Why reader donations are so important for Squirrel News - Squirrel News

Why reader donations are so important for Squirrel News

Red Squirrel with nut in summer

Dear readers and supporters,

This past spring we asked you to take part in a short survey about Squirrel News and over 500 did so. We reported on the most significant findings but in regards to donations, there’s so much to talk about we decided to write a separate post about it. 

For some projects voluntary donations may only be a small benefit for the non-profit. With Squirrel News it’s different: donations are the foundation of our budget for several reasons:

  • We want Squirrel News to remain free of charge and accessible for all, regardless of reader’s financial restrictions.
  • We don’t want to resort to advertising or affiliate links to disrupt the reading experience. 
  • As we are based in Germany, for several reasons hardly any funders here support journalistic educational offers with relevant sums.

That’s why we rely on you, our community, to make Squirrel News possible. The fewer the number of donors, the more difficult it will be for us to run Squirrel News to a professional high standard. The more of you donate, the better, more stable and sustainable Squirrel News canbecome.

On this occasion, we would like to thank all those who already support us with their donations!

However, it is clear from our survey most who care about Squirrel News have not donated so far. 86% of you replied that you have recommended Squirrel News once (21%) or several times (65%). But 90% said they have never donated. That doesn’t really add up for us yet…

“I should just do it”

Of course we understand that some do not have much money to spare. This was also one of the most common answers to the question: “What would have to happen for you to donate to Squirrel News?” Many responded with statements such as “I’m poor,” “I’m a student, heavily in debt,” “we’re a working class young family and unfortunately just don’t have the spare money to donate”.

Two dollars, pounds or euros per month is not very much, but if your budget is too tight for even that, we completely understand and are happy to accept that. That’s why we offer Squirrel News free of charge, after all. 

However, the other common response to the question “What would have to happen for you to donate to Squirrel News?” included answers such as “I’ve been meaning to donate. It’s honestly out of laziness” and “I actually can’t remember, which means I probably should.”

Some respondents indicated that they didn’t know they could, or how to donate. For all of you, we’ve added our donate button right here. Maybe now is just the right moment!

How our work would not be possible

Two respondents said: “I only donate to animal welfare” and “It’s important, but not urgent enough. My donations go to humanitarian organisations.”

If everyone held this belief, we could stop Squirrel News immediately. Of course it’s true that a donation to Squirrel News is never as urgent as a donation to starving children or earthquake victims. Since we would simply end the project before we had to starve. Then we’d look for other, much better paid jobs. But there would be no more free, constructive news overview from us.

The answer “I don’t donate for other news either” is along the same lines, suggesting “I don’t pay for other news,.” which expresses the attitude that journalism is not worth spending money on. If more users gave this answer, we would probably need to implement a hard paywall. Then people with low incomes would no longer be able to read our news. But at least only those who also recognise the value of our work would have access.

Another person explained as a reason not to donate: “I don’t know. I assume you make money out of the links. Anyway, I often click on the articles to read more.” Unfortunately this assumption is incorrect. It’s lovely you click on the teasers as this is where most of the information lies. However, we don’t earn a cent from the links and don’t even want to try, because otherwise this would distort the quality of our selection.

Another reason for not donating was: “I want to make sure that the app or site lasts and doesn’t disappear tomorrow.” This wish is completely legitimate. However, the opposite is true: the more people donate, the longer Squirrel News will last. We’ve proven for three years running now that we “won’t disappear tomorrow.” 

Content-related requests that we should prioritise writing more of our own original articles before we deserve donations are similar, and this is precisely why we would need a significantly larger budget. 

Technical wishes, on the other hand, such as a revised design or an even more visible donation button, are easier to fulfil, and with our new update we have already implemented a number of them.

This is how we use your donations 

Apart from that, some readers also wished to know what we use donations for. We wanted to start doing this a long time ago anyway, so we’re starting now.

Every year, several hundred people donate to Squirrel News, most of them with regular amounts. Our total income from donations averages a little over 1000 euros/dollars per month, but fluctuates seasonally.

Most of our income (about 70%) goes into editing, which includes collecting, filtering and weighting news, rewriting headlines and summaries and producing our issues. Even with this, we are still far from paying normal wages, but at least it allows us to keep going for now.

We invest about one fifth of our income in public relations and marketing in order to grow further: that is, to make Squirrel News better known, to find more readers and thus more supporters.

We keep our fixed costs very low, as we don’t have an office and work remotely. Our team is now spread all over the world and is not only based in Berlin, but also in other German cities, London, Los Angeles and in the Philippines.

The rest of the work for Squirrel News – management, accounting, app development and more – has been done by our team completely on a voluntary and unpaid basis so far. The market value of this work is easily in the six-figure range in the three years since we launched.

For some team members this works because they have solidly paid jobs at the moment and some time on the side. For many others, it is difficult and they cannot participate at all for financial reasons or not for as much as they would like.

With your donations, you can help our team to develop and deliver more great work, including editorial selection, technology and design. And the more of you join in, the better it gets.

Best regards

Your Squirrel News Team