Creators who would like to spend more time on projects that serve the common good are often having difficulty doing so because they need to make a living. Consumers of these goods are often not aware that a small financial contribution goes a long way and is easy to do.
Examples of creators are: research journalists, documentary makers, software developers, website owners, designers, artists, teachers, aid workers, etc.
For a consumer of these goods the difference between paying €0 or €1 is tiny. For a creator it could be the change of a lifetime. Imagine a website with hundreds of thousands of visitors. If it would be easy and widespread to pay a couple of euro per month to causes you really value, the creator could live from these payments even if only a few percent of users would pay. 150.000 visitors, 2% pays €2 per month would total €6000 per month.
Sure, it is possible for the website owner to add advertising, put up a paywall for premium content, add a bunch of nag screens to make you donate or sell you stuff on the website. But what if you don’t want to nag people, want to stay independent and want to make your created goods available to as many people with as much freedom as possible?
I would like to pay €30 per month for all the tools and information I consume personally that are currently offered to me at no price. Think of podcasts, open source software, reference websites, etc. When a creator receives enough, I would like to know and consider supporting other individuals that need it more. I rarely pay/donate because I don’t take the responsibility. These are my biggest issues and excuses:
- Fees of platforms are high
- Fees of payment providers are high
- Converting currencies is expensive
- Dependence on big platforms is not desireable (because they can change their terms, fees, etc.)
- I don’t know how much the creator already gets and how much she needs it
- I don’t know what the creator has done, does at the moment and is planing to do
- I can’t use my preferred payment method
- Other people will pay, so I don’t have to and I don’t like free riders but am don’t mind being one at the same time
- €2 doesn’t make a difference and there’s not a easy and cheap way to pay it anyways
My proposed solution “CompenCircle”
- CC displays the worked hours and expenses of creators together with a sustainable hourly wage. It includes all payments that the creator has received and the total amount that is not yet compensated.
- Someone who likes to compensate sets a fixed monthly amount and chooses how to share the money between creators and indicates preferences like payment method, invoice necessity and currency.
- CC will then calculate the amount(s) the “compensator” is paying that month to minimize payment fees while making sure payment preferences of creator and compensator are considered. Instead of paying the platform or paying all the supported creators, all compensators pay a larger amount to fewer creators while using a payment reference that CC provides.
- The creator will confirm their payments once a month by importing a statement, by api or manually by checking boxes.
Creators can indicate how much time they have spent and are still spending daily crafting or maintaining their good. Creators also indicate their hourly rate. This information is public. Financial contributors can pay up to the amount of hours × hourly rate + expenses. The hourly rate must support someone to be permanently independent, including taxes, insurance and savings for retirement.
People who want to compensate can indicate to whom and what they would like to contribute. CC is focused on contributing to several people, teams or projects at a time. My personal experience is that I want to support multiple initiatives and my assumption is that others would like that too. The compensator then transfer the total amount you want to support to all makers to one creator who is assigned. So she pays 10×x to creator a while someone else pays 10×x to creator b, etc. so that each creator gets exactly the same as when she would pay 1×x to a, 1×x to b, 1×x to c etc.
Fewer transactions and better conditions
CC ensures that fewer transactions take place. The transaction amounts that take place are as high as possible without having to change currencies. Payers and recipients are also matched in terms of payment method (so less transaction costs, fast processing and an experience with less friction) and other conditions (such as a VAT invoice for companies or a specification for donation that can be deducted when doing income tax) ). The payer and recipient both enter the payment reference on CC so that they can be checked off against each other.
By paying directly to makers, compensators don’t dependent on one payment provider, there is less overhead and CC does not have to participate in the bureaucracy that financial institutions have to deal with (such as obtaining a bank license or the AFM’s permission at all).
Independent, open and libre platform
It is easier to host a CC yourself and in that way you are less dependent on CC and the government, currency or other context of where CC is located. CC is open source. This makes CC more transparent than other platforms and ensures that you can ‘fork’ CC and start one yourself.
Platforms like Open Collective, Patreon, Liberapay, Buymeacoffee and Github Sponsors also make it possible to send and receive money for public goods. The difference is that CC is open / libre, that no costs are charged for transactions or for the use of the platform itself and that it is possible to exclude power centers such as governments, payment services, credit card companies. It is of course possible to make a contribution and support CC financially without playing favorites.
The freerider problem remains. There will always be people who don’t pay. And in the case of the projects I see, it makes less difference. If Firefox or Wikipedia were used instead of less favorable alternatives and there is no payment, is always better than using the alternatives (which makes money selling advertising space, for example). I mainly see projects for which the distribution is done digitally. The costs involved with an additional user are nil. It also works that when you are on a platform and make one monthly payment, it is easy to add one more. I also hope that it will become mainstream to contribute to services and products that serve the common good free of charge.
Less ads, less pay walls and more freedom
One of the motivations for being a fan of providing valuable information and tools free of charge in this way is that ads are no longer needed. Ads and the manipulation that comes with it are bigger problem than most people think. In addition, it is nice to make information and resources available as widely as possible. In our experience it makes sense that platforms on which investigative journalists publish are protected by a paywall. At the same time, the world benefits from having access to this information for everyone and it is not desirable if only an elite reads it. I also think it is great that the independence of makers remains the greatest.
A maximum compensation of 10% of the total outstanding amount per person or organization should be considered in order to prevent dependence.
It is worth checking what needs to be done to prevent fraud. If a creator manipulates the platform to get many contributions while not paying his own promised contribution.
A non-intrusive but recognizable badge showing the outstanding amount is available to use for creators to post on their online properties.