In line with our consultation on the future development of the Forum - this is a poll to help assess the likelihood of the Forum receiving donations from any member to help cover the running and maintenance costs of the Forum. All donations would be gratefully received, but would be so on the strict understanding that no strings would be attached. Should our propositions seem viable we are proposing to have a customised 'Donations' page on the Forum/site for members to be able to use.
Difficult to decide with no information. What exactly would the donations be used for? ie, what are the 'running and maintenance costs'? How much are they? And who pays them at present?
Up to this point the running costs have been minimal, and have been covered by donations (1:1 mapping of donors to bills). Essentially the current costs are domain registration fees for our .com domain and proboards hosting fees for the forum (its not free for custom domains). The next bill for the domain registration is due for payment in November.
Going forwards, the proposal is to create a not for profit company ("limited by guarantee"). This will incur set up costs, and on going costs associated with companies house, and virtual service address / registered office forwarding, bank fees, accountancy fees for example.
As mentioned in the main thread, costs will be incurred for ongoing legal advice concerning the forum rules and forum operation, professional indemity and other insurances, ico registration (GDPR) etc.
The costs will vary year to year, and will be kept as low as possible, but could be expected to be a low four figure sum each year. As with any company, accounts would be filed at companies house.
Without the forum being a legal entity in its own right, it is pretty much impossible to procure appropriate insurance for the forum staff, and to register where necessary for things such as data protection.
Like agent69, I also am not a fan of donations, preferring a subscription model.
However, my preference for the structure would be paid membership (say £5pa via paypal) gets the right to post and served a totally ad-free display. Those that do not pay, cannot post and (notionally) get served ads, but are still able to access the usual areas in the same way 'guest' accounts can at present.
Subscriptions might also provide a more regular revenue stream, giving greater certainty to the forums future.
Personally, I doubt that revenues from online advertising will be sufficient to generate the kind of sums necessary to support the 'low four-figure' sums mentioned as necessary to support the forum going forward. My other feeling is that the comparison sites would get first dibs on referrals. (I may well be wrong, but I suspect that the P2P comparison sites are an enquiring potential P2Per's first port of call and then, once engaged with the platform(s) they find the forum.)
What I would definitely hate to see is a move to or the inclusion of 'Native Advertising' - although, to be honest, I doubt there are many platforms prepared to pay for space on the boards when there are any number of finance sites which report on P2P only too happy to absorb all the output the platforms' marketing departments can throw at them, so as to generate their own content and page impressions.
Consequently, I have put myself in the 'not decided' camp. I need to know more about the future structure and shape of the forum before committing _ particularly around the nature of the adverts being served, what alternative monetising techniques might be deployed and what format KYC would take if that route is followed.
Question: - is there some aspect to a 'donation' being made as a preference over a 'payment' being taken?
I stand to be corrected but I think it all goes back to ProBoards. Whilst the number of eyeballs (as advertisers like to call them) is low, the demographic and potential for highly targetted ads is very high. I would be surprised if a 4 figure annual sum couldn't be raised from the current banner style ads. That would mean a change from ProBoards to some other forum technology and hosting solution.
I'm also not against a subscription based model but it might mean the board would very quickly become less popular which is less good. Perhaps an expansion of DD Central where its only available on subscription and discounts/free-access available to members who are clearly contributing high quality DD.
Does a portion of the banner ad revenue make its way back to the forum or does it all go to ProBoards?
At the moment it all goes to Pro-Boards, and we would have to buy-out Pro-Boards (at ~$8 per day) in order to sell our own ad space - we are looking into this, and may run a trial, but it's a very cost inefficient way of doing things. This gives rise to one of the motivators behind shifting to another Platform/ Software.
jj : My personal opinion: charging platforms is fraught with all sorts of contradictions/problems etc. Its a pigs ear/dogs breakfast, pick your analogy.
As the p2p IF, it is here first and foremost to serve the lending community. it would be good for it also to serve / assist the borrowing community, but that has never really worked out in practise. It does benefit the platforms - especially (only ?) when they are going through that early startup / euphoric phase. But otherwise while it might benefit them, that is neither its raison d'etre, nor I suspect for a number of platforms is it their "perspective". A number are too big to care (FC, Zopa, RS?). Edit: I should add that at least one in that list has in the past cared enough to threaten the forum and its "staff" substantively.
A few key issues with charging platforms:
1. A majority (certainly weighted by "size") of platforms don't even engage with the forum as it is.
2. The "weighting" given to a platform is currently only determined (in a slightly fuzzy sense) by the "interest" in that platform by the members. And by and large that means lenders. If that instead is dependent on "payment" from the platform then kiss goodbye to the IF bit (at the very least in perception if not in reality), and also kiss by to the bit about being here to serve the interests of the members (since now there is an element of taking into account the "wish" of the platforms).
3. One partial/reasonable defense when a platform accusses 'the forum' of defamation/libel/business damage (and yes they do make those claims) is the riposte that they have an inherent "right of reply" by virtue of this being an open forum: don't complain to us, respond openly on the forum. Insisting on platforms paying a fee to have the "privilege" i.e. access rights to do that substantially/fatally undermines that: IMHO.