On February 2nd, 2004 we launched the first GWJ donation drive. Sean Sands titled the post ‘A Brief Distraction’ because while we were both deeply uncomfortable with asking for financial support, we also knew that to make the website truly sustainable it would have to at least pay for itself if it was going to stand the test of time. Two days after that post was made, Facebook launched. We were still a few years away from Twitter and Youtube. Patreon didn’t even show up for another nine years.
Suffice it to say, when we started the donation drive, our main source of inspiration was NPR pledge drives. To keep the lights on at the radio station, they would solicit donations (from listeners like you) and offer tote bags and other little gifts. We were inspired by the notion that the community itself could be one of the main pillars holding the website up, and the twenty years since have proven out. The GWJ community has seen the rise and fall of many, many websites and communities. A big reason for that is simply that we’ve never had much interest in growing beyond our ability to sustain a healthy community, and in turn the community has sustained GWJ.
Since we’ve surpassed our twenty year anniversary, we’ve been thinking a lot about what the next twenty years might look like. GWJ seems to do best when we keep things simple, so to that end we’ve decided to let the notion of an annual donation drive go. It is an incredible amount of work making custom avatars, golden icons, dice, lanyards and so much more. It has made the drive fun, and I have no doubt it encouraged people to offer more support to the site. It’s a great feeling all around, but it’s a lot of work, and to be honest, the rising costs of goods and shipping has meant that the physical items don’t actually add much to the coffers, and they take a lot of time and energy designing, sourcing, and distributing them. It’s impossible to thank Amanda enough for their contributions to the community in spearheading those in the past number of years. The GWJ merch site continues to live on, and I’m sure more designs and cool ideas will show there from time to time. I know Amanda still has more dice and lanyards to give away before we run out too.
To refocus things and make the site as sustainable as possible, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to keep the NPR model simply because it’s what we’ve always done. Let’s do a list here to get to the important stuff:
- The golden icons will continue. From my cold, dead hands, you would have to pull them from me. Rather than only give a new icon to donors who give during a one month period, we will do a combined donor list for the entire year of Patreon (and our exceptions who use Paypal instead) and do a big tagging run at the end of each year. No more worries about missing the drive.
- In place of the month-long donation drive, we will wrap events and Patreon awareness around things like International GWJ day, community streaming events, and things like that for a month in the Fall. Rather than make it only about raising money for the site, we’ll use the opportunity to get together and have fun. More details coming on that front.
- The Patreon will obviously continue, and as always your support will remain vital. Work on the new design of the GWJ site continues, and we should have updates about when beta testing might begin later this month. Moving twenty years of history and features to a new platform has been a bear, but the team has been incredible and very generous with their time.
- The site and podcast will continue to remain free of external ads and commercials.
- Look forward to a post detailing how to donate, community events, and more detailed plans soon.
That’s the extent of the big changes. The podcast, front page mainstays, forums, Discord, streaming, moderation, and all the things that make up GWJ will continue. It’s impossible to thank everyone individually here, because so many people play a part in what has made GWJ so resilient in the face of algorithms and social networks radically changing how websites and communities work. I hope GWJ continues to serve everyone’s needs, and in turn, everyone can support GWJ for decades to come. Thank you all so much.