As the year draws to an end, I try to recount not only my blessings but also the amount of donations I’ve made towards various good causes. I always believed in reserving a substantial amount of my income for that purpose but I’ve never given it much thought, usually ending in donating the same local animal charity projects.
Recent befriended blog posters have brought this to my attention. I read a fair bit of tech posts and noticed that until now, I somehow never sponsored open source software (OSS). So my plan for this year was to increase reach by dividing and conquering.
But what is “donating”? Does this only include charity projects—and if so, is OSS a part of that? These questions sound silly without an example. I’m not a big OSS advocate. Yeah, you’ve read that right, I also like paid software. I’m a software developer myself and don’t see why you shouldn’t be able to make (good) commercial software. I bought SpamSieve and Alfred and JetBrains IDEs and so forth. In my view, by buying their software, I support those small and bigger companies.
Isn’t the same true for Kickstarter and Patreon projects? Creators that love to put out something but don’t have the financial means to do so can be sponsored. You do get something in return if they succeed: the created product—whether it’s a podcast, videos, or a tangible thing. I helped kickstart Infinity (GBC), GB Productivity Suite, Goodboy Galaxy, and so forth. In my view, by backing one of those projects, I support those startup and bigger companies.
I actually think deliberately buying to support doesn’t get enough attention. Instead of giving a monthly sum to Spotify, give it to your favorite bands instead via systems like Bandcamp. Isn’t that also supporting? If back in 2001 I bought two thousand copies of Wizardry 8, Sir-Tech Canada might not have gone bankrupt. I wish.
What I’m trying to say is this. In tech blog posts, I encounter “I’ve donated to OSS and so should you!” posts. I agree. But don’t neglect other forms of donations and support.
That said, this year, I discovered https://github.com/sponsors/ and https://opencollective.com/. GitHub is clever enough to show a list of your most dependent libraries in need for sponsoring. A few JS and Go libraries I frequently rely on were maintained by the same programmer, making the decision quite easy.
Then, I tried to think about the software and websites I daily use. Somehow, I forgot to sponsor Obsidian—on their pricing page, the button says “buy”, so there you go. It’s free, but you can “buy” it. KeePassXC is another neat tool I didn’t sponsor yet. Bigger pieces of software were purchased throughout the year. BoardGameGeek was still looking for funding—check.
Something silly but equally important: every time I encounter a “buy me a coffee”-link on a blog website I like, I donate. Bloggers are an endangered species and should be heavily encouraged to keep on writing. I’m not saying this as a blogger myself but as a reader that loves discovering what others are up to and struggling with.
Admittedly, I hesitated to sponsor the Mozilla Foundation and the Wikimedia Foundation. But I did it anyway. I’d rather opt for smaller ones. It’s very difficult to judge where my money is most direly needed, especially for huge foundations that are already supported by Google. Even local charity projects (De Warmste Week) were especially confusing. You could download a list of small organizations it would support, but a clear description as to what they do is mostly absent. That doesn’t really invite to go ahead with a donation. I wish all these things were transparent!
The same is true for monthly recurring donations on GitHub and especially Patreon. I’d rather give a big one-time sum on my terms. There’s already more than enough monthly bills and services to pay, giving a “monthly donation” the feel of a monthly bill instead of something good, something to support. For the Retronauts podcast and the mGBA emulator, I made an exception.
This is the first time that I deliberately tried to support everything I regularly use and rely on, including “free” stuff. Shame on me for not doing it before, and yay for me for starting to do it. Though at the end, it felt like I randomly distributed donations to get to an amount I was comfortable with. Next year, I hope to introduce a bit more structure and just donate throughout the year as soon as I think it can and should be done.
Did I miss out on something important? What are your donation strategies? I’d love to hear from you!