Often I share my ideas in a raw way, as is the case of the very title of our community ‘More Trees Less Assholes’, vulgar, and technically, grammatically incorrect. What allowed me to express myself so frankly on the social networks, for five years, is the fact that I gave priority to my freedom rather than my finances. You can imagine, very few companies would like to work officially with a community that seems to have such ‘radical’ ideas. Unfortunately, I have never been able to ignore the financial side of my work, because as you can imagine, developing and managing pages, writing articles and interacting with as many followers, creators and activists as possible consumes a lot of time for one person … You probably know me just for MTLA, but I also do the same work in French on several pages and websites.
I wanted to keep on spreading environmental awareness, and this meant that I had to find a way to finance my projects. I have tried several funding models, but they all have significant issues. Let’s take a look at how I financed my work so far, and how I’m going to go forward in the future.
At first, I started selling T-shirts, and even if the income was very unstable, I could have continued on this road by promoting my products in a more aggressive way. I was donating several dollars on each sale, and we ended up financing the planting of around 10000 trees. But as you have probably noticed, you do not see advertisements of my T-shirts very often on the page there are several reasons for this. I don’t like to promote consumption, after all I’m trying to fight it. I didn’t start my work on social media to become a clothing merchant. So, I thought selling T-shirts is not a good long term strategy to finance my work. I love the shirts, and they have sparked many conversations about deforestation in real life, even with complete strangers. So if someone wants to buy a T-shirt, they can still find them, but I do not want to publish ads on the pages every few days. We all wear clothes, and if you NEED a T-shirt or a hoodie I would be more than happy to sell you one.
I decided that I’m going to do what most people on social media do, and I’m going to put commercials on my blogs. So I installed Google ads on my French websites and started writing a lot more articles. This source of income was much more stable than the T-shirts and I wasn’t shipping stuff around the world… But there were two very major issues.
First of all, my income started to depend on the clicks I manage to get, which instantly began to influence the kind of articles I write. Very few people are willing to click on articles about deforestation and climate change, but much more trivial and emotional subjects receive a lot of attention. Plus, the articles that focus on the environment have less lucrative ads. So, in order to have a more or less stable income, I had to leave my passion, environmental protection and start writing click-baits. I had less time to develop my communities and started doing a job that I did not like at all : writing pop-psychology articles in French.
The second problem with the advertising model, which is even more obvious, is the fact that I was again directly involved in the consumer society. Okay, I did not depend exclusively on my T-shirts, but even worse, I started selling everything and anything … I tried to quit marketing and found myself right in the middle of it. . Advertisements were directly hurting the important messages I was trying to share. How could I be really serious about the urgency of climate change while trying to sell cars … Or how could I motivate people to decrease their meat consumption while displaying burgers ads . Credibility level: Zero. So during 2018 I started to move away from the advertisement model and I’m going to leave it completely from the beginning of 2019. A new year, and a completely fresh start. I’m going to make another post to talk more the problems surrounding the ad-funding model, but for the moment let’s move on to the only solution that seems ideal:
By asking for the direct support of the people who appreciate what I am doing, I have the opportunity to totally escape the negative effects of marketing and concentrate all my energy on the most relevant topics. The donate option is available on my website for the last two years, but I never really promoted it on the pages since I was focusing my attention on the ad revenue. I thought that it would be way too difficult to get direct financial support from my audience, and I didn’t feel like asking for it. Nevertheless some people discovered the option and started supporting my work with a monthly donation. This gave me a lot of hope for the future, and helped me reconsider the way I view crowdfunding in general.
A cup of coffee
We all pay 2 dollars for a coffee, but it somehow seems odd to us to invest 2 dollars in something that we consider much more value than this cup of coffee. I also have a hard time setting aside one or two euros to support a creator I appreciate and it’s not because my budget depends on this money, it’s a question of culture and habit. Just like most people, I was used to consume free content on the internet, it seemed normal to me. And before I started to work in this sector, I could not see the real price hidden in the “free content”. Behind every publication, behind every article, there is work and there are extra costs, so at this level, the information is never really free.
If we leave the funding of content on social networks in the hands of corporations, we will inevitably replicate the media system of TV where the most profitable views for shareholders are the only ones we can see. This desire to consume information without paying for it creates a very unhealthy economic model, because the ads are actually not at all free. They are profitable, because they manage to catch your attention, they take your time and money while, more often than not, perpetuating the cycle of senseless consumption.
But free information is also really positive, especially for the environmental movement. The free nature of the information allows it to spread much easier and reach people who are not really interested in these topics.
Know that your investment will add to the contributions of a bunch of engaged people from France, the United States, Belgium and Canada and together you will support a company that reaches millions of people every month. By working together we are able to multiply our investment by giving a voice to messages, artists and activists who can not afford to pay for this media attention. Visibility on social networks is extremely expensive, Facebook ads cost a lot of money. By working on my pages I create and maintain active communities that allow these important messages to reach millions of people, without paying tens of thousands of dollars to Facebook to do so. The value of your donation is multiplied day by day through each message that we manage to share for free. I am not the most productive person in the world, but while working alone I managed to gather a lot of media power in my hands, which means that your investment will be quite efficient.
The advantage of crowdfunding is that it allows us to be highly effective without creating a heavy burden for the people who support the platform. It’s up to you to see how much you are able to invest in my work. Maybe 5 euros/dollars a month is feasible, maybe even a euro is too much for your budget. I know that unfortunately for many people this is the case, and of course there are so many good causes and creators that deserve your money. So support my work only if you feel that you have the means to do it and if you find that what I do is really valuable. If investing a few dollars a month in my work would cause you financial stress, do not do it! Continue to support my pages through your interactions on social networks. You give are the soul and the strength of our communities.
If you also want to support my projects, follow this link. I want to thank people who have already started supporting my work with a monthly donation. I really appreciate it !
Steve the Bartender