Phew! What a rollercoaster of a year. I really don’t know where to start. As a quick recap, last time I wrote numbers were positive and we launched a new strategy we called Fiscal Sponsorship as a service to respond to COVID-19 Relief needs. Lots of updates there but before that, a personal note…
2020 has been a difficult year in more ways than we could think of! It was particularly challenging for me since I had to take over Open Collective on my own, with Xavier moving on to other projects. It took me some time to find my stride and that was a big part of the reason I couldn’t write more frequent updates. It was scary for me to face the financial challenges we had and still do.
Lucky for me, we have brilliant investors (Roy Bahat helped me find an executive coach that helped me build up confidence in myself) and an amazing team committed to our mission that helped usher the next chapter of the company.
The team has been super responsive, navigating the stress of a pandemic and showing up for our community in a big way. Together we (all detailed below)
- we expanded our 0% platform fees offer
- designed and released a new product: Funds
- redesigned and shipped core flows of our platform (expense flow, contribution flow and host dashboard),
- responded to a very public request from our community to manage the spiking spam and scammers,
- and we built a new metrics dashboard that helps us stay on top of our metrics on a daily basis. This was crucial for me to better understand the state of our finances and hone in on our strategy.
Very importantly, together we broke even in August for the first time since we started. Total revenue in August was 55k and we spent 53k. Imagine how many stickers we can print with that! :D Seriously though, this was driven by the first installment of a large Fund we are now supporting, so it’s not from monthly recurring contributions but it still feels so good and we do have more installments like that coming up this and the following months.
July and August have been turning point months for us, explained by a growth in the Fiscal Sponsorship as a service offer to Funds and COVID-Relief collectives. Remember, we had a 0 platform fee for these groups until the end of June. (The drop you see is just the first week of September)
Revenue broken by source: Pink is platform fee (automatically taken), yellow is fees on top (see link), orange are invoices for specific support / features built for our own hosts and green are third party host plans.
No Platform fee
In March we decided to go 0% platform fee (from 5% of every transaction) to do our share to support pandemic relief groups. This gave us the opportunity to experiment with giving the donors the opportunity to add money to pay the fees (instead of taking it from their donation directly). We've been hesitant to experiment with this before, but the COVID relief offer gave as a free experiment card and we took it.
Results were impressive! The average contribution to the platform from all transactions with no platform fee was now 8% at its lowest and 11% (more than double!) at the top. We’ve expanded 0 platform fees to all Collectives and Funds under the Open Collective Foundation and are testing it for other charitable hosts.
Eric Ries reached out about a need he had of having a Fiscal Sponsorship service done easy. A way for high budget initiatives to quickly set up a fund in a 501(c)(3) that wasn’t a complete pain to deal with. In response we launched Funds as a separate product from the Open Collective Foundation. Funds is essentially a scaled back collective less focused on social features like crowdfunding and more focused on managing receiving and disbursing large checks with minimal hassle.
Funds have a grant-making feature built in, it has the option of showing or not current budget and disbursements and it has the option of creating projects to allocate budget to them.
This feature has been instrumental to offering larger donors and initiatives a streamlined fiscal sponsorship services!
Creating Funds also showed us a path forward with companies investing in Open Source Sustainability. Google's Open Source CMS Fund is a great example. Instead of it being an unseen feature in their settings for disbursements to our collectives only, it’s now a public facing fund which enables us to better handle taking out our fees and we can disburse money towards external organizations (not just the ones on our platform) I believe there’s a clear path for Open Collective + Open Source Collective to become the default fund management set-up for FOSS Contribution Funds.
We’ve updated our expense flow to make it more intuitive and practical and we are shipping a new contribution flow to lower as much as possible the friction of contributing. We’ve also updated our host dashboard to help the admin teams of the Fiscal Hosts manage the growing volume of transactions.
Two weeks ago, we had one of those weekends… Twitter threads popping up everywhere about scammers and spammers on the platform (scaling pains sure, but still painful). We knew we had avoided this issue long enough and we had to step up. Kate - from our Engineering Team took this on, reached out to community members and put together a moderation proposal and concrete next steps to alleviate this problem. It is now a Q3 priority.
How can you help?
- Support some of our Collectives and Funds:
Meals of Gratitude
Find your local Mutual Aid Group
Black Parent Entrepreneurs (blogpost)
Washington State 3D Printed Masks/Shields
Open Source Projects
- Share our Fiscal Sponsorship Made Easy website
- Get your portfolio companies to talk to me about creating a FOSS Contributor Fund with us.
That’s all for now, I appreciate the support and the belief in our mission. Thank you for joining us in this adventure!