What Is A Drive?

Different Tropes for Different Folks – OTW Membership Drive October 2015

Author’s note: You may have heard that the OTW is doing a “drive” this week. We wanted to make sure everyone knew what this thing was all about, so if you’re curious, you’ve come to the right place. Whatever your drive-related questions, we’re here to answer them. Happy reading!

What a drive (a.k.a. a donation/membership campaign) IS:

  • a semiannual, week-long fundraising event to raise money for the OTW
  • a way to encourage people to become OTW members
  • the time when the OTW generates about 85% of its income. (The other 15% comes from donations given during the rest of the year.)

The OTW generates about 85% of its income during the drive. (The other 15% comes from donations given during the rest of the year.)

  • the reason why the OTW is able to keep working on projects like AO3, Fanlore, Open Doors, and Legal Advocacy
  • the reason those projects can continue helping fans all over the world

What a drive is NOT:

  • an evil plot to take over the world, one donation at a time
  • a way to raise money for individual people. In fact, the OTW is a nonprofit, and every cent you donate goes directly to operations. The OTW doesn’t pay any of its volunteers, staff, or Board members.

The elements that come together to create a drive:

  • the OTW’s Development and Membership, Translation, and Communications committees (the people writing, translating, and publishing these posts and answering your emails about donations and premiums)
  • spreading the word (the posts and graphics you see, the emails you get, and the stuff we share on social media)
  • premiums (the thank-you gifts you can get for donating)
  • a theme. (This drive’s theme is “Different Tropes for Different Folks”.)
  • you!

None of this would be possible without your support. Please help us meet our goal of US$175,000 by donating today!

  1. Zooey commented:

    As a longtime member and former staffer with the OTW, I’m obviously pretty clear on what a drive is (and I get that this post was not really directed at people like me.) However, as the OTW grows and the amounts of money involved become bigger, I’d really like to see a lot more information on how the money is managed and budgeted. If you’ve been getting questions that make you feel that you need to clarify that fundraising is not ‘an evil plot’ nor ‘a way to raise money for individual people’, that suggests that there might be other people who share my concern that it’s not really clear where the money is going or how it will be looked after. I know that the sums involved actually fall way short of what the OTW could legitimately spend and are needed to ensure that you can keep paying the bills. Nevertheless, I do get the disquieting sense that large sums are not necessarily clearly earmarked and that there is not much financial auditing going on beyond the annual report. These are factors which are usually flagged as creating good conditions for fraud in the non-profit sector. Before the next drive, I’d really love to see much more transparency about financial planning and management.

    • Kiri Van Santen commented:

      Hi Zooey,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment, and thank you very much for your membership and service.

      As always, I can assure our donors that none of the funds raised by the OTW go into any staffer’s pocket. Although we currently have, I believe, two paid contractors, neither serve on any committee or the Board. Every staffer and volunteer in the OTW, including our committee chairs and Board members, works entirely for free.

      Regarding the specifics of the OTW’s spending, we did publish an outline of our expenses following last October’s drive. We know that people would like to see a detailed budget explaining exactly where we intend to put every dollar we bring in, but, as we mentioned in the ‘Financial Future’ post (above), some of what we raise goes into our emergency/rainy day fund, and some of it goes to projects that we cannot precisely predict. For example, a larger budget for our Legal Committee allows the committee to participate in a larger number of cases, all of which are relevant to fans. Additionally, there are always a number of resources that would aid various committees in their work, and increased funding allows us to access these resources.

      The OTW’s annual reports also contain information about the organisation’s spending.

      If you have any follow-up questions, please let me know.

      Again, thank you for your membership!

      Kind regards,

      Kiri Van Santen,
      OTW Communications Co-Chair

      • Zooey commented:

        Thanks, Kiri. I’m not really worried that any donations are currently being used for individual gain, but I do know that where budgets are vague there is a high potential for problems. The post from last year is a good start, but at this stage what I’d like to see the OTW producing is something more akin to a spreadsheet breaking down individual projected expenses, both recurring and one off. I also find the information in the annual reports unsatisfying – the way it’s set out makes it really difficult for me to understand even quite basic facts like how much money the org started with, and how much it had at the end of the year. Maybe that’s just me, but I know I have spent some signficant amount of time trying to decipher it in the past so I feel confident in saying it’s not immediately apparent.

        Obviously there is a need for an emergency fund, and for giving projects room to grow, but it should be possible to map out anticipated expenses – so you might set out x amount against unexpected tech issues with the archive, and y for emergency legal defence. And at the end of the year you might say ‘Well, we needed to draw on x pot for this unexpected thing, but on the plus side y turned out not to be needed, so overall we’re still in the black’. In reality, a lot of the unspent money is fungible, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have detailed-ish budgets.

        The org has grown massively over a short space of time, and these questions become much more acute when you’re dealing with large amounts of money and also projecting over much longer. At the beginning, the expenses were quite small and there was less understanding of how big the archive would grow and how much it would need to be serviced. I think it’s fair to say, looking back (and speaking as someone who was involved at that time) that because of that not all the good habits were set in place that perhaps should have been (like having a fairly detailed projected budget and and equally detailed breakdown of what was spent). And of course some thngs have happened over the years (apparently the dissolution of FinCom?) which have contributed to this. I am so excited and proud of how the org has grown, but that makes me all the more invested in seeing it transition to a new phase in the way it operates.

        • Kiri Van Santen commented:

          I think those are all excellent suggestions, and I deeply appreciate your enthusiasm and support. I’ll pass all of this on to the Development & Membership Committee and the Board, but I do want to mention that, because we have a contested election coming up and have at least two Board members retiring soon (three members have reached the end of their terms, but one is running for a second term), this may be something that isn’t addressed until the new Board is in place.

          Kind regards,

          Kiri Van Santen

  2. Exxo commented:

    Your travel costs make nearly 1/5 of your expenses. Could you be more transparent what type of travel it is and what are your rules for that? I’d like to donate a larger amount of money, but I just cannot make that decision not knowing where it goes.

    • Kiri Van Santen commented:

      Hi Exxo,

      The OTW’s Board believes it important to meet in person once per year in order to communicate about the organisation without the limitations of chatrooms or email. Because the OTW is an international organisation, there can be significant financial cost to bringing the Board (as well as any other staffers that the Board feels should be in attendance; members of the Strategic Planning Committee, for example, have attended in the past) together, but the Board believes that the cost is justified by the high level of productivity achieved at these meetings.

      Kind regards,

      Kiri Van Santen,
      OTW Communications Co-Chair

      • Exxo commented:

        Thanks for replying, but it doesn’t really answer my question about your rules for business travel. How do you choose the location and hotels? How do you make sure your choices are reasonable? Who controls that?

        17% is a really large amount of your spending, especially since it’s just one event. Why exactly do you believe that one in-person meeting helps you achieve higher productivity than, for example, a series of video conferences? I’m asking because the latter is considered a best practive at an international org I work for.

        • Kiri Van Santen commented:

          The Board has offered this response regarding the rules for travel and the location of their annual meeting:

          ‘The Board selects the location for each annual Board meeting based on a number of considerations, including proximity to directors’ residences, costs, and ease of transportation access both in terms of flight options and public transportation availability within each city. The Board makes every effort to keep costs down, and we review potential locations, the budget, proposed venues, and logistical arrangements for each of the annual Board meetings in order to make sure that the costs for each item are reasonable, and we will continue to do so. (One of the reasons we chose to hold the 2015 annual Board meeting in Vancouver, Canada was the current favorable exchange rate with the U.S. dollar, which is the OTW’s operating currency; we effectively received a significant discount on all our at-meeting costs.)’

          Kind regards,

          Kiri Van Santen

          • Syllic commented:

            Hi, Kiri–a quick question. Do you guys have a date for when the minutes/report of the Vancouver Board Meeting be available?

            Thanks for your diligence in answering questions here.

            (Apologies if this posts twice; my internet is acting up and I can’t see if the last attempt loaded.)

          • Kiri Van Santen commented:

            Hello Syllic,

            As you may know, the OTW does make minutes for each Board meeting available to the public. The minutes are first posted internally and then approved by the Board for publication on this site. Approval can take some time, particularly for sessions as long as the annual in-person meeting. The most recent minutes currently available to the public are for the Board’s 4 September meeting, but minutes for meetings that followed will be published as they are approved. If you’d like, I would be happy to make a note to update this thread when the Vancouver minutes are up.

            I understand that those minutes are especially relevant during this drive, and I apologise for not having them for you. The Board is burdened with myriad responsibilities, and they endeavour to fulfil all of their duties as efficiently as possible.

            If you have any further questions, please let me know. (Thank you very much for the acknowledgement, by the way. We understand that it is immensely important to address the concerns of our donors and potential donors. Asking for money is obviously not something to be taken lightly, and we greatly appreciate everyone who participates in the annual Membership Drive in any way, whether they donate, help spread the word, or share thoughtful questions with the OTW and its supporters.)

            Kind regards,

            Kiri Van Santen