LE22 Crowdfunder

I’m very excited today to take the next step in Ballot Box Scotland’s growth as the premier source of (amateur) polling and election coverage in Scotland, launching a dedicated crowdfunder to support an expansion in coverage ahead of May’s local elections. I’m aiming to raise £5,000 by mid-January to support some exciting new things. If you can afford to donate, any amount would be greatly appreciated.

As ever, I am deeply thankful to everyone who has financially supported BBS already. If you’ve already donated and don’t feel able to do so again, that’s absolutely fine! Likewise, if you’d love to donate but money is tight, please, please do not spend any of it on me – just give the fundraiser a bit of a boost with retweets instead.

But what will £5,000 pay for? Well, the answer is mostly “a poll”, but here’s the detail…

Commissioned Polling (approx £3,000)

Readers may be aware that I had intended on commissioning some polling ahead of this year’s Holyrood election. I’d even gone out to a firm for a quote last year. Unfortunately, the pandemic led to me abandoning that idea – partly because I was too exhausted to do something that new and exciting, and partly because of the squeeze on people’s incomes in general.

I now feel in a much better position to actually move forward with a poll ahead of this election. If the crowdfunder is successful, I will commission a reputable, British Polling Council member agency (likely Survation, who provided last year’s quote) to conduct a poll including:

  • Local Election first preference party voting intention (including generic Independent option)
  • Local Election second preference party voting intention (including generic Independent option)
  • Holyrood voting intention
  • Westminster voting intention
  • Independence voting intention
  • Whether voters would support Proportional Representation for Westminster elections
  • How well voters understand Scotland’s three different voting systems
  • Whether voters would prefer to use a single voting system for all kinds of election

Polls of local election voting intention are quite rare – though we’ve already had one at this point – so I’m hoping to find some interesting things from that. I’ll need to check it over with the polling firm, but I’m also keen to try and ensure it specifically includes “Independent” as a headline prompt, rather than funnelling everyone into parties. The other questions relate to BBS’ longstanding interest in voting systems, and I think it’ll be useful to have some data on just what voters think about Scotland’s rather unique “a different voting system for every election” situation.

I know that some other crowdfunded polls combine standard voting intention questions with broader issue polling. I have no intention of asking about anything outside the usual BBS topics, either in this poll or any future polling that I may commission. BBS-funded polls will be limited to voting intention, electoral systems or reform, and (possibly, in future) local government reform.

Local Situation Reports (approx £1,300)

Although Ballot Box Scotland provides comprehensive coverage of election results and all the juicy numerical data, it’s not possible for a one-man operation to provide detail on the specific local issues in all 32 local councils in Scotland. That kind of information is best provided by people on the ground. I’ll therefore be taking submission of a series of Local Situation Reports, one per local council.

This will of course be paid work, at £40 per article. Based on the length of article and my own experience having written for some local papers ahead of GE19, I’m hoping that should be fair compensation for two to four hours work. Authors will retain ownership of their article, for example if they wish to offer it to a local newspaper. The only condition of re-use elsewhere will be to allow a short period of exclusivity and to state that it was originally written for BBS.

At the risk of sounding big-headed, BBS is increasingly prominent and pretty well-respected. It’s got a pretty wide following across journalists, politicians, and the third sector. So this is a bit of an opportunity for young writers to get something out there to a wider audience. I’d also like to be very clear that this aims to encourage the engagement of young people in politics. This series won’t be a replacement for in-depth coverage provided by experienced journalists in your local paper.

Further details of this scheme will be available if fundraising is successful. I’m likely to in the first instance go via University and College journalism departments, with wider applications opening if necessary.

Count Day Volunteers (approx £300)

There are 353 wards in Scotland, so there’s no way a single person could cover results from them all over the course of the count day. I’ll be looking for some volunteers to support coverage of the results as they come in. I’ve bundled neighbouring councils together into groups, which are relatively but not entirely evenly sized:

  • Glasgow and Dunbartonshire – 36 wards
  • Edinburgh and Lothians  – 38
  • Grampian – 40
  • Lanarkshire – 41
  • Ayrshire – 24
  • Highlands and the Islands – 45
  • Tayside – 28
  • Forth and Fife – 43
  • Renfrewshire, Argyll & Bute – 35
  • Dumfries & Galloway and the Borders – 23

I’m looking for nine volunteers, as I’ll be doing the Glasgow and Dunbartonshire group myself, allowing my to cover both my home city and the area I was born and grew up in. Volunteers will be offered a flat payment of £30 for their assistance – this isn’t reflective of any time expectations, it’s basically just a token for folk who will be spending all day glued to Twitter for results anyway.

What about Liberapay Donations?

Donations received so far via the Liberapay platform have basically done two things – covered the general operating costs of Ballot Box Scotland and acted as an important income supplement for me. Long time BBS followers will be aware that I was unemployed for quite a long time. I have now been in a job I enjoy very much for over a year, but it’s starting out on a new career, with the level of pay that entails. The income I get from all my hard work on BBS helps to cover my rent, effectively.

Regardless, I absolutely do not expect people who are already contributing via Liberapay to put their hands in their pockets again for this separate crowdfunder. Donations to BBS are never taken for granted, and are very welcome regardless of amount. From next year I’ll work out a specific figure for a reasonable take in terms of income supplement from my BBS income, versus re-investment back into major items like commissioned polls, and therefore how much future crowdfunders may need to be.

For the moment however, I can confirm any donations received via Liberapay for the duration of the crowdfunder will be manually added to the GoFundMe total.

What About Excess Funds?

I’m absolutely not expecting to exceed the £5,000 goal! If that somehow does happen, that money will be specifically earmarked for future commissioned polling. If, somehow, the fundraiser was to be so spectacularly successful as to fund two polls, I would commission two polls during the campaign.

Please also be aware that although the quoted costs here don’t sum up to £5000, that’s because I’m leaving a few hundred pounds of wiggle room to cover platform fees, which are £0.25 per donation, plus 2.9% of the donation. If you were to donate £10 for example, the fee would be £0.54 and I’d receive £9.46.