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Implemented: http://jewcer.com/miyodeya

Our current publication project is a book for the high holy days. In addition to distributing online as with our past books, we'd like to also distribute physical copies. This is an opportunity to spread torah from Mi Yodeya to (parts of) the broader Jewish community.

To do this, we need to print books. Hundreds of books.

We did some estimating and some research, and we1 believe we can print and distribute 500 copies of a 50-page book (that's similar to the haggadah supplement) for about $1500. If the book is a little longer or a little shorter, or we need fewer or more copies, this number will change, but this is a good baseline. We can do a lot of good in the Jewish world with 500 copies of a 50-page book.

We approached Stack Exchange to see if they could help us with this, and came back with the following proposal: Stack Exchange is willing to match our fundraising 2:1, up to $1000 from them, to publish this book. I can't over-emphasize how wonderful this is; Stack Exchange has pretty much stopped doing special site-specific projects like contests and convention promotions, but they're interested in helping us on this because we have a great track record.

Can we raise at least $500, quickly? I think we can.

There are at least two options that have come up in chat, and maybe more we haven't thought of. In answers to this question please propose an approach (one per answer). Please also address what would happen should we raise too little or too much money (hey, it could happen).

Please also bear in mind that whatever we do needs to be done in the next few weeks. We'll need to commit to a print run by August 13 in order to have copies in synagogues in time for Rosh Hashana.

1 The Yodeyans chatting about this project.

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    That offer is, indeed, quite awesome of SE. It should add to our motivation to make this project a success, in the paper distribution and also in the quality of the product. – Isaac Moses Jul 8 '15 at 16:30
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    Holy moly! That's awesome! – Seth J Jul 21 '15 at 18:06
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We could use a crowd-funding site to raise the money. Even if the money comes from Yodeyans, using a reputable broker gives donors some extra protections.

Jewcer is a Jewish crowd-funding site -- like Kickstarter or Indigogo, but for projects in the Jewish world specifically. All such sites take a small commission; theirs is in line with the norm. I inquired about running a small, fast project through them and they can handle this. Donors pay Jewcer (so yes you have to give them a credit-card number or similar, though you can remain anonymous to us), and Jewcer pays us.

"Us", in this case, would be one Yodeyan who will then pay the printer and shipper and any other costs. Whoever fills that role agrees to make all financial records for the project public. I'm willing to fill that role; I've been around a while, y'all have my real name, and were I to do anything shady (which I won't) I'd be putting my leadership position in this community at risk. If you want someone else, we can do that too.

I assume that no matter how we raise the money, the vast majority of it is going to come from within the Mi Yodeya community. But by having a project up on a crowd-funding site we could be pleasantly surprised; others could contribute too. One Yodeyan is thinking of approaching his local Hillel for funding; an outside funder would probably rather pay a funding site than an individual.

Some crowd-funding sites (like Kickstarter) are all-or-nothing: if a project doesn't meet its financial goal no money changes hands. Jewcer is not all-or-nothing; all donations are passed through.

If we don't raise enough money: if we're close enough to do something reasonable (make the book a few pages shorter, print a few fewer copies, etc), do that. Otherwise, I suggest issuing refunds or offering to donate to a suitable organization (TBD) with a mission similar to ours.

If we raise too much money: I propose setting the project goal a little higher than we think we need (something like $1000-1500). This gives us some flexibility but still prevents too much overage. Extra funds would be used to:

  • Print more copies, if needed. 500 was an estimate; we currently have distribution interest in about 350 copies and reason to believe this will grow.

  • Make the books nicer. Nothing extravagant here, but we could use a binding instead of staples, make the covers nicer, or maybe add a few more pages of material.

  • Send a few books to donors as a thank-you.

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    Suggestion that extra money raised goes to a fund for future Mi Yodeya publications. That could be a nice way to bootstrap a project that can deliver quality print publications into the future. – Daniel Jul 8 '15 at 17:58
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    I think that we should go with Isaac's suggestion for extra funds: donate to Hebrewbooks or Sefaria. – Scimonster Jul 8 '15 at 19:10
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    @Scimonster, I think that we should first do as much as we can of the mission at hand - printing and distributing booklets, and use donation to clean up any actual leftovers. – Isaac Moses Jul 8 '15 at 20:27
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    I agree with Isaac's suggestions for where to donate any truly extra funds (after spending what we reasonably can on the books themselves). – Monica Cellio Jul 8 '15 at 20:33
  • It's nice that Jewcer is not all-or-nothing, but when I worked for a non-profit organization as the community development manager, rule number one of community-based fundraising was set reasonable goals. It is very disheartening to organizers (not applicable here, obviously) and to donors to see a fundraiser "fail". Failing to reach a fundraising goal hurts the chances of achieving success in future fundraising efforts. – Seth J Jul 21 '15 at 18:09
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    That said, I think we now have added room for incentive to hit the target goal. Let's do this! – Seth J Jul 21 '15 at 18:10
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We could raise money from Yodeyans manually as follows:

  • Solicit pledges on Meta, with pledges to be sent by email to a person or people who can be trusted with people's personal information, e.g. the email address that goes to the mods.

  • A recipient of those emails maintains a running total, in public, of how much money has been pledged, perhaps with a list of pledge-amounts.

  • Assuming the project goes forward, pledgers are contacted and asked to send money directly to an individual who can be trusted to handle public funds, e.g. Monica Cellio, who's a mod, has been active here for a long time, and goes by her real name. This can be accomplished by mailing checks or money orders, or by Paypal or some other electronic, credit-card-based means. I think that both Google and Facebook offer ways to send people money these days.

  • Said trusted individual handles the purchasing and shares records of all money received and spent with Stack Exchange and, anonymized, with the public, for auditing.

If we raise enough pledges to, with the match, do a worthwhile-sized print run, we should move forward with asking for the donations and executing the project. If we don't, we should cancel the print run.

If we raise more than enough money in pledges, we should devote the money first to printing as many copies as we can distribute. If there's still money left over, even a few dollars thanks to actual costs just ending up a little short of estimates, I think we should send it to a worthy charity. I suggest Sefaria and/or HebrewBooks, two non-profits that provide services to the Jewish world that Mi Yodeya makes a great deal of use of.

  • Thanks for writing up this option. (I ran out of time earlier.) – Monica Cellio Jul 8 '15 at 17:37

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