification about the request for substantiation, as I emailed it:
"Listen - I want WorldChanging.com to grow. The stuff on salaries and travel - well, I understand that and I can not only validate that but get up on the soapbox. I just want the ammunition so that when I point the gun at things I can shoot it. :-) If there's one person outside of the present WC team that believes in WC, it's me. But I can't be flakey.
Hope all is well. Be leery of pledges - if you're going to do the counter, keep pledges separate and keep real money off to the right. "
What you do is awesome. $150K, however, is a large chunk of change, though I have no doubt it will be put to uses we would all support. As such, I'm happy to help today. I'm interested, however, in your long-term business plan. You are clearly growing out of the "labor of love" stage and into something more like a full-blow enterprise. Presumably -- or rather, hopefully -- your needs will continue to grow as the demand for what you do grows and as you discover new ways to have an impact. What is your strategy for anticipating and funding those needs?
Admire the commitment and enthusiasm but I don't think you are answering the question posed by several readers regarding use of funds.
Richard, I know that Alex will be posting more about our plans soon (he has a family matter to attend to this weekend), but to sum up: the money will be used to keep the site operating (server costs, the small salaries so that those of us who do this as our primary jobs can pay the rent, and the like) and to further the organization's mission (primarily by doing the travel necessary to bring more attention to the worldchanging people and ideas outside of the US and Europe). Alex talked a bit about this in an earlier posting.
$150K may sound like a lot of money, but in the context of what we're trying to do, it's really not.
I'd like to remind the readers that Chris Anderson of the TED conference and myself have offered up to 50k each with the hope of getting the other 50k through this broad based campaign. Both of us are part of the board and it is from this position that we recognise the need for this level of financial support to keep the future of Worldchanging secure. If this site is to become a critical "go to" site for best practices and ideas around building a sustainable world then those who are fully dedicated and engaged in it must also be sustained.
Thanks for your support in this important effort.
No, $150K is not big bucks. But I think the issue people are getting at here, indirectly, is one of direction. I love the idea of worldchanging having sites in other languages and sponsoring original reporting.
But here's the question: is Worldchanging changing itself into something more mass market than it has been. Alex's idea, expressed in a recent post, of sending writers all over the planet to create a feature called "Around the Future in 80 days," is a great conceit. But it's also the kind of concept that you could find as a cover line on a glossy magazine.
If worldchanging is to become a 'critical "go to" site' on sustainability, does it risk sacrificing it's quirky outsider appeal? Will it, in the quest for broader popular reach, become more commercial? Will it lose depth as it opts for breadth?
It's great that so many people are vitally concerned about what worldchanging will be. Let's not shortchange the discussion by focusing only on the money.
Sustainablog did a blog-a-thon fundraiser for a charity last year and he received about $200. I think asking for $50000 is a bit ridiculous. Begging for money is not the way to go. Today's internet runs on the Google model where minimal adds is the source of revenue. Put some adds on your page. Just don't turn into the brainseisure flash fest that is Treehugger.
Initially I balked at the 80 days concept too, but then assumed it would involve local writers who are already on the ground, surely not a funding effort for a junket for sending WC mainstay writers travelling around the world.
Complete transparency of plans and use of funds is likely to motivate people to give and be a proper approach to being a NFP. What new angle is WCg taking, what is the (broader?) target audience and what does it hope to achieve beyond interesting reading? Getting into a funding model might require a clear goal for WC that can be measured/assessed in some way.
I agree with BenE's comment on TreeHugger. WC perhaps has a difficult decision on the path it takes next and how it gets there.
Thanks for the constructive questions, everyone. There are several thoughts here, as I see it.
The first is, what are we planning to do, here at Worldchanging? This is something we've discussed at some length here on the site in various posts, and have asked for readers' ideas about in several posts.
The basic answer boils down to this: more of the same, better. We plan to keep focusing on tools, models and ideas for building a better future, but to internationalize the conversation (in part because we've had so many reader requests to do so); focus even more on original content, like interviews, conference reports and essays (again, in part, because this has consistently been our most popular work and the work you all have responded to most positively); and to grow our team to cover more ground (both literally and figuratively). As issues relating to sustainability, humanitarian design, social innovation and the like become more mainstream, we want move farther onto the cutting-edge, covering more tools and ideas from more place, which can only be done if we go out and cover them ourselves. We've talked a lot about all of this over the last six months, and are planning to explore our findings with you all in even greater depth over the coming weeks.
The second question is why do we need funding? Clearly we need to provide more information, and will in the next day. We do a lot with very little and think that the amount of funding we're seeking is quite modest here, indeed our whole budget, compared with the budgets of other nonprofit sites out there. Much of our work is posted here on WC and much of the rest of it (the book we're preparing, the speaking and outreach work we do, etc.) is talked about here. That said, we're quite happy to discuss the particulars, and will be not only posting a full annual report in May but a follow-up comment here, soon, with the basic numbers.
The third question has to do with revenue models. I don't know of any site of our size which supports itself with advertising that is a good model for us. There are major site experience questions here. But advertising also brings pressures which can compromise editorial vision. More importantly, we've really committed to the principle that the attention we've been given be used to support work that is in alignment with our mission. None of us -- and based on numerous emails and comments, none of our readers -- want to see greenwashing and exploitative messaging on our site. We're happy to direct attention to folks doing good work, but we want to keep it clean.
These are all good questions. Many of the we have already addressed before. Some others we'll be returning with more information to share, for example, some basic budget numbers. Stay tuned!
I'm donating. You don't have to make the case to me - but you will need to make it to others. Three observations:
1. If you want to remain advertising free (and I truly hope you will), you'll either need to pass the hat often, or charge a subscription to access the site. I vote for the former, but you must clearly explain why you need the money, and you need to have completely open financial books. Your accounting should be "open source". (My partner and I run my business that way - anyone who wants to see our balance sheets is welcome to do so at any time.)
2. Ed's slideshow is amazing, and profoundly moving, but it does very, very little to explain who you are, what you do, why you're doing it, what you want to do, or why anyone should help. My wife, who works in environmental advocacy and communications, and who is very skilled at it, thinks the same. Sorry - it really is an amazing presentation, but it isn't helping your purpose.
3. Leaders become so because of what they follow: they passionately follow something great, with such enthusiasm, determination and clarity, that they invite others to join them. Enthusiasm sells. I've been with you folks for some time now, so I'm clear about what you're trying to do, and why it's great. But it isn't self-evident, and you're making a mistake in your capital campaign by acting as if it were. You're at this moment being asked some very, very important questions by your readers, and your answers are kind of lame. Do better.
Thanks for the honest feedback, David. We will do better.
Some good comments above. I've been reading faithfully since your early days and love this site but I wasn't sure if the themes and plans that I've read before are still consistent with the new direction. Nor can I tell how resourceful your plans are. The request for $$ needs to be accompanied with timely explanations, so good to see that's forthcoming.
I do want WC to continue in robust health. That was an uncharacteristically forthright email from David and I reckon he's hit the nail on the head. I know that the WC crew will give good consideration to all of this feedback and that's comforting. I will give gladly, btw, in a year's time when I (hopefully) have an income, not that it helps your immediate drive.
I'm glad to see the open and honest feedback about funding details going on here.
I feel comfortable with the reasons given for the fundraising, both privately and, more importantly, here. It would have saved a few messages if those reasons had been stated initially but, well, you'll know that next time, eh?
I notice that a number of people speak of open accounting practices. I recommend Ricardo Semler's books: 'Maverick' and 'The Seven Day Weekend' where he discusses the benefits to Semco.
Finally, I agree with David Foley's comments on the slideshow. They are rivetting images, but too skewed toward showing the magnitude of the problems we face. In order to catch the attention, the real message needs to be equally rivetting. The concluding phrase: 'it's time to change it again' is a nice one but it gets a bit lost and lonely when the audience is still recovering from the impact of watching luminous orange gunk slither implacably across a dead black landscape (I thought it was a lava flow at first!). A set of follow up slides showing what can be done and is being done might help (perhaps as a separate follow up ad?)
I'm a bit disappointed with Edward Burtyns images. He uses such commonplaces. I mean how many photographers are there out there who have all shot the three gorges, china's manufacturers or the ship breakers of Chittagong? It's always the same images.
We need more creativity!
What kind of lame comment is that?! Sure maybe there are people taking pictures of the same things, but think about this for a few seconds (if you have that long an attention span!)... you put the same subject matter in front of a hundred thousand different photographers, and you will get a hundred thousand different visions... Burtynsky's VISION is what we are talking about, not what's out there but how it's seen... RIGHT???!! Come on, wize-up pal.
Sincerely, Pissed with Ignorant Responses.
Please keep it polite, everyone.
By the way, we've posted some more, initial financial information and program descriptions and links here:
But we can also keep this discussion going as well.