Crowdfunding close, clarifications, and concept art

By: Amelia Cook December 29, 20180 Comments

Earlier today our crowdfunding campaign closed – a success, by any measure.

In the end, we raised $24,100 from 503 backers – a staggering 121% of our original goal!

(In fact, several backers were unable to support us through Indiegogo so made separate arrangements with us, meaning the final total is actually slightly more.)

Meeting our original $19,900 goal means we will now be able to overhaul our website to improve the experience for everyone, as well as get to work providing transcripts for all our Chatty AF episodes to date.

This removes the two major blockers that have been preventing us from growing and making more money we can use to pay more people (and to pay people more). With these blockers removed, we can now focus on building up our income and working up to the point where we can a) hire salaried employees with good benefits, and b) leave Patreon for good.

Step 1 of this process will be to open an online shop, giving ourselves a revenue stream outside Patreon over which we have more control. While we didn’t quite reach our $25,000 stretch goal, we still made enough to open our shop and start selling through it. It’s overstating nothing to say that our future success has begun here, with this campaign – and we can’t thank you enough.

The next three years

We’ve had some great responses to the three-year strategy I posted last week, including some concerns I’d like to address.

Increasing freelancer pay is our next priority

We will now be working to increase freelancer pay before anything else. I’ve been saying personally for months that raising freelancer pay will be our next fundraising goal for Patreon, the first since our last Patreon goal to simply break even. We’ll basically need to double our income to increase pay across the board, something which just isn’t possible on a user-unfriendly website undermining its own feminist credentials through inaccessibility.

In the strategy document I broke down the differences between the two types of income we need: recurring and responsive. The Indiegogo campaign was to raise a one-off amount of money for self-contained projects, in this case clearing blockers that prevented our growth. To use one-off cash for recurring costs artificially inflates your income for a limited period of time, which isn’t good for anyone. Much better to use that money to remove the blockers preventing our growth.

AniFem is not a vehicle to generate personal wealth

Speaking of pay, just a reminder again that I have never charged for my time, and the idea of anyone running AniFem out of greed is laughable at best. My first ever pay cheque will be my 10% commission from managing this crowdfunding campaign – about $2,150 after Indiegogo and the payment processor take their cuts. It’s a deliberately low rate, and I made sure to only count what I’d earned after necessary costs had been covered, all of which I took care to lay out in detail in advance.

It’s been over two years since I launched AniFem. I’ve been in debt the entire time, and faced serious personal financial crisis on multiple occasions. Despite this, I have never once invoiced for a single piece of writing, or a single hour of administrative tasks – even when I was a full time freelance writer and devoting many working hours to AniFem. That’s unfair, contrary to AniFem’s values, and not the way it should be, but I’ve always known I’d have to maintain an utterly unfavourable personal financial position to be seen as simply ‘not corrupt’. Responses to this campaign have only reinforced that hunch.

I recently adopted the job title ‘CEO’ to more accurately communicate what I actually do for AniFem: figure out how we raise and use money. ‘Editor-in-Chief’ felt more and more disingenuous the further away I got from day-to-day operations and creative input. The job title may change, but my intentions remain the same: I have no interest in profiting from AniFem, and have never worked on it with that purpose in mind. I just realised I’m better at making money than managing content, and wanted my title to reflect that.

There is a difference between revenue and profit: revenue is how much money you make in total, while profit is how much is left after you’ve paid for everything you need. We made a tiny profit in our first year, all of which I could have wiped out through accounting efficiency, none of which I took for myself. I’m currently the sole shareholder, and cannot see a time where I would want to pocket any of that money, rather than reinvesting it into AniFem to do new and exciting projects. The more money we make, the more good we get to do. So yes, I absolutely want AniFem’s revenue to be six or even seven figures, but not for personal gain.

You can run an ethical business without being a charity

On that note, a few people asked why we aren’t planning to become a non-profit. Well, I don’t know how American business structures work, except that it varies state to state and is more expensive and complicated for me to start a business there than here in the UK. In Britain, however, a charity has significantly more organisational and bureaucratic demands (which come with a cost) that didn’t seem worth it for the advantages you receive (largely tax relief, eligibility for certain grants, and a shiny ‘third sector’ shield against criticism of low pay and sparse benefits). Running AniFem as a company gives us much more freedom for less money, and I assume the same is true in the US.

This is an assumption I’ll check when I look to open a US subsidiary in order to pay US employees, but in the UK at least, becoming a charity means needing to meet external standards focusing mainly on where your money comes from and goes to. Instead, I would prefer to work towards certification as a B Corporation, where we can be held to external standards which focus on ethics and impact rather than simply the flow of cash.

We have no intention of profiting from events such as Transgender Day of Remembrance, though we do want to raise money for them

On the subject of ethics, I want to state that we will not be profiting from events such as Transgender Day of Remembrance, and I apologise completely and without reservation for inadvertently implying otherwise in the strategy document.

My intention in selling items based around key feminist dates such as Black History Month or International Women’s Day is to a) give paid work to and signal-boost the public profiles of artists of the specific marginalised identities being celebrated, and b) to sell items created by those artists, from which 100% of the profits would go to a relevant charity. I recognise that referencing Transgender Day of Remembrance was a particularly loaded example as it is less about celebration and more about grief, and I truly regret doing so. I took that example as it is, to my knowledge, the most high profile date attached to trans people specifically, outside of the LGBT umbrella, but should really have used Transgender Awareness Week instead.

I’ve now changed the wording on the strategy document to reflect this, and hope that it better conveys my intentions. As we break into e-commerce, incorporating charity fundraising into our regular calendar feels like the right thing to do, and I welcome discussion on the best ways to go about it.

I’d like to extend my thanks to the patron who brought this to my attention, and hope that anyone with questions or concerns will feel free to broach them in comments here, through the contact form on our site, by DM on Twitter or Facebook, or, as this patron did, through our private Discord (to which all $5+ patrons automatically receive access through Patron).

Nothing in that strategy document is set in stone, and our priority continues to be to support marginalised communities as we have through our content platform. If it ever looks to you like we risk not doing that for whatever reason, we want you to tell us so we can clarify and course correct as quickly as possible.

The next three months

Those of you who backed us, endorsed the campaign, shared our posts, and otherwise helped our campaign – thank you, thank you, thank you.

We were blown away by the support you showed us, especially in the earliest hours of the campaign when we were particularly vulnerable. You stepped up when we needed you most, and that means the world to us. We hope you love the results you see in 2019.

The campaign may be over, but the work is not. The next three months will be busy ones, as we need to both use the money we raised for the purposes we raised it for, and deliver on the perks we’ve promised. We’re aiming to be wrapped up with all these commitments by March, and will keep backers in the loop through Indiegogo campaign page updates (which emails all backers automatically).

Concept art preview

And now, we’re delighted to share some of the concept art for the designs we’ll be featuring on the perk items! The concept was “anime character archetypes, but diverse” (plus “cute mascot with a rose”) and our illustrator, Teri, thrilled us all with her first responses to this brief.

Please note that this is concept art only, to test out the brief and make sure we were all on the same page. These are not the final designs as they will appear on the perk items, where we have restrictions such as the number of colours we can print and the amount of space we have to print on. However, they give you an indicator not only of where we’re headed for these items, but also of one type of design you’re likely to see in our shop.

I’m trying to get away from the word ‘merchandise’, because that implies our name and logo will be pasted on everything. There will be some products like that, so you can communicate your support of AniFem should you choose to (many of you have been asking for AniFem T-shirts for years now and we will finally give you that option in 2019), but mostly we just want to fill a niche for underserved fans – same as we always have.

That means inclusive art from diverse artists for marginalised fans will be our priority, and this is the first taste of one form that could take. Let us know what you think in comments!

Drawing of a Black woman in a magical girl outfit with a trans symbol at her collar.
Drawing of a cute fox sitting with a rose in its mouth.
Drawing of a Muslim woman in a hijab, sitting in a historical wheelchair and holding a fencing sword, Rose of Versailles style.

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