In our last two posts, we explained how the Ada Initiative is organized and governed (part 1 here, and part 2 here). In this post, we talk about what we did with the donations we raised so far. Our next post will be about our plans for next year, assuming we raise enough money to fund them!
We planned and began work on several of our projects, AdaCamp, Ada’s Advice, and Ada’s Careers. AdaCamp is a series of small unconferences bringing together people interested in women in open technology and culture from across many different communities. We hope it will spark new ideas, spread best practices, and be a catalyst for change. We organized our first AdaCamp in Melbourne, Australia, scheduled for January 14th, 2012. The next AdaCamp is likely to be in the U.S. during summer 2012.
Ada’s Advice is a guide to resources for helping women in open technology and culture, organized by the role of the person who wants to help: employers, parents of young children, colleagues, women in open tech/culture themselves, and more. We designed and have a first draft of this web site, but have more work to do before launch.
Ada’s Careers is intended to be more than just a collection of job postings. We want to create a community for women to help each other improve their careers at all stages, not just when looking for a new job. We are still designing this and getting feedback – we’ve seen too many similar projects fail, so we want to be sure we have something sustainable before launching this one.
We designed, conducted, and analyzed several surveys about women in open technology and culture, most recently a survey of attitudes about careers in open source software among Grace Hopper Celebration attendees, primarily young women studying computer science. (Short version: Many believe that open source jobs pay poorly or not at all.) Our ultimate goal is to conduct a survey broad enough and accurate enough to see whether the participation of women in open tech/culture is changing for better or worse on a yearly basis, but we don’t yet have the resources to do this.
We filed for tax-exempt status in the U.S., which is both incredibly vital to the success of any non-profit and expensive in time and legal fees. For example, we had to create a detailed 2 year budget, describe all our planned activities, and write specific job descriptions for each of our employees. Our lawyer carefully reviewed our application, rewrote parts of it, and cited relevant cases to improve the chances of it being approved on the first try (possibly even before the end of 2011). All told, we spent about $15,000 on legal fees related to filing, including figuring out the unique situation of having a U.S. non-profit officer/employee who lives and works in Australia. This was completely beyond our reach without funding.
We prepared for our next round of fundraising. Thank you to everyone willing to donate to us on the basis of our web site and our personal reputations! You made it possible for us to write the materials for donors who need more information. A 4-page prospectus is not too much to ask in return for a donation in the tens of thousands of dollars – but it’s also not easy to write. We also had a lot to learn about the techniques and strategy of fundraising before we were willing to approach large donors. We’re almost done with this work and will start approaching large donors next month.
We also had to do a fair amount of work to allow people to donate small amounts of money to us. We learned a lot from the Seed 100 fundraising round (including the importance of outsourcing shipping of thank-you gifts and a decent CRM system), and we feel confident we now have the skills and infrastructure to scale up to hundreds (thousands?) of individual donations. Our next individual fundraising drive starts in the next few days! (We originally scheduled it for Friday, November 25th, 2011, but then remembered the rule about Friday launches: Don’t do them.)
Most importantly, this money allowed us to pay ourselves to do this work. Mary and Valerie both worked on the Ada Initiative for 7 months without pay, getting by on savings and consulting work, but obviously this wasn’t sustainable. We’re incredibly happy to be doing the work we love and excited to wrap this next round of fundraising so that we can focus full time on actual project work.
In addition to the detailed financial reporting we have to do by law (which includes accounting for all donations and expenses, and breakdowns of cost by salaries, different kinds of expenses, and more), we will also be issuing a yearly report which puts the financial data in a more readable format and includes progress reports on our projects.
We want to again thank our Angel Funders (Linux Australia, Puppet Labs, and DreamHost), our Venture Philanthropists (Google, The Mail Archive), our Seed 100 donors, and our donors in kind for making all this possible!
Next post: Our plans for next year.