BBS Commissioned Poll Fund Tracker

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 Do Donations 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.

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 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. To be honest though I’m finding that as BBS has grown, I’m spending a lot of time on it, and additional paid content would be difficult to find time for anyway!

Transparency

When Ballot Box Scotland first began taking donations, I was unemployed and had only been running this project for just over a year, in large part to fill my empty time. It was still quite small, and I didn’t expect too much support. Even from the outset I underestimated how generous people would be, but since then BBS has grown significantly in presence, reputation and support – and, happily, I’ve had a job again for a good while too! 

However much I enjoy it, BBS takes a huge amount of time and effort. Whilst I would never expect anyone to donate to support it, it does help a lot to have that work translate into income. Given the significant degree of financial support BBS has attracted in the past couple of years, I thought it was worth re-visiting my approach to how I use donations. What I use your donation for will, effectively, depend when it falls in the year and how much I’ve earned so far, plus what I have (or expect) to earn from my day job.

Up to a certain overall threshold, BBS income just flows into my general income stream, without any differentiation from my day job. Essential costs, basically webspace and domain renewal, are just paid out of that. So too are additional costs for things that are helpful but not strictly required for BBS, for example a second monitor to dual-screen – though that felt extremely necessary during the LE22 data collation, believe me! Obviously, I also have to keep a portion of this aside to pay as self-assessment tax too.

Once I’ve reached that threshold, 75% of post-tax BBS income (from all sources, not just donations) will be set aside specifically for commissioned polling. Whilst I don’t feel it’s appropriate to post my exact salary from my day job, I can safely say it would take a lot more support than BBS has had so far for me to get into the 41% tax band! I’ve also not yet made it to the point of needing to make additional National Insurance contributions. What that effectively means is that after this threshold, 52.5% of BBS income goes directly into this pot, 21% to HMRC, 9% to the Student Loans company, and the remaining 17.5% still just goes into my general income stream.

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, and how much income I have left over after that.

Mid-Year Accounts 2022/23

  •  Q1
    • Income – £2670.65
      • Donations – £2,142.68
      • Media/Panel Fees – £450.00
      • Ad Revenue – £147.26
    • Expenditure – £661.11
      • Domain Renewal – £48.00
      • Hosting Fees – £25.17
      • Equipment – £132.94
      • Media – £100.00
      • LE22 Volunteer Payments – £360.00
    • Net – £2004.54
  •  Q2
    • Income – £727.23
      • Donations – £727.23
    • Expenditure – £118.15
      • Hosting Fees – £25.17
      • Q4, Q1 & Q2 Liberapay Donation- £92.98
    • Net – £609.08

Accounts for Previous Years

2021/22

The accounts for the financial year 2021/22 are available here. Over the course of the year, the headline figures were;

  • Gross Income – £11,608.69
    • Donations (Liberapay) – £7,091.28
    • Donations (Crowdfunder) – £3,728.86
    • Other Income – £788.55
  • Expenditure – £4,160.91
  • NET INCOME – £7,447.78

Income last year once again saw a very substantial increase on the previous year. This was especially due to the Holyrood election, with over a third of ordinary donations coming in across the two count days. Further crowdfunder support later in the year allowed me to carry out the first-ever BBS commissioned poll. I cannot put into words how immensely grateful I am to everyone for their support. It’s not simply that the income from BBS reflects a “job well done”, but it actually helps to pay my rent and bills, so it makes a serious difference to my life.

2020/21

The accounts for the financial year 2020/21 are available here. Over the course of the year, the headline figures were;

  • Gross Income – £3,214.06
    • Donations – £3,122.84
    • Ad Revenue – £91.22
  • Expenditure – £311.13
  • NET INCOME – £2902.93

Income last year saw a very substantial increase on the previous year. I’m extremely grateful to the very generous people who have donated to support my work – it has made a massive difference!

2019/20

The accounts for the financial year 2019/20 are available here. Over the course of the year, the headline figures were;

  • Income – £1687.74
    • Donations – £1,525.74
    • Paid Work – £162.00
  • Expenditure – £516.97
  • NET INCOME – £1170.77

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