Survey Sunday #7: Reflections from Development & Membership

As some readers may have read about in the OTW’s last newsletter, the Survey Workgroup has been going through some changes. As the new leads we, Aja and Eylul, wanted to say hello and provide a brief update. Over the past month we have been working on our analysis processes to see what can be improved. We are starting our posts again although they may come out at a slower pace until we finish our internal reorganization.

The work done by the Survey Workgroup involves various parts of our organization. This week’s post will highlight a different part of our process toward our final report. Once we have presentable data from a specific section of the survey, such as what you’ve seen in our earlier posts, we provide that information to the relevant committee. The committee then has the opportunity to consider the input provided and respond with how this may be incorporated in their work. This week’s Survey Sunday report will be the first one that provides that response back to public. In an earlier post, we reported why people stop being members and what might make them choose to become members in the future. The following post is a reflection on those findings written by Development & Membership (DevMem), the OTW committee responsible for fundraising and membership-building efforts.

The feedback DevMem received from the survey was extremely useful. Most of it was positive, but it also illuminated things we should work on in order to grow the OTW’s membership. Here are the key points we gleaned from the data, along with some of the actions we’ll take to address them.

Broadening our member base

Most respondents who are or have been OTW members said that their main reason for joining was to support the organization. More than 40% of respondents whose memberships had lapsed said it was for financial reasons, and 59.3% of respondents who are not current members said that improvement in their finances might make them choose to become members in the future. This is good news, because it tells us that these people want to donate. However, it also points to the importance of expanding and diversifying our member base — a larger pool of supporters will help ensure that we’re able to meet the OTW’s resource needs even when financial circumstances prevent individuals from donating as much as they otherwise might.

Nearly 43% of former members said they’d forgotten to renew their memberships. Late last year we implemented a reminder e-mail to people whose memberships are about to expire, which we hope will help improve this statistic.

Some respondents said they did not feel represented by the OTW, or that they wanted more outreach or services appealing to their fannish communities. Wider outreach is crucial to the growth and diversification of our membership. DevMem will work actively to develop outreach efforts and to support such efforts by other committees. Currently, we’re partnering with the Open Doors committee to develop an outreach plan for fan conventions.

Clearing up confusion

Confusion was a major theme of the survey responses. DevMem is addressing this by improving the clarity of our communications and encouraging other committees to do likewise. Specifically:

  • Many respondents were not aware of the OTW’s projects, or were only aware of a particular project (usually the Archive of Our Own) and didn’t realize it was associated with the OTW. We are addressing this by encouraging committees to add more prominent links to the OTW website from the project sites they run. We’ll also make sure that DevMem’s outreach activities feature all of the OTW’s projects.
  • Respondents expressed confusion about the donation process and the meaning of membership. We’re addressing this by revamping our donation page and creating a clear, concise donation/membership FAQ.
  • Respondents were confused about the difference between being an OTW member and having an Archive of Our Own (AO3) user account. We’ll address this in our donation/membership FAQ, and we’ve also asked AD&T to place a clarifying statement on the AO3’s “request an invite” page. For the record: OTW membership and AO3 user accounts are completely separate. We’re deeply grateful for the financial support of fans who choose to become OTW members, but doing so does not confer priority status with regard to AO3 invitations.

Options for submitting donations

The OTW uses PayPal to process online donations, but some respondents said they were wary of using PayPal or were unable to use it. For example, PayPal’s functionality for Russian users is extremely limited. This prevented some people from donating. (In contrast, during the April membership drive we received several e-mails from people who were only willing to donate via PayPal — so it’s a complicated issue.) Our friends on the Finance committee are researching alternative payment processors, with special attention to accessibility for international donors. In the meantime, we also welcome donations via physical mail and will work to express that more prominently on the revised donation page.