Would I hypothetically limit funding?

I’ve become slightly addicted to podcasts and Substack. As I ponder funding them, of course my mind turns to crowdmatching (in theory). But stepping through the process I worry my behavior would somehow limit funding. Here’s how I see it:

The primary appeal for crowdmatching (for me) is that I can’t possibly pay everyone a full subscription fee. Crowdmatching seems like a reasonable way to allocate group funding.

So I budget $10 per month, and pick whichever podcasters and bloggers release some FLO content. If I find someone new, I add them, if I stop finding something useful/entertaining I drop them.

Initially this works out well for me, because I will never pay $10 in a given month unless lots of people agree with some subset of my picks. (As a patron/philanthropist this is a failure, though, because my objective is to give this small sum of money away. Perhaps this can be reasoned through by saying that crowdmatching ensures I give effectively.)

But now consider crowdmatching is taking off. Ignoring the fine details, there must reach a point where my budget limits how much I give to any particular project. But that imposes a limit on the rest of the crowd?

Is the solution that either the project must get more popular, or is it that if the other members of the crowd have a bigger budget, I drop out of that crowd?

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Thanks for the thoughts, and welcome!

I just did a quick rough update to this outdated article Snowdrift Wiki - Limits to Pledge Amounts but it still clarifies some of these points. I need to get around to rewriting the wiki articles in light of changes we’ve made in how crowdmatching should work. (Changing from system-wide budget to the idea of pledging that you’ll chip in a particular portion of each project’s target goal).

The core point is this: How much do blog writers and podcasters really need? Some projects are hugely expensive (sending multiple investigators into the field around the world to record thousands of hours of material and editing it down with added music scoring and on and on). Some are near-zero by comparison (an unedited chat with guests just sharing their views on something).

If the projects you care about are doing fine enough and need no further support, then it doesn’t really matter if you drop or are just giving small amounts. It just needs to be a sustaining basic level overall from the crowd. If you see potential for much better work and really care about the results, then you might understand (given seeing progress over time and stated project goals) that increasing your budget is going to be worth the results, along with promoting the project to others, inviting more people to join the crowd.

Each of us have some practical limit to our resources, but it is not likely specifically $10 or something. I would give my life savings if it was near-guaranteed to result in dramatic changes to all the problems in the world that I care about… Figuring out budgets and pledge levels is a dynamic question for crowds to navigate together along with projects. It’s not something for individuals to necessarily just set as an isolated decision. In fact, I think in all such things, our decisions about how we budget for anything are largely influenced by social norms…

This is a conundrum in part because these publishers have chosen relatively arbitrary “full fee” levels based on just guessing what will work out. If they could get 10 times the subscribers at 1/4 the fee, they’d do that. How do they know how to set their “full fee”? It’s almost always just kinda seeing what others are doing and saying, “I guess this is about right”. It’s also true that our payment systems in the world don’t manage well with large quantities of small donations. That’s a challenge we need to deal with which we wish someone else had more fully fixed (we have enough to worry about without trying to fix that whole issue too). In practice, a centralized platform has ways to combine charges, and that’s a workaround we are stuck with today.

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Thanks for the detailed reponse. Your point on sustainability is well-taken. I think this is the change that I missed since I last checked in on the project:

We since shifted to a method where each pledge was up to a set amount per-project per-patron.

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Yes, the change to budgets is much better, and also we have not gotten around to clearly explaining it or setting it up for the updated working of the beta site we still hope to get out there when we get operating. Just the matter of us ourselves as unfunded volunteer team…

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I read an interesting piece on that in a blog post by Paul Graham:

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