Who pays for openDemocracy?

Tony Curzon Price
Tony Curzon Price
6 February 2007

We have been asking you to donate to openDemocracy because your contributions are critical to openDemocracy's growth. Why? I will now open up openDemocracy's finances to explain.

We publish over 1,000 articles per year, we produce a weekly podcast, we moderate an argumentative and engaged community in the forums. Our annual budget - salaries, computers, rent, hosting, specialist services - comes to about $1 million (€0.77m, £0.5m). If just one in ten regular visitors donate the $75 or so per year that it costs to subscribe to a high-quality newspaper or print magazine, we can cover production costs - and make openDemocracy and its community open and free for everyone.

Most of our money comes from philanthropic foundations who believe that our core purpose is important. They want to see independent, accessible media speaking out in the name of democratic and enlightenment values for everyone in the world. They want to help the creation of a global civil society that is tolerant, wise and influential. Most of their funds are applied directly to addressing issues of health, education and poverty that stem from inequality. But in addition to amelioration some foundations want to address the root causes of the problems they seek to overcome. Public debate is an essential part of this.

Tony Curzon Price is the incoming CEO of openDemocracy. He received a PhD from University College London (UCL), and worked as a consultant economist for more than ten years. Since 1997, he has lectured on economics and energy policy to postgraduates at Imperial College, London, and at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)

But the world has darkened since 9/11: global, maybe cultural polarisation has followed in its wake; there is a new resurgence of the politics of fear, terror and exclusive identities. At the same time, the internet has become the primary source of information, misinformation, views and prejudice for a growing part of humanity, and it greatly influences the traditional print media everywhere. Many of our readers - students, often from the developing world - are coming to the awareness of political questions for the first time through the internet.

I believe, our funders believe, and all in the team at openDemocracy believe, that 9/11 and the internet create a context in which the values of democracy, human rights and enlightenment - and we are not embarrassed by the shorthand - must be put to work thoroughly: shown in their best light, tested and scrutinised by reporting and debate.

openDemocracy's way of doing this is to create a public space that is exemplary in its democratic virtues: open, participative, jointly created, high quality. This means not only continuing with the news magazine-style offering and forums, but also augmenting it with new options that will create high-quality joint creation on which we all can make a claim. Like the public space that it needs to be, openDemocracy will become jointly made; a shared investment that gives us meaning. I have been asked to start a programme of technology and product changes to deliver this vision. I hope it will focus your imagination and inspire you to join in the work of openDemocracy as well as its reading over the coming year. Our aim is to shift the balance of power towards those who have little.

A multiplier impact

Back to the finances, without which this cannot happen. 97% of our funds come from fewer than 10% of our donors. Nine philanthropies account for most of our current income. Others have generously helped us in the past (and may renew their support). Without their backing, we would not survive. In alphabetical order they are:

▪ The Atlantic Philanthropies

▪ The Ford Foundation

▪ Diego Hidalgo (private individual)

▪ The Open Trust

▪ The David and Elaine Potter Charitable Foundation

▪ The Sigrid Rausing Trust

▪ The Rockefeller Brothers Fund

▪ The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust

▪ The Tedworth Trust.

We have a fundraising team that spends most of its energy talking to philanthropies and arguing that our mission needs to be supported. The philanthropists we talk to have pressing priorities - health, poverty, exclusion amongst many others. The health of minds, the poverty of the public space, our potential for lasting impact on the lives of nations, cultures and people are the arguments we appeal to.

We would like to flourish as a self-sustaining, open community of civil society that influences government and business. We'd prefer to rely financially only on you, as a member, as you are the true source of openDemocracy's independence. But - even with the overwhelming financial contribution of foundations, some large and some family ones, to our budget - we do ask for, and do need, your donations.

There are two reasons that your contributions are critical. First, the money you donate has a huge impact at the margin: we can build a regular podcast, or employ designers to create more visually appealing pages. A donation of £50 can go a long way.

Second, your support - in every form, including writing and contributing to debates, as well as donating - has a multiplier impact by demonstrating to our philanthropic backers that we, all of us together, are maintaining a public space that generates spontaneous, unforced support and attachment.

To demonstrate commitment, impact and meaningfulness, we show the statistics of our readership - over 2 million unique readers per year. We collect the references to openDemocracy in other parts of the media - we show that we influence the influencers. But there is nothing like showing an actively supporting community to prove that we are succeeding in our mission.

It is not enough to just web publish and be viewed. We want to show that openDemocracy is an important part of many lives and that it can - little by little, member by member - influence thinking and policy.

It will be long term, of course. But the immediate pressures of today's world, from wars and injustice and even genocide, surely teach us that as well as the urgent need to respond, minds need to change if we are not to be condemned to perpetual crises - think of climate change, to which our sister site chinadialogue is dedicated.

Every contribution you make, no matter how small, is part of the "butterfly effect" that demonstrates that we matter, and will add to the value of openDemocracy to our philanthropic backers. Contribute, donate, write to tell us how much openDemocracy means to you, help to shape it, make it yours, write in our forums, participate in our joint projects, make your own claim on what will become a more democratic space ... it is only by demonstrating through our actions that openDemocracy matters that openDemocracy will survive.

Help openDemocracy: participate at every opportunity, and donate what you can.

The ideal amount we are asking for, if you can afford it, is £50, $100 or €75. You can click here to give online in a tax-efficient way.

With many thanks,

Tony Curzon Price

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