Help OPG Put Every Penny to Work for Internet Freedom

This is far from the only request for support you’re receiving at this time of year. But there are two things that make this appeal from Online Policy Group (and its QueerNet Project) special. One: no other beneficiary is as effective at putting every penny you give to work for its services, not for overhead. And two: over the years, the way people use our services has changed in a way that makes a new and special appeal necessary for us to continue.

(NOTE: This will be a long message. Cutting to the chase: scroll toward the bottom of this message and make a contribution, or even better, sign up for a monthly donation.)

OPG employs no paid staff; every penny we raise goes toward the bills we pay to provide services and the equipment we use to run them. OK, one exception: the insurance we are required to carry as a business. And our services are supported solely by donations – no one is billed for the non-profit services we provide, and no one is turned away for lack of funds.

Here’s an accounting of our expenditures so far in 2017:

EXPENSE
$/month
PURPOSE
IO Cooperative - main server
125
power, net, rack space in CA
IO Cooperative - DNS host  38
virtual server in MN (so DNS works even if main server down)
RackSpace Jungle Disk  36
online encrypted cloud backup of email, lists, websites
Bank   3
fee for check processing
Tucows/OpenSRS 103
domain registrations and renewals



TOTAL
305
ANNUAL OPERATING EXPENSES: $3,660

We also had two additional expenses: equipment, including a replacement disk driver and the new server we are planning to put online in January ($6,217), which is a one-time cost, and our annual insurance ($815).

Our total expenses for the year were $10,686, including the purchase of our new server. But our total income was $9,064, requiring us to spend the majority of our savings to cover the gap.

Even worse, if you take the server purchase and the funding campaign for it out of the picture and focus on operating expenses and donations, our income was only $1,662 – or an operating deficit of $2,813.

…which brings us to why we have a special need at this time. The numbers speak for themselves: we cannot continue to go on with this expense rate and this donation rate.

When I started QueerNet (in 1991!) and we joined OPG to provide hosting services to a broader base (in 2001), we offered primarily discussion and announcement lists to individuals. We had a direct relationship as a service provider to over a hundred thousand users. Their one-time annual donations were significant. But the most consistent funding base was those people who registered for recurring monthly donations. Some gave $5 per month, and others more. These contributions gave us a predictable base.

As many discussion and announcement forums have migrated to bigger services – first Yahoo and Google Groups, and more recently, Facebook and Google+ – more of our work has been directed to organizations and projects, not only for list hosting, but for email, websites, and domains. We still have directly-hosted lists, but nowhere near as many as in the pre-Facebook era. So our appeals go to direct users but also to organizations, some of whom pass the ask along to their users, some others of whom donate at the organization level. But they have their own funding needs too, of course.

These groups and users come to OPG for the same reasons as ever: hosting services from a provider that will stand up for your speech and access rights, and won’t cave to discriminatory or inappropriate censorship requests. We offer the same protection as we did to the Swarthmore students who went public with the vulnerabilities of Diebold electronic voting machines in 2003 – going to court and winning. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Online_Policy_Group_v._Diebold,_Inc.)

If you look at the numbers again, it’s clear that we need somewhere in the neighborhood of $4500 to provide continued services through 2018. (The increase reflects the power cost our new, much more powerful server – which should eliminate nearly all of the downtime that plagued us this year.)

WHAT DO YOUR DONATIONS MAKE POSSIBLE?

Looking forward, with the somewhat increased costs we expect for our much more powerful hardware:

  • $15 pays for a year of domain registration for a worthy project we host.
  • $35 pays for one month of daily backups for our websites, email, lists, and databases.
  • $60, or a recurring gift of $5 per month, pays for all of the network (IP) addresses used for our services.
  • $75 pays for our master DNS server to be maintained halfway across the country – so clients with other services outside our data center won’t lose access to them if we or our upstream provider have a serious interruption.
  • $210, or a recurring gift of $17.50 per month, pays the data center costs for our servers for two months.
  • $840, or a recurring gift of $70 per month, pays our insurance for the year.
  • $1,260, or a recurring gift of $105 per month, pays the data center costs for our servers for the full year.

And, of course, any amount you can give helps us meet our costs and continue to provide services both free of charge and free of censorship.

If you want to make a ONE-TIME donation to help us reach this goal, you can either give to our new GoFundMe campaign at https://www.gofundme.com/keep-opgqueernet-running-in-2018 or follow the one-time donation directions at http://www.onlinepolicy.org/donate

But being able to predict our available funds on an ongoing basis is very valuable to us, so if you can give a MONTHLY RECURRING DONATION, please sign up at http://www.onlinepolicy.org/donate

(The posted goal for the GoFundMe campaign is set at $5,000 to assure that we can cover fees assessed by GoFundMe. No fees are charged if you make your donation directly to us by check at the address listed at the web page linked above.)

Please give what you can to keep our services running through the upcoming year, with more consistent uptime, updated services… and the knowledge that your gift is being spent entirely on delivering open and free services – especially in the age when net neutrality is threatened.

For OPG:
Roger B.A. Klorese
Stardust Doherty

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