Donations

Donating to Ballot Box Scotland

Since launching in January 2018, I’ve really enjoyed working on Ballot Box Scotland. The support I have received, particularly on Twitter, has been wonderful. Ballot Box Scotland has grown quite quickly from just circulating around my friends to having thousands of followers including councillors, parliamentarians and government ministers. My by-election coverage is now seen by tens of thousands of people beyond just those direct followers.

As fun as running this project is, it also takes a lot of time and effort, as well as a little bit of money. With my reach having grown so much, and so many people clearly both enjoying and benefiting from my work, opening up a donations system seemed like an obvious next step. This page explains how donations work and will hopefully answer any questions you might have.

If you’re able to afford to support my work and ensure that I can continue to provide the very best in elections and polling analysis for Scotland, please consider chipping in even a small amount. Click the button here to be taken directly to my donations page.

How Does it Work?

Donations to Ballot Box Scotland are via a platform called Liberapay. Liberapay is an open source, non-profit, volunteer run system.

The system can look a little bit confusing at first. Effectively, Liberapay will ask you how much you want to contribute and how often (per week, per month or per year), then how much of that you want to donate up front. So for example, if you want to give me £1 a week for 10 weeks, you can pay the whole £10 up front. I’ll also receive your donation immediately in one lump sum, but it’ll be considered equivalent to £1 a week for that 10 week period. No matter what time period you choose, Liberapay will work out an equivalent figure for weekly funding, which is what I report on.

Liberapay does this to minimise fees. A single £10 donation via PayPal will incur a £0.54 fee, so I’ll receive £9.46. A donation of £1 a week will incur a fee of £0.23 every time, for a total of £2.30 in fees, and I’ll receive £7.70. However, please do not let that put you off making small donations. Every little bit of funding helps, and I’m more than happy to pay a little bit more in fees if it means you are providing support at a level that is affordable to you.

Unfortunately, Liberapay currently does not process Direct Debits from non-Euro bank accounts. This means if you wish to provide a repeated donation, you will have to manually agree to that each time. When you reach the end of the period you paid up front for (say the 10 weeks in the example above), Liberapay will e-mail you asking if you wish to renew your donation. If you choose to do so, you’ll be able to change the value if necessary – you aren’t committed to continuing to pay what you started out with.

Fees

Liberapay allows you to make donations via either PayPal or Stripe. PayPal takes a 20p + 3.4% fee from every donation. Stripe takes a 20p + 1.4% fee from every donation. This fee is deducted from the donation I receive. You will never be charged more than the amount you are choosing to donate.

Please use whichever of the payment options you are most comfortable with. Especially at the value of donations I am expecting to receive, the slightly higher PayPal fee won’t amount to very much, and I’d rather you trusted your payment details are secure than get a few pence extra!

Liberapay itself does not charge any commission. However, I will be donating 2.5% of what I receive to Liberapay to help support the platform.

How Much Am I Currently Receiving?

Liberapay vs Patreon

Liberapay is a free to use donations platform, whereas Patreon is a commission charging subscription platform. This basically has tax implications for each service behind the scenes, which relate to what I can offer in return for your support. Liberapay can be thought of as providing a tip for the services I already provide – it’s your choice whether and how much to tip, and that doesn’t get you any additional services. Patreon involves purchasing a subscription to additional services, which means there would be tax included in the money you pay for that subscription.

The primary issue I had with Patreon is that it only accepts donations in USD, meaning supporters would face additional charges from their bank for currency exchange on top of their donation. Especially when I’m expecting donations to be small amounts like £1 or £2, going via Patreon could up end seeing supporters having to pay as much or more than the value of their donation to their bank in fees. I decided this was impractical.

The effect of this is that unfortunately I can’t provide any incentives or bonus content to you for donating via Liberapay. On the other hand, this means I get to keep more of your donation than I would otherwise, and it’s cheaper for you to donate.

Accounts

The money I receive in donations effectively has three purposes. In order of importance those are;

  • Essential costs
    • It costs a monthly fee to my web hosting company to keep running this website, as well as an annual fee to renew the domain. I can’t run Ballot Box Scotland without web space, so this is the first priority for spending donations.
  • Additional costs
    • Apart from the web hosting, pretty much everything I initially used for Ballot Box Scotland was free or already paid for. Some of those free tools aren’t perfect, or have limited functionality compared to a premium version. Donations above what is necessary for the essential costs will allow me to purchase things such as software, subscriptions and website plugins which can improve the overall quality of my work.
  • Personal
    • If I receive more money than has been spent on the Essential and Additional costs, it’ll basically be profit. I am not expecting to make much, if any, money from Ballot Box Scotland, and I don’t expect anyone to pay for the service I provide. However, it does take a lot of time and effort to run this project, so a small amount of money to spend on nice things (like chocolate to scoff during long election counts) seems reasonable!

I think it’s important to be transparent when asking people for money. As such at the end of the financial year I’ll publish some simple accounts so that you can see what your donations have been spent on.

Mid-Year Accounts

  • Q1 2019/20
    • Total Donations Received: £507.20
    • Total Expenditure: £85.77
      • New Domain – £48.00
      • Web Hosting (3 Months) – £25.17
      • Voluntary Liberapay Support (~2.5% of quarterly donations) – £12.60
    • Net: £421.43
  • Q2 2019/20
    • Total Donations Received: £219.61
    • Total Expenditure: £360.91
      • Web Hosting (3 Months) – £25.17
      • Payment in kind for forthcoming design work – £45.25
      • New Laptop (half cost – essential but not exclusively for BBS) – £285.00
      • Voluntary Liberapay Support (~2.5% of quarterly donations) – £5.49
    • Net: -£141.30

If you have any other questions about donations, please just get in touch.