Options for next step for new approach to crowdmatching

This is in relation to what we’ve discussed recently on team and coworking meetings.

For background, especially for anyone who hasn’t been involved in those discussions, here are two earlier things I drafted:

And here is the new thing specifically about options for next steps:

I’m posting this here mainly so I can refer to it in the meeting today and ask people to look at it. I’m envisaging that we’ll discuss it mostly in meetings, but comments here are welcome too, especially from anyone who can’t attend meetings.

5 Appreciations

Relevant notes from a coworking meeting before (though not the most recent discussion of this topic): https://wiki.snowdrift.coop/resources/meetings/2020/2020-08-28-crowdmatching-update-proposal

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I’m convinced about the superiority of having a funding goal over a crowd-size goal as the core mechanism. I also appreciate the way that we can nevertheless emphasize crowd and crowd-size as the means to the funding goal. We can emphasize the matching of other patrons as opposed to the matching of abstract dollars.

I also think the proposal here is nicely just one simple step beyond the matching everyone knows from common fundraisers. We’re simply saying that everyone together becomes the matching offer instead of needing to rely on a single wealthy institution or philanthropist to provide matching. And we’re putting matching in ongoing sustaining context. This makes it an accessible iteration to what’s already familiar.

On changing the goal level:

  • Given allowing projects to change their goal, we must have it be opt-in for patrons to reset their max to go with the goal, otherwise it should scale down
    • Example: I pledge $100 max for a $10k goal (willingness to be 1% of the goal). If the goal changes to $1,000, I should be set to the same portion so down to just $10. A message can be sent inviting me to opt-in to keeping my $100 max or to choosing a new pledge amount (maybe I am willing to go with $20).
    • If the goal is raised, I can stay at the same max but then be invited to consider raising my max as well.
    • In no case should goal changing give the project more matching out of the existing patrons without an explicit opt-in.

Eventual per-project flexibility choices?

Although I think it could be too flexible early-on, I could see long-term giving projects some choices of how flexible to be. So, we could end up with projects choosing options 1, 2, or 3 for themselves. Some project wants all patrons the same. Another is okay with some options but a cap. Another is okay with no cap on patron max.

Decision process: map then step forward

Overall, I think this whole direction is just excellent. I want to get to where we have consensus on the path forward. I think we want the whole problem space mapped and to do problem testing to understand where any particular options may have problems. But with that map complete, we should only make decisions in small iterations for actual implementation.

We should not commit to a long-term plan. We should be ready to adapt to real-world testing and feedback. The map will let us reject bad directions and to be wary of pitfalls. But we can leave open any long-term direction for which we try and fail to identify any real problems.

How can we best come to agreement about how much more we need to map out in order to make the first forward steps in this direction?

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@team reminder to read this by Wednesday’s meeting, if you haven’t already

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  • I agree that the framing should be “matching the crowd['s total pledge]”, rather than matching each individual patron.[1]

  • I think multiple goals / changing goals should be considered out of scope for the moment due to their added complexity. When we get to them, it’s okay to revise whatever decision we make now.

  • For the immediate goal of bringing on a single outside project, there is already “per-project flexibility” — they can help us decide which version to hard-code for this iteration :slight_smile:

[1]: I think there’s a really nice pitch in here:

  • Traditionally, a wealthy individual will say, “I’ll match people’s donations (1:1), up to $10 000”.
  • This is good for both the people and the wealthy individual.
    • People get their donations doubled
    • The wealthy individual also gets their donation doubled and they only have to give in proportion to the progress towards their goal: if nobody else donates, they’re not on the hook for funding the thing alone.
  • But wait: Say I donate $100, but I’m the only one who donates. The wealthy individual only has to match my $100 — 1% of their maximum — but I still have to give the full $100, my maximum.
    Why should the benefit of proportional giving be granted only to the wealthy individual?
  • With crowdmatching, we all play the role of the wealthy individual together.
    • A crowdmatching pledge is basically saying, “I’ll cover $my_max of the $10 000”.
    • You can re-frame the wealthy person’s pledge in crowdmatching terms: “I pledge $10k when the project reaches a $20k goal”
      • Observation: under our system, with the current proposal, this would have the wealthy person giving $5k even if nobody else joined, since the project is halfway to their goal. It would work more traditionally if the formula for calculating my donation were: my_max * ( sum(others'_donations) / (goal - my_max) )
2 Appreciations

Just for reference I point to my proposal here, too.

I like this summary of options.

I have some remarks, so i add my own proposal:

  1. Giving patrons more options, without depending too much on any one patron

    Same as #1 except:

  • we define defaults for options e.g. $1, $2, $5, $10, $__, projects can change them (i think in most cases our defaults should lead to best results and they should only get changed for good reasons. maybe not at all)
  • max % per patron is set by us globally since we want funding to be independent and sustainable. maybe 10% but not more than 100$ (?)
  • Patrons can change their max anytime (but there’s a short window of time before a crowdmatch (1 week?) when any changes won’t take effect until after that crowdmatch has happened).

We should only have one crowdmatching mechanism. More would confuse anyone. Projects should not have the option to choose a worse option.

I think the idea of a Phase 2 goal is also too complex and don’t lead to better results. When projects reach their goal, they just update it.

1 Appreciation

Add another proposal (8?) which I don’t love but which I think is viable and simple and worth reviewing to fully understand the problem space:

  • Projects set both the crowdsize and a single patron-max (and thus the dollar goal)
  • Patrons simply pledge or not
  • We could limit the ranges available for these

This is identical to our current live model with a single match-factor, except it simply replaces the per-patron budget cap with a project-goal budget-cap.

This proposal could still have the features with additional stretch goal(s) which could have their own different numbers (different match factor).

Incidentally, by linking crowdsize and money goal together, this can be framed as money-goal or crowdsize-goal, whereas the other approaches can only be one or the other (or at least require vague ranges of crowdsize, such as saying “we’ll hit our money goal with a crowdsize between X and Y”).

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I don’t think we need a crowdsize-goal for people to feel as part of a crowd. I think that is already the case on Patreon and Kickstarter.

Screenshot from 2020-09-30 23-43-27

Source: https://www.patreon.com/olivevideoeditor

There you see how big the crowd is and how much money the project gets. Both is important.

And i think in the end, our project is about funding the commons, not collecting a crowd for whatever reason. It’s about money. Making that clear by showing a money-goal is simply transparent.

Our first priority is funding (getting money to projects), our second is how we do funding. We are only different from e.g. Patreon or Kickstarter in how we do it, the goal is the same.

We can still use framing in the presentation like “Join the crowd (of people who contribute money)” instead of “Throw your money in”.

Maybe one nice visual would be actually showing the people. Having drawn images of crowds of standing people with 10, 50, 100, 500, 1000, … so you really get a feeling for it.


We could generate those images from e.g. 10 drawn characters chosen randomly. A funny gadget would be that any patron can choose their character in the profile and they see themselves highlighted in the crowd and see the chosen characters of the others. Like those avatar pictures, but as an actual crowd.

We as snowdrift can hire an artist do create characters that people would like to have…

But i would like them very small and with few detail.

Or we have some detail, but it’s generated from a neural net from photos people upload is a style like this. Wo can go completely crazy with this and it might become the thing snowdrift will be popular for.


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Alignment so far

In meeting today, we all agreed to this basic direction:

projects set goal(s), patrons pledge what they will contribute at that goal, and then each month’s donations will be proportional to the percentage of the goal the crowd has reached

(This does not say whether the goal or % is based on $ or patrons or any other details).

Next steps

In further discussion, we should identify any other principles that we have complete alignment on (meaning everyone has an unqualified whole body yes to going in this direction, but not meaning that we can never change our minds).

We should make a static file (wiki page for updated-mechanism?) where we collect the precise agreed-upon specs.

For anything without full alignment, we’ll continue discussing concerns and questions etc. I suggest we make a running list. Examples: patron-goal vs crowdsize-goal, and capping-the-percentage-of-a-goal-one-patron-may-pledge.

Further alignment?

I suspect we will find alignment that:

  • projects may change their goals (at all, not sure whether we’ll set constraints)
  • pledges should scale down with any reduced goals so that reducing goals does not automatically get projects more money from patrons
  • pledges should remain the same (not scaled up) for any increase in project goals
  • any goal change will be announced to patrons with a prompt for them to consider adjusting their pledges in light of the change
    • particularly with an invitation to opt-in to their original pledge for scaled-down goals

Any concerns at all about these specs?

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I am aligned with the four bullet points except for the one about scaling up. I agree that it should not increase, but I can see an argument for the pledge decreasing, at least in the amount taken out each month.

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If the goal increases, then my unchanged pledge will result in me donating less already.

So, I’m donating $1 of my $10 pledge when project is getting $1000 of $10,000 goal. But if they raise the goal to $100,000 and I keep my $10 pledge, I’m already down to giving only 10 cents, unless somehow the 10-fold higher goal suddenly also brought in 10-fold increase in pledges from others.

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Kay, just wanted to clarify that’s what you meant. Then yes, I am aligned with all of those.

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pledges should scale down with any reduced goals so that reducing goals does not automatically get projects more money from patrons

ok, let’s see what that means in practice.

let’s assume your project has 100 patrons which contribute 1$ each and your goal is 10.000$. you will get nearly nothing. wouldn’t it be legitimate to adjust your goal according to the actual potential in the community? for example to 100$, so you get 100% and wait for community to grow

imagine projects adjusting it always to 100%, then we don’t have the crowdmatching effect which our whole effort is about. so we might not want that since we believe this effect will bring in more patrons. so we have to communicate to not do that and maybe not even allow it.

i want some more discussion about this

maybe we can create a mechanism where the projects goal is automatically adjusted to maximize the crowdmatching effect. let’s discuss that idea in Automatically adjusted project goal

1 Appreciation

I don’t want to lose the key point that I’m suggesting has alignment. Regardless of whether that adjustment makes sense, the principle is: When 100 patrons each say “I’m willing to contribute $1 of the $10,000 goal”, the project shall not be able to suddenly claim all the $100 by adjusting their target to $100! Because that violates the trust of the patrons who pledged to give $1 as part of the $10,000-giving crowd!

So, whatever we allow in terms of crowd size and target goals and multiple goals and whatever including your other idea… The project shall not have the ability to claim more of the patrons’ pledge than the patrons expected without an opt-in. If the patrons want to go ahead and give their full $1 to the $100 goal, they can opt-in to doing so. The principle I’m asking for alignment on is that we will not let the project-goal-change violate the basis of the matching pledge that the patrons made. The patrons must opt-in to any giving of more money at the less-matching lower-goal.

I’m not saying it’s good for the new $100 goal to have all the patrons scaled down to $0.01 pledge levels. I’m saying this is required to keep the trust of the pledge. If the goal of $100 is actually supported by the patrons, we let them choose to keep their $1 pledge, we don’t do it automatically.

2 Appreciations
  • projects may change their goals (at all, not sure whether we’ll set constraints)

As I said in the meeting, I don’t think this is necessary for the first version and I don’t think we need to address multiple or changing goals right now. However, I do think it’s a good long-term goal, and it seems like the conversation is going in that direction anyway, so I’ll pitch in.

I think a notification to patrons is equally important regardless of direction, so I disagree with the last bullet. Otherwise, I agree with the principle behind the bullets, especially as clarified in @wolftune’s most recent reply. However, I disagree with much of the phrasing.

Idea that I don't like due to no goals from projects

Patrons make a pledge like: “When the project’s (pledged) income reaches $X, I am willing to donate $Y.”

To calculate what an individual actually pays, do these calculations:

  • I pledge to donate $10 when the project reaches $20k pledged
    • By linear interpolation, this means I’ve pledged $5 at $10k.
  • You pledge to donate $10 when the project reaches $10k pledged
    • By maximum, this means your pledge is still $10 at $20k.
  • With just the two of us pledged, my current donation level is $10 * ( $15 / $10 000 )

You can basically think of this as, each patron sets their own goal for the projects. A more complicated version would be: allow patrons to set multiple different goals per project:


I do think some version of this could work (and indeed, the multiple levels thoughts that I’ve repeatedly alluded to are one form of this, where patrons cannot pick arbitrary targets for themselves).

Why share that idea at all? Because it’s the fewest-restrictions (not simplest!) version of how multiple or changing goals can interact:

  • Project sets a goal, $X. I pledge $Y towards that goal.
  • Project lowers goal to $X/2
    • I agree, my pledge MUST automatically “adjust” down to $Y/2
  • Project raises their goal back to $X
    • I don’t want to rule out the possibility that my goal could automatically “adjust” back up to $Y.

I’m putting “adjust” in quotes because you don’t need to change anything about my pledge. It would be adjusting (raising) my pledge if it were changed to “I’ll give $Y when the project reaches $X/2”. But you could also just look at it as keeping my pledge the same, and just adding a cap based on If I pledged to give $Y at $X, and the project wants to cap my actual donation at half that, so be it, but this doesn’t need to change my pledge.

I can distill down the remaining parts of the bullets that I agree with to these (last is unchanged):

  • We should never raise a patron’s “pledge rate” without their consent (or allow a project to do so).
  • Ideally, we would also not lower their rate without consent, either.
  • Any goal change will be announced to patrons with a prompt for them to consider adjusting their pledges/rate in light of the change

They don’t have a public goods focus or requirement. I would say our goal is similar, but not the same.

I can’t imagine reaching out to our first real projects and saying that they are supposed to choose a goal but when they say, “can we ever change the goal?” we say either “no” or “we haven’t decided whether that will be possible.” The answer has to be some version of “yes” or “yes, but the feature is still getting finished, but definitely planned.”

I can’t see launching absent a clear understanding that goals will be changeable. And then we have to have answers about at least the potential details for how that would work.

I like this as a model to think about. I agree that it’s too open-ended, too many things to set for the patron, too much cognitive work.

Updated principle bullets

Adjusting the wording further and adding back a version of the first bullet:

  • We will (at least post-beta) have some way for projects to adjust their goal(s)
    • Not yet specifying the options. It could be adding stretch goals or inserting new early-starting-goal (so the initial goal is now the stretch) or a simple change to the one goal number or what other options
  • The mechanism should never raise a patron’s match-rate or budget-max without their consent
  • Any goal change will be announced to patrons with a prompt for them to consider adjusting their pledges/rate in light of the change

Do we have alignment on these?

  • Fully-aligned, whole-body yes
  • Not yet

0 voters

3 Appreciations

@wolftune what do you mean with match-rate here? the situation where a project set a lower goal and the patron would pay more % of their pledge?

i’m still not sure if that isn’t a legitimate move from a project when they realize they will not reach the ambitious goal

Yes, that’s what I mean. And yes, the move is perfectly legitimate. But it must have the patrons’ consent!

So, it’s fine potentially for a project to say “we were too ambitious with even our first goal, we are adjusting down to something more realistic” and asking patrons to thus give more of their percentage, i.e. keep their max the same even for the lower goal. But the mechanism shall not make this change without the patrons consenting to continuing in that way. The patrons pledged for the higher goal. We will not violate their trust by changing the goal on them and automatically taking more of their money without reaching the goal they had pledged for. We must ask them to accept or adjust their pledge for the new lowered-goal.

2 Appreciations

Thanks for the clarification.

I’m not sure if most patrons care that much and would really see that as violating their trust and i fear that many would not care to think about it and not change it. Result is that the project don’t get much funding because our system requires too much effort from patrons.

On Patreon, you just choose how much to contribute and that’s it.

But i see your point and we can start that way and see if it is a problem in practice.