Funding and donations

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Syzop
UnrealIRCd head coder
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Funding and donations

Post by Syzop »

Hi everyone, I was wondering if the community has any suggestions on how we can get more donations/funding. Last year UnrealIRCd received 40 EUR in donations, which was the lowest figure ever.

Current situation and costs
I already spend hundreds of hours per year and do about 80%-90% of the UnrealIRCd coding. In other areas it is much more a community effort with a lot more people doing support, documentation, testing. I myself am mostly OK with doing all the coding work for free, been doing that for 20 years now. What I am less happy about is that I am also the one paying all the (hosting) costs at the moment.

The hosting costs are around 1500 EUR per year for all websites. However, recently the Central Blocklist was launched to defend against large scale IRC-wide floods. Although only a couple of dozens of networks use it, is seems a success as such activity has been ceased since we launched it. However, this adds another extra 1500 EUR in hosting costs per year. Now, those latter costs could probably be reduced at the cost of giving up redundancy, but even then the overall hosting costs are likely to stay at 2000-2500 EUR per year in total. I'm not sure if there is much that can be done about that. We host at major providers such as Amazon and Microsoft Azure. I have moved hosting in the past to other providers and each time they nullrouted or closed our account. Maybe this comes to a surprise to others but UnrealIRCd is a DDoS victim for decades already, we just don't talk about it openly because we don't want to give those guys any attention, but it is something we have to deal with. Similarly, we have used donated machines in the past, but they had similar attacks or had other trouble like the hosting being cut off without any prior warning. Recently we got CloudFlare protection, including a free upgrade to the Pro variant, which is great, but still... It is good to keep the infra at major providers to keep things well protected and flexible. Also, some infra is directly exposed such as the IRC servers. So, long story short, I think we are kinda stuck with such hosting costs and we would need those funded.

Again, I think the present situation is not really healthy where I have to personally pay the couple of thousands a year for hosting. It is not something that requires an immediate fix next week, but also not something that should keep going on for many months or another year, which is why I hope to get this conversation started.

How can we get more funding?
I have looked at starting a foundation, like becoming an official non-profit organization, but.. that involves a lot of paperwork and costs, not just one off but also yearly. Every time I look at this it's not really worth the hassle. It comes with some benefits, but we don't really have an income stream to compensate (quite the opposite in fact), it seems a lot of trouble for.. not much... and mostly a waste / overhead.

At the moment we only have a PayPal button at https://www.unrealircd.org/index/donations. We could of course, increase visibility of that to more places, but.... is PayPal really a good platform? It seems mostly tailored to one-off donations, people donate 10 EUR and then move on, which is nice but it doesn't really help much in the big scheme of things. I'm personally not good at PR or asking for money. I know InspIRCd was funded in the past by IRC.com and more recently by IRCCloud, but we don't have any such deals.

Should we diversify to other areas / donation platforms, and if so, which? Should we do more with monthly sponsorships, like Patreon? It would be nice to have monthly sponsors, even if it is only 5 EUR or 10 EUR per month.. at least that covers costs in a more long-term fashion. But then, is there something we can offer the people sponsoring us in return? And should we diversify to lots of platforms or should we only pick a couple and concentrate on those? Ideas are welcome on all these things and things I fail to mention.

There are more than thousand networks running UnrealIRCd. I hope we can find some way to get at least the costs covered.
rafaelgrether
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Re: Funding and donations

Post by rafaelgrether »

Hi Syzop

First of all, thank you for exposing the situation. Would you be surprised if I told you that I wasn't aware of this amount of costs? And most people probably don't know either.

I would change the DONATE section at https://www.unrealircd.org/docs/Contributing
"Not donating is totally fine!" gives the impression that the project doesn't need money. But the cost of servers is very high, and explaining this cost in this DONATE section would be interesting.
Maybe "It's absolutely fine if you can't afford to do it. But if you can, we would really appreciate it, as the server costs to maintain "this and this and this" are very HIGH."

PayPal is a good platform, and I don't believe switching to another will have any effect.

Monthly donations I believe would be interesting.

I might suggest creating an UnrealIRCD Foundation, separate or not from unrealircd.org, for the purpose of raising funds to cover the costs.

What can be done to raise more funds? Patrick Volkerding (from Slackware) a few years ago opened an online store selling slackware mugs, slackware t-shirts; and he raised significant funds. Opening an online store selling mugs with the UnrealIRCd logo, t-shirts from UnrealIRCd...maybe worth considering.

Is there something we can offer the people sponsoring us in return?
FreeBSD Foundation (https://freebsdfoundation.org/donate/) offers a "Proud Donor" seal for donors to place on their websites. A "Proud Donor to the UnrealIRCd foundation" badge might be interesting too.

Creating a separation of one-off donors and monthly donors on the website (https://www.unrealircd.org/index/donations) and stamps for each of them (to place on their websites) could be an attempt.
---
Rafael Grether (devnull)
Syzop
UnrealIRCd head coder
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Re: Funding and donations

Post by Syzop »

Hey Rafael, I am looking more into lowering hosting costs after suggestions from others. I think I can do better with the services that are already behind Cloudflare and I think I will sacrifice the second Central Blocklist (CBL) server. The latter will mean that it in case of trouble, the CBL could be down for a few days, or weeks if I am on vacation, but until that happens nobody will notice. Still, there will always be hosting costs, and I know they will be more than the 40 EUR that we got in donations in 2023 ;). So I appreciate how you and others focus on how to get more funding, which was the main reason of the post.

You are right, while the text at https://www.unrealircd.org/index/donations was updated the one at https://www.unrealircd.org/docs/Contributing was not. And as you rightly point out I am not only bad at asking for money, I am apparently even too good at asking NOT to donate :D. The old text was there because in the past I saw people donate (or feel guilty for not donating) who actually could not really spare the money, which I found hard to see. Also, a few years ago the hosting costs vs donations were more in line with each other.

The foundation idea, well, I already touched upon those. I really liked the idea initially but there's a lot of paperwork and not only upfront costs but also yearly costs and hassle related to running a foundation. You have similar reporting requirements as running a small company, basically. When I think it through, I don't see that working at the moment, it is paperwork, procedures, administration, costs, a hassle, for simply too little benefit.

I do like all the input and the suggestions though. Updating the donation text. PayPal. Indeed, we should get into merchandise. Providing badges and more exposure for monthly donators, I think we should do something with that. Thanks!

I hope Valware and others can chime in as well for suggestions. Even if it are things that are already mentioned, it would only reinforce that some ideas are good to pursue (and which ones are not good).
Valware
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Re: Funding and donations

Post by Valware »

Hiya! Indeed there are many ideas/things that can be done, I'm excited to see more suggestion of a merch shop. I have compiled a small list, which I will add more to at a later time, but for now my list of idea contribution is this:
  • Merch shop
    Yes, a merch shop is a great idea, as you know I'm already the proud owner of an UnrealIRCd mug (https://i.ibb.co/fYqx21H/unreal-mug.jpg), and would like to expand my collection of UnrealIRCd collectibles as a customer.
  • Online Courses
    Administration Course - Become an UnrealIRCd Professional Admin with an online course which goes into more depth about useful settings and how to configure them optimally with a tailored online course.

    Development Course - Turn your passion for coding and IRC into something truly remarkable with an online course designed to teach you everything you need to know about UnrealIRCd coding at the server level, RPC level and/or admin panel level.
  • Write/Sell a book
    Apart from official accounts, there's not much documented history about UnrealIRCd over the past few decades. I've heard some interesting stories from Syzop regarding UnrealIRC'd history, immortalising its story in a book is something I'd buy.
  • Personalised Setup
    The idea is a "professional"-grade setup, including setting up the IRCd, configuring, generating the certs and installing any modules, installing the admin panel and "fast-tracking" access to the Central-Blocklist, personalized recommendations and so on.
  • Custom Bot
    A custom bot programmed by someone at UnrealIRCd
There was talk about Patreon in particular, which is a monthly subscription tier-based donation/rewards system, so here are some ideas I had about that:
  • Meet the team
  • Module coding discount (Syzop?) or free module (Valware?)
  • Online course discount - Support channel voice
  • One-to-one support via anydesk (Valware)?
  • Invite patreon users to development meetings or give access to view development meetings
  • Allow them to feel heard and get valuable feedback One-to-one
  • Merch give-aways
  • Q&As where people can ask their in-depth questions without having to read ALL the documentation, much of which may be unrelated (to them).
  • Feature suggestions prioritized where appropriate
If any of these sounds like something you as a consumer would like, please speak up, it doesn't matter who you are, your thoughts matter. I'm talking to all of you too, long-time lurkers ;D
Got an idea for a module? Don't be shy! Come talk to me on #unreal-support
Like the support I provide? Consider supporting me with a donation.
rafaelgrether
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Sep 13, 2021 7:36 pm

Re: Funding and donations

Post by rafaelgrether »

Hey Syzop,

Another note is that the donations page (https://www.unrealircd.org/index/donations) is very large and gives the impression that many people are donating.

The point is that this donation page has donations going back many years. But those who are going to donate don't know that. People look at a page full of donor names and believe you are getting a lot of donations.

I suggest creating a donor page similar to FreeBSD (https://freebsdfoundation.org/our-donors/donors/), that is, separated by years.

2023 Donors, 2024 Donors...and a field of "Year Current Donations" and "Goal".
Something like "2023 Current Donations: $40 - Goal: $3,000".

This way, people will know how much donations UnrealIRCd is receiving that year, and will be able to make more generous contributions, and this may even encourage people who donated one year to donate another year as well to include their name on the list in several years.

And I liked Online Courses suggested by Walware, but it would take the time to prepare the course. I think the idea in principle is to increase revenue from donations without you needing to spend more time on it. But it's really something to consider in the long term.

A custom bot is a good idea Walware, I'm sure many coders would donate their time coding to help with donations. I would do this too, if I were a good programmer. =D

--
Rafael Grether (devnull)
Syzop
UnrealIRCd head coder
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Re: Funding and donations

Post by Syzop »

Great suggestions and good points from both!
CrazyCat
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Re: Funding and donations

Post by CrazyCat »

I always come in the forum, and don't look the unrealircd site. So, the donation page... never sen it.
I suggest to create a project @ https://opencollective.com/ which allows automated monthly (anonymous) donation, and advertisment about it in the forum and the build message.

I'll relay the donation message as soon as you made your choice, and I'll donate. 20 years I freely use unrealircd, peharps is it time to help you :)
Syzop
UnrealIRCd head coder
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Re: Funding and donations

Post by Syzop »

Thanks for joining in, Open Collective sounds interesting. I think if we also go with Patreon and PayPal, then it probably makes sense to have the same policy with regards to monthly backers... like the same "benefits" regardless of which platform is used... whatever these benefits may be. As Rafael pointed out, i presume at least showing some clear badge of monthly backers at the donations page or elsewhere.
Syzop
UnrealIRCd head coder
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Re: Funding and donations

Post by Syzop »

I'm back from a coding break and a vacation and looking at the various options. I looked at Open Collective, ready to create an account but then i noticed that at the end of the terms and conditions for both the open source collective and collective europe they have a clause about "Funds Received/Expenses Paid Outside Platform". It basically means that we would need to track each and every donation that is done outside opencollective (eg via paypal) in the Open Collective system. That's a significant hassle (especially if we would get all kinds of smaller donations) for something that we don't even know how useful it will be. So I don't think we will be going that road.

In general, from all that I read in this thread and what i heard privately, the lack of donations is mostly a lack of awareness and visibility thing. So that will be an important step... A) doing an overhaul on the actual donation page and B) adding more references to that page and better visibility. Also, making it as easy as possible for people to donate if they want to, so adding Patreon and adding/updating PayPal buttons. At the same time, Valware is looking at merchandise, no idea how useful that will be in terms of money but even if not significant then it will still be nice for our fans :D.
CrazyCat
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Re: Funding and donations

Post by CrazyCat »

Is https://www.patreon.com/unrealircd the real one ?
I joined it but there is only "free membership" :)
Syzop
UnrealIRCd head coder
Posts: 2112
Joined: Sat Mar 06, 2004 8:57 pm
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Re: Funding and donations

Post by Syzop »

I've created the tiers now at Patreon https://www.patreon.com/UnrealIRCd/. Of course, the same tiers apply to anyone who has monthly donations (subscription) via PayPal. It's not platform-specific.

Still thinking if/what kind of perks we should give, Valware had a list of suggestions but maybe need more community import there, especially people who actually donate. Still need to make the badges (well, not me, i'm not good at that). Still need to redo the donations page.
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