How the Ada Initiative works: Part 2: Spending and raising money

In our previous post on how the Ada Initiative works, we explained how the Ada Initiative is legally organized and governed, and how we pay our employees and contractors. In this post, we explain how we spend and raise money.

Spending money

Simply put, the board has to approve all expenditures, either directly or by delegating the decision to specific people. For on-going expenses, we usually review and approve them once. We approved a purchasing policy to handle small expenses like paperclips and stuff, and a travel policy to set guidelines for travel expenses (no first-class plane tickets for us, sadly). Our policies are based heavily on the Wikimedia Foundation’s purchasing and travel policies, simplified for the much smaller size of our organization. Wikimedia has made many of of their policies public for other non-profits to reuse. We’re incredibly grateful to them for sharing their experience and knowledge with us – no need to reinvent the wheel!

Every single expenditure goes into Xero, where it gets categorized and reconciled with our bank account transactions. This usually takes up a good chunk of my Fridays, but we’re hoping this will save us a heck-load of time when we file our first tax return and Form 990.


Everyone at a non-profit would like to spend less time fundraising and more time working on their mission, and we’re no exception. But fundraising is more than a necessary evil, it also helps you define your goals and keep you on track. Preparing for fundraising helped us figure out which projects got the most bang for our buck, which projects we’d need a partner to get done, and which we should outsource entirely to another organization that actually had the expertise to do it.

Designing and running a fundraising drive that works is actually pretty challenging and we won’t try to summarize everything we’ve learned so far. The short version is to think up creative new ideas, try to put yourself in the shoes of a potential donor and see what they are getting out of it, and get lots of advice from experienced fundraisers. A stunning number of our decisions are informed by a lifetime of listening to NPR fundraising drives on the radio.

On a technical note, we just started using a hosted CiviCRM solution to take donations and track donors. CiviCRM is not just open source, it’s hands-down currently the best customer relationship management software out there according to every fundraiser we asked. Our first fundraising campaign, Seed 100, showed us how important some form of CRM software was – the work was overwhelming even with just 100 donations. We’re currently configuring CiviCRM for our next fundraising drive.

Probably the most important thing we learned about fundraising is that we’re not just asking people to help us, we’re doing our donors a favor too. You, the donor, want to increase the participation of women in open technology and culture, and without the Ada Initiative you’d have a much harder time doing that. Sure, you might also get some cool schwag or have a better chance of hiring technical women at your company, but what people really want is to change the world for the better. We do too, and we thank you for giving us the opportunity to make that change a reality!

Keep an eye out for our next fundraising campaign, starting soon. Unlike our Seed 100 campaign, it will be open to donations of any size, now that we have the infrastructure and the experience to accept more than 100 donations a month. We appreciate the donors who made that infrastructure possible as well as the donors who have been waiting to give!

Our next post will be about what we did with the money we raised so far.

Donate now!