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Covering Operating Costs: Donations, Ads, Shirts, all of the above?


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#1 Langley

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Posted 24 November 2015 - 05:20 PM

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It costs about $250 a year to operate NerfHaven.  This includes hosting, recurring software licensing fees, and domain registration.  This does not include contest prizes or one-time software upgrade/install fees.  All of the above comes right out of my pocket, and some very generous contributions from our moderation team over the years. 

 

2015 has been a particularly tough year for me, and the bills are all coming due at once.  I would like to make NerfHaven more self-sustaining, so that when I do have money to spend on the hobby I can spend it on contest prizes, nerf war venues and equipment (like mobstacles).  To that end I'd like to talk about some options for how we can do that, because this site belongs to the community and I want to be completely transparent if I'm going to ask anyone for money. 

 

Ads

NerfHaven has been proudly ad-free for over a decade.  I'm hesitant to change this, and if I'm going to put ads on the site I want to make them as unobtrusive as possible.  Here are some criteria I want to meet before I put ads on the site:

  • Ads will only be displayed to guests.  If you are logged in, you will not see them.
  • Ads will be static images of a reasonable size.  No animations, pop-ups, or sound. 
  • Members will be allowed to 'buy off' the ads for a period of time.  For example, if you donate the equivalent of 1 months operating costs, you can optionally  disable ads for everyone who visits NerfHaven for a month. 
  • Ads must get us at least 1/3 of the way to breaking even. There's no reason to keep them if they aren't helping. If we do better than breaking even, the extra money will go back into the community. 
  • Ad revenue will not determine how we run the site.  The community comes first, and we will not make sweeping changes purely to maximise page views.

Donations

A number of members have expressed interest in helping pay for the cost of running the site.  Here are some thoughts on how I would like to handle that. 

  • Members can donate to the operating costs of the site in increments of time (1 week, 1 month, 1 year etc).  We'll only spend the money on operating expenses and we'll guarantee the lights will stay on for that length of time. 
  • Members can optionally sign up for a monthly subscription.  This will be kind of like a DIY version of Patreon, where you commit to donating a set amount over a set period of time. 
  • Information about who donates will be kept private.  We will not nag you to donate again on the basis that you donated in the past.
  • Aside from an optional custom title and recognition on a donors page, donating will not grant any extra benefits beyond regular NerfHaven membership.  You will have the option of donating anonymously.

NerfHaven Store (t-shirts)

I would love to run NerfHaven entirely on the income from people buying swag, but it just isn't going to happen.  The margins on a t-shirt on cafepress or zazzle are just too small to sustain the site.  That having been said, I'm going to put together some designs and some amazon affiliate links and add a 'Store' tab to the site.  Anything we get from that will probably go into contest prizes and giveaways, since store credit is the easiest way to receive income from those sources. 

 

Let me know if you have any comments, questions or suggestions, or if you are interested in supporting NerfHaven.  If this doesn't stir up a shirtstorm, expect to see a 'Support the Site' tab pop up in the next few days. 


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#2 Ice Nine

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Posted 24 November 2015 - 06:55 PM

I'd say we should hold off on ads for the time being and use it as a last (absolutely last) resort. The recommended pages that are visible to guests only are handy and it might not be ideal to replace those with something less appealing. I would suggest that donations are tried first and we can see how that goes. I've contributed in the past and I'm happy to contribute again.

 

In the last category, is there a way to get an Amazon affiliate account or something so people could use amazon.com/nerfhaven or whatever and a bit of the purchase gets funneled to the referrer's account? I do it for a different site that I like when I remember and it might be good for buying prizes or something.


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#3 The2ndBluesBro

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Posted 24 November 2015 - 08:01 PM

I would love to buy some NH swag in the future. I would add ads personally if it were up to me, since most people that use the site are members and will not see them. Also remember the wise words of cxwq. 

If I put ads on NerfHaven you'll know it. They'll be for drugs... and hookers... and duct tape.


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#4 Aeromech

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Posted 24 November 2015 - 09:08 PM

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If we had an actual store going that'd be dope. If shirts/wristbands were readily available, there may be more money to be made, as opposed to only buying stuff at APOC.


Edited by Aeromech, 24 November 2015 - 09:30 PM.

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#5 Langley

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Posted 24 November 2015 - 09:19 PM

Edit: Donation links are up.  If you're logged in, you'll see a 'Support NerfHaven' tab at the top of the page.  Any help you can provide is greatly appreciated.

 

I'd say we should hold off on ads for the time being and use it as a last (absolutely last) resort. The recommended pages that are visible to guests only are handy and it might not be ideal to replace those with something less appealing. I would suggest that donations are tried first and we can see how that goes. I've contributed in the past and I'm happy to contribute again.

 

In the last category, is there a way to get an Amazon affiliate account or something so people could use amazon.com/nerfhaven or whatever and a bit of the purchase gets funneled to the referrer's account? I do it for a different site that I like when I remember and it might be good for buying prizes or something.

 

That's reasonable.  I'll give donations some time to cover expenses before I implement any ads.  Any new ads would not replace the 'internal ads' I created.  I would probably position ads horizontally at the top of the page below the navigation tabs.  If donations don't put a decent sized dent in costs, I'll put ads up, and implement the option to disable ads with donations so that they aren't nessesarily up. 

 

I'm working on an amazon associate account.  There's one option that lets you search for products within the ad.  I don't know if the affiliate link stays persistent while you're shopping or if it only works for the product you clicked on.  I'll have to look into that, thanks.

 

I would love to buy some NH swag in the future. I would add ads personally if it were up to me, since most people that use the site are members and will not see them. Also remember the wise words of cxwq. 

 

It's on my list, but it's not a high priority.  It's hard to make more than a buck or two on a t-shirt from zazzle without gouging people for them, the base price is so expensive.  And if I sell bandannas and wristbands I have to put hours into making them, packaging them, shipping them, handling orders etc.  which is time I could spend working on the site.  I'm not saying I won't do it, but it's something I would do in bursts, not something I would want to do year-round to keep the site afloat. 


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#6 TheNerfZilla

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Posted 25 November 2015 - 07:25 AM

I would be fine with a couple of ads, I didn't realize how much of the costs were coming directly out of your pocket

Edited by TheNerfZilla, 25 November 2015 - 10:44 PM.

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#7 Meaker VI

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Posted 25 November 2015 - 11:27 AM

You know, I thought there was a few sites going where you can sell stuff (t-shirts, bandannas, etc.) you've designed and get a kickback for it from the general public, not just from your stores' sales. Maybe we should look into sites other than the ones we're using as a storefront.

 

Also, $250 a year is somewhat less than I'd expected it to cost for this place. I'd almost say we reach out to specific companies (Hasbro/NERF itself, mcmaster, etc.) and ask if they'd unofficially sponsor us, even with the full knowledge that we won't change the way we run the place. It'd be peanuts to them, we surely generate enough in sales to either company to justify the little we'd ask for. Maybe they get a fixed sidebar/top banner ad or something, maybe just a badge "sponsored by XXX: the opinions here are not reflective of ours" somewhere, maybe nothing.

 

Another thought; putting something like $10,000 in a Vangaurd index fund should generate about $250/year income forever. There'd be some extra cost in getting an accountant (an maybe lawyer to establish NH as an entity that can own money?), setting up the fund and taxes and all, but then the site would then be self-sufficient as long as membership exists to use it. We could set up a kickstarter and get donations or inexpensive/free stuff (on-site donor badges) to give out as prizes for helping to raise that, then keep going forever as a no-cost site.

 

Doing the affiliate thing sounds like it'd work well too, and might get us closer to the 'permanently self sufficient' number than not. Especially if you can set it up in the next 3 days; I'd use it to buy whatever I'm buying on amazon for Christmas (and generally, but Christmas is the big one and it's coming up).

 

Edited to add: I think I've found a free skin that would be preferable to the default: link. Might need to change the fonts, but that shouldn't be hard (I think? I've really no idea how these themes work or why they universally seem to be difficult for admins to modify).


Edited by Meaker VI, 25 November 2015 - 11:32 AM.

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#8 Langley

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Posted 25 November 2015 - 12:09 PM

You can sell products on Zazzle and Cafepress to the public, but you need a design that appeals to the public.  If you want to donate some designs to NerfHaven I would be happy to set that up.  The last time I checked, Zazzle's base price for a t-shirt is about $25, and any profit has to be added on top of that.  Technically NerfHaven still has a cafepress store, and I'm sure CXWQ would be happy to get something back for all time time and money he poured into the site prior to 2011, but from what I understand only a dozen or so people bought shirts from the store at a couple dollars profit each over about 6-8 years.  It was seen more as a cool thing to do to advertise and support the site, than a sustainable way to pay for it.

 

If there were a design that everyone really liked, I would consider having it silk screened or maybe doing it myself like I have with the bandannas, but it would have to be something like a kickstarter where I can make everything at once, ship it all out at once, and be reasonably confident that I'm not going to end up losing money on it. 

 

Occasionally Hasbro sends us some free swag, wich I typically pass on as contest prizes or give away at wars.  They're definitely not interested in sponsering anyone with cash, and if they were they would probably scrutinize us more closely than we would want.  I think the only reason why we have a relationship now is becuase their marketing people don't realize how much the site revolves around modding and homemades.

 

If we had 10000 to put into paying for NerfHaven, we'd have enough money to cover our expenses for the next 40 years.  As much as I'm looking forward to when all those people we banned for 9999 days come back, I just don't think setting up a trust for the site is something people are going to get behind.  I can't imagine raising that much money from our current membership, but if I could, I would use it to secure access to private land for nerf wars.

 

I will get on top of the affiliate thing.  I'll be adding it to the 'Support Nerfhaven' tab in the next couple of days, and that will definitely help with things like contest prizes.

 

Edit: this spell check bug in firefox is killing me. 


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#9 Epsilon

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Posted 25 November 2015 - 12:30 PM

I say that you should do all of it but ads.


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#10 xXD3V1LXx

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Posted 25 November 2015 - 04:23 PM

I have a small idea to maybe help the site. Maybe getting custom decals of the NH logo so you can put it on your primary and more guns too.
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#11 Langley

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Posted 25 November 2015 - 05:34 PM

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Doing the affiliate thing sounds like it'd work well too, and might get us closer to the 'permanently self sufficient' number than not. Especially if you can set it up in the next 3 days; I'd use it to buy whatever I'm buying on amazon for Christmas (and generally, but Christmas is the big one and it's coming up).


If you follow the 'Support NerfHaven' link and scroll down, there are now some amazon associate links and a search area that lets you find anything you might be looking for specifically. Thanks!
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#12 Snoop Doggy doge

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Posted 26 November 2015 - 11:18 AM

Nerfhaven swag would be sub-optimal, I'd pay for that. Rock up with stickers, patches, shirts, mugs, sweaters, pants, flags, and other merch. 

Also, I'll donate when I sell something on ebay, just gotta sell it.


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#13 Langley

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Posted 23 April 2016 - 10:43 AM

Thank you to Aeromech, Cartaya, ScubaSteve, Daniel Beaver, Draconis, Skullface44, and a couple of anonymous donors for their support.  You've helped to take a significant chunk out of the operating costs of the site, and thanks to all of you the site will remain ad free for the foreseeable future. 

 

The semi-annual software licensing fees are about to come due, and with just a few more subscription based donors in our roster, we could have those fees covered on an ongoing basis.  The fees we've paid for software licensing have allowed us to upgrade the site and keeps us set up with security patches.  The upgrades have allowed us to work on some new features that we will be rolling out this summer, which will include a map of nerfers and nerf wars across the country, as well as a new home page that automatically makes writeups and other content easier to find.  Subscription donations start at just $1.50 per month.


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