In September Foundation Beyond Belief (FBB) asked Humanist Grants (HG) donors to weigh in on a topic we’d been mulling over since we began the process of switching to our new donation system in 2017.
The Legacy Donation System
When FBB first started the HG program in 2010, our technology was simple. Our donations all went through PayPal and our donation records were all stored in our WordPress database. We offered our donors the ability to customize their donations to each of the HG categories however they chose, and we could export the data and calculate totals with relative ease. It was never simple, but with the number of monthly givers we had at the time, it was manageable.
Over the years, FBB has grown. The number of monthly givers has expanded, and we also learned that our technology had some pretty serious limitations. After an exhaustive review of products on the market, we selected an open-source, but highly secure, donation system that could finally fit our needs, rather than trying to fit our needs to a flawed (for us) system.
This left us at something of a crossroads where HG was concerned: should we immediately try to implement the fully customizable donation model for donors, or was it more critical that we get the system up and running right away? Because we were experiencing so many bugs with the old system, most of which were affecting our monthly HG donors, we felt it was most important to get the new system up and running. From that point on, we informed supporters that if they signed up for monthly giving to HG, each of the four beneficiary categories would receive 20% of their monthly donation, with FBB receiving the remaining 20% as an unrestricted gift.
Letting Go and Moving Forward
During this transition period, HG donors who had set up customized allocations were able to continue giving based on that model, and we continued to distribute their monthly donations accordingly. This meant pulling one set of numbers and percentages from PayPal (our “legacy” payment processing system), another set of numbers and percentages from Stripe (our new payment processing system), and adding in any one-time donations made to any specific categories (e.g., if a donor gave a one-time gift to the Human Rights category). This is only a shallow glimpse into the process involved in ensuring that FBB’s beneficiaries received correct grant amounts each quarter.
If, however, all donations are moved to the model where each of the four beneficiary categories receives 20% of a monthly donation and FBB receives the remaining 20%, we will be able to quickly and easily combine totals from the various sources and verify grant totals. This means we will be able to devote more time to the things that truly matter, like finding new organizations doing valuable work in each of the beneficiary categories. It also means that grantees will receive funding sooner, as the accounting process will be that much quicker.
The purpose of the HG program is collective giving driven by the interests of our HG donors. FBB selects beneficiaries based on their meeting strict criteria, but ultimately the program is designed to meet your needs and wishes. With that in mind, we would never make a change of this magnitude without first asking for your feedback.
On September 6, FBB sent an email to 519 people, representing HG donors who had not opted out of email correspondence. Of the 161 people who opened the email, 50 chose to participate in the 7-question survey we invited them to take through SurveyMonkey.
We also asked if you felt strongly about being able to choose between the 25% and 20% options; just over 75% of you either disagreed, strongly disagreed, or were neutral on this point.
We understand that some do wish to choose between the two options, but we also want to be as responsible as possible with donated dollars. We are currently incorporating existing recurring payments from the legacy donation system along with newer recurring payments from the new, better donation system. By further reconfiguring our system to allow for a choice between 25% and 20% split, we would be adding another level of complexity and work tasks which would require yet more donor funds to support.
FBB makes a big impact, but our operating budget (not counting the grants we make through Humanist Grants and Humanist Disaster Recovery) is very modest. We have a staff of only six, all of whom work part-time hours. We are always looking for ways to do more with less – without ever sacrificing the quality of our work – and we believe this change will help us do just that.
Your support is truly pivotal for all of us to come together to be Humanism at Work.