“New Atheists” Are Cheap Bastards

At least, that’s a conclusion a cynical person might be tempted to draw from the fact that the ScienceBlogs Leaderboard for the DonorsChoose challenge is dominated by us “Neville Chamberlain” types…

At present, the ScienceBlogs participating in the Challenge have raised more than $14,000 to help schools and school children. The Seed Media Group (publishers of Seed and backers of ScienceBlogs) have pledged to match up to $15,000 in donations, so that’s really $28,000, and not too shabby.

Looked at another way, though, it’s pretty pathetic. That $14,000 has come from at most 138 donors (some people donated to more than one Challenge, so the real number is lower). ScienceBlogs in general gets around 100,000 unique page views a day. Unless there’s a monkey chained to a keyboard hitting “Reload” 90,000 times a day, there are a whole bunch of cheap slackers out there reading this.

If one visitor in ten gave $10, that’d put us over $100,000; as it is, we’re doing well because one visitor in 1000 is giving $100. Right now, one blog is absolutely pasting us, both in total donations ($75,000) and number of donors (949). And her Technorati rank is lower than mine, let alone any of the big blogs here. That’s just pathetic.

As I said, a cynic might think that huge numbers of our readers are just here for the warm feeling of smug superiority to religious folk, and don’t actually care about science, education, or making the world a better place. It’d be hard to argue with that, at the moment.

Don’t like that characterization? Want to prove the cynics wrong? Donate. Or, if I piss you off, go to the Leaderboard, and pick one of the 18 other fine blogs there to donate through. I really don’t care who you give the money to, but give something, even if it’s just $10. If you can afford home Internet access, you can donate $10 to help our public schools, and I’d be happy just to get the donor fraction over a tenth of a percent.

The participating sites might not be Dawkins-approved, but I will promise that if you find a single dollar of your donation going to support prayer in schools or the teaching of creationism, I will personally refund your entire contribution.

Comments

  1. #1 Captain Button
    October 11, 2007

    My immediate reaction (as it is to most online appeals) was “I don’t have a paypal account, and from what I’ve heard, don’t want one.”

    Of course to be fair, maybe they don’t use paypal, so I clicked through to look at payment options. Several clicks later I still have not the slightest indication of how they want to actually get money from me to them.

    At this point I switch to suspicion mode and give up.

    (Suspicion mode in this case means that they are being evasive with the answers to obvious questions, which suggest they are hiding something. Like when an advertisement goes on and on about how great a product is without giving the price, or a book covered with testimonials and no indication of what the book is actually about.)

    And BTW, all you people now reaching for your keyboards to detail the payment options here are completely missing the point. Especially because you weren’t going to illustrate the obvious chain of clicks that was supposed to lead me to that, were you?

  2. #2 Dunc
    October 11, 2007

    Has it ever occurred to you that many SciBlogs readers might not be in the US, and therefore might want to support a US-only charity?

  3. #3 Dunc
    October 11, 2007

    Oops…. “might not want to support a US-only charity”.

    And of course, the larger, more popular SciBlogs have the most cosmopolitan audience.

  4. #4 Kate Nepveu
    October 11, 2007

    Especially because you weren’t going to illustrate the obvious chain of clicks that was supposed to lead me to that, were you?

    Actually, I was. If you don’t want to know, don’t read the next bit.

    Anytime you click on the green “fund” button, the resulting screen asks if you want to fund with a gift certificate, check, credit card, or “philanthropy credits” (which are what DonorsChoose gives you as a refund, if one of your proposals doesn’t get fully funded).

    A less explicit route is help/Making Donations/”How do I know that my online donation is secure? Can I donate by check?”, the answer to which refers to credit cards & checks.

    * * *

    Chad, does the stats give any idea of the US / non-US breakdown.

  5. #5 Chad Orzel
    October 11, 2007

    I didn’t find their donation options the least bit mysterious, but your mileage may vary. For the record, as Kate said, they take all major credit cards, and even accept checks.

    68.2% of the visitors over the last month are from the US, according to Google Analytics. (1.31 million out of 1.92 million). The US fraction for Pharyngula is 67.2%, while for this blog it’s 71.1%, which is not a significant difference in the “cosmopolitan”-ness of the readership.

  6. #6 Max
    October 11, 2007

    Despite the charity being US only, I was going to donate, but the address form won’t even accept a non-US address. :(

    Can you make a donation in my name, if I were to paypal you money?

  7. #7 Lab Rat
    October 11, 2007

    Hits from US addresses doesn’t necessarily mean a US citizen is at the other end. :)

  8. #8 D
    October 11, 2007

    It’s hard for me to look at this table and conclude money is what’s fundamentally wrong with American schooling. Malaria in Somalia, this ain’t.

  9. #9 Chad Orzel
    October 11, 2007

    I can forward donations if you want, but I’ll note that there’s nothing saying you have to give them a real US address. You could always, say, pick an amusing five-digit number to enter as the ZIP code, which I’ve heard gets around the address requirement…

    Hits from US addresses doesn’t necessarily mean a US citizen is at the other end. :)

    Sure, but then there are probably some US citizens reading from foreign IP addresses. And you don’t have to be a citizen to donate, you just have to have a ZIP code.

    It’s hard for me to look at this table and conclude money is what’s fundamentally wrong with American schooling. Malaria in Somalia, this ain’t.

    There’s money, and then there’s money. Lots of the public money spent on American education is mis-spent, on administrative apparatus and bureaucracy, rather than ground-level eduction. Donations to DonorsChoose go directly to classroom teachers to fund the purchase of educational supplies for use in their classes.

    But, yeah, you’re right, this isn’t on the same level as donating to provide clean drinking water to third-world countries, or cure malaria in Africa, or whatever. If you’d like to organize a blog-based charity drive for one of those causes, I’m happy to give it a shout-out.

    For the moment, this is what we’re doing, and this is the charity I’ll be flogging for the next couple of weeks.

  10. #10 David H
    October 11, 2007

    You don’t know who I give to, what I give, or if I give nothing. You just assume that because I’m not upping your numbers that I must not *care* about the issue–and then you actually insult those who haven’t donated yet.

    I work in philanthropy, and your appeal is a classic failure. People won’t be lectured into giving money unless the there’s some authority there–like some pastor with the weight of a deity and eternal salvation behind him.

    Lecturing from a blog to an anonymous readership just won’t work overall; philanthropic motivation is a combination of emotional interest (which can be anything from pity to nobility to fear to anger), financial ability, altruistic desire, and a drive to get involved with an issue. That’s why a large portion of your giving dollars will usually come from a small portion of your total donors–most people just aren’t very giving.

    And philanthropy is really competitive. I can choose to give to any number of causes in the city where I live, and most of them have much better appeals than you do–like they actually talk primarily about the program being given to. Sure, I believe in your cause, but I’m also concerned about the homeless, LGBT civil rights, free speech, and HIV/AIDS, just to name a few. Those causes all have good reasons and good organizations to give to, too. With an appeal like yours, why wouldn’t I just go somewhere else? Sure, I’m in philanthropy, so I know to look at the cause and not the messenger, even if he is an asshole. But the messenger is important to the casual donor, they have to be enticed into giving, not just convinced of the cause.

    Finally, that whole insult about coming here to just feel smug–dude, screw you. I come here for entertainment and education, and because these topics interest me. I don’t have any moral obligation to up your numbers because I read these blogs. Period.

    I am content that I am doing my part–I’m an AmeriCorps VISTA, which is a program where the government gives me a small living stipend per month and I work practically for free for a nonprofit (I’m college educated and could be making quadruple the income I am now). My org works on homeless issues, much of which deals with homeless children. In addition, I volunteer outside of my “job” because I cannot afford to give much money.

    I know I’m an exception among the readers here, but philanthropic dollars has steadily risen over the last ten years or so, so maybe I’m not as much of an exception. Regardless, you’re simply going about this the wrong way. You’re not going to piss people off into donating just to spite you–spiting you would be not donating at all.

    And most people–not just atheists or religious people or whatever–most people are fickle and apathetic toward giving
    to begin with. Maybe you think that sucks, but whining and bitching isn’t going to help you.

  11. #11 D
    October 11, 2007

    Also that thing Lab Rat said.

  12. #12 Armchair dissident
    October 11, 2007

    Don’t like that characterization? Want to prove the cynics wrong?

    No, and no. The characterization is wrong, and the cynic would be committing the fallacy of the false dilemma, and being pretty rude about it whilst they were at it.

    Maybe some scienceblogs readers prefer to donate their money to organisations such as Save the Children, or Amnesty International rather than wonder why the richest nation on Earth has its citizens begging for money for the educational system that their government ought to be funding… Or is it just the “New Atheists” donating money to other, and quite frankly more needy and deserving, charities?

  13. #13 Pam
    October 11, 2007

    I’ll make a donation when I am at home and have time to look through all the proposals (I want to see if there’s anything I like in my local area), but as long as you’re lambasting people you might want to have a word with your Scienceblogs overlords about doing more (i.e. anything) to support or draw attention to the funding drive on the Scienceblogs homepage and/or the “Last 24 Hours” page. You know, since it’s a Scienceblogs-branded charity drive and all.

  14. #14 Dirkh
    October 11, 2007

    “As I said, a cynic might think that huge numbers of our readers are just here for the warm feeling of smug superiority to religious folk…”
    ———–

    If the shoe fits…

    And what’s supposed to be the matter with Paypal, anyway? A simple, dependable method of making donations, in my experience.

  15. #15 Natalie
    October 11, 2007

    Oo – you seem to have gotten some people hot under the collar. The way I figure it, is I get at least $10 worth of entertainment out of this site, so the least I can do is donate $10 toward the good cause the site is promoting. I’m sure other people think the same.

  16. #16 Jason Adams
    October 11, 2007

    It’s funny when there’s a post like this, that basically insults people for being cheap bastards (or meat-eating murderers, or whatever), all sorts of comments come out of the woodwork about how “you don’t know me” or whatever. Why do people get so defensive? It’s just a blog post. Lighten the hell up. Maybe it’s an indication of subconscious guilt though, one I am happily free of, as I pass this by and gleefully fail to donate.

  17. #17 coturnix
    October 11, 2007

    I thought the post was very funny, and I am not in the ‘appeaser atheist’ camp either. It was obviously made to draw attention and I thought it succeeded marvelously. Now donate!

  18. #18 KKairos
    October 11, 2007

    [i]As I said, a cynic might think that huge numbers of our readers are just here for the warm feeling of smug superiority to religious folk, and don’t actually care about science, education, or making the world a better place. It’d be hard to argue with that, at the moment.[/i]

    I’m a religious folk :/

    Is there any way we could donate without using a credit card? Because that’s not something I have and not something I’m going to be getting right yet (Junior in college.)

    If you have some idea how I might donate $10 without having to use the internet (and thus, a credit card or some other form of payment I don’t have available) I’d be happy too. I know this is the internet, but I’m completely serious.

  19. #19 KKairos
    October 11, 2007

    Whoops. That was phpBB board style, wasn’t it?

  20. #20 Hohn
    October 11, 2007

    It’s funny when there’s a post like this, that basically insults people for being cheap bastards (or meat-eating murderers, or whatever), all sorts of comments come out of the woodwork about how “you don’t know me” or whatever. Why do people get so defensive? It’s just a blog post. Lighten the hell up. Maybe it’s an indication of subconscious guilt though, one I am happily free of, as I pass this by and gleefully fail to donate.

    Spot on. So much wounded pride. And although I am guilt-free, I actually took some time to read the proposals, and found one that really moved me. I’m in for $100.

    It’s really the three blog posts that I’m after, though…Muahahahahahahaha!

  21. #21 Chad Orzel
    October 11, 2007

    David H: You’re not going to piss people off into donating just to spite you–spiting you would be not donating at all.

    So, you’re saying that insulting people isn’t a good way to get them to do what you want? What a novel idea…

    As a practical matter, I would note that I’ve gotten more new donors today when I insulted people than Tuesday, when I asked nicely. It’s not quite as much money, because a couple of Tuesday’s donors were very generous, but this hasn’t been totally ineffective.

    (I think that’s less to do with the insults than just getting the solicitation in front of people who haven’t seen it before, but whatever works.)

    Pam: as long as you’re lambasting people you might want to have a word with your Scienceblogs overlords about doing more (i.e. anything) to support or draw attention to the funding drive on the Scienceblogs homepage and/or the “Last 24 Hours” page. You know, since it’s a Scienceblogs-branded charity drive and all.

    An excellent point.
    My ability to lambaste the Seed Media overlords is highly limited, but I will bring it to their attention.

    As for donating without a credit card, they list “check” as one of the payment options, so I think you can mail them a check. I’m also willing to make donations on behalf of people who send money to me (at least once I get a PayPal account set up), so if you want to go that route, send me an email, and we’ll talk.

  22. #22 Dave S.
    October 11, 2007

    Perhaps its not just the New Atheists that are the cheap bastards. There are 18 bloggers from Scienceblogs participating in the challenge, but 47 that are not. That’s more than 2/3. Whether that translates viewership-wise to a proportional number I can’t say. Might be more, might be less. But some pretty popular blogs are no shows. Including all 3 that proudly fly the red “A” on their sites.

  23. #23 Hohn
    October 11, 2007

    Some food for thought.

    Finally, the single biggest predictor of whether someone will be charitable is their religious participation.

    Religious people are more likely to give to charity, and when they give, they give more money: four times as much. And Arthur Brooks told me that giving goes beyond their own religious organization:

    “Actually, the truth is that they’re giving to more than their churches,” he says. “The religious Americans are more likely to give to every kind of cause and charity, including explicitly non-religious charities.”

    And almost all of the people who gave to our bell ringers in San Francisco and Sioux Falls said they were religious or spiritual.

    http://abcnews.go.com/2020/Story?id=2682730&page=2

    I’d be curious to see the source data.

  24. #24 caynazzo
    October 11, 2007

    Voting, especially locally, makes a greater difference than donating, respectively speaking. I make a biweekly tax “donation,” a tiny fraction of which goes toward public education.
    Be an advocate for change by volunteering and send donations to things that don’t run off tax dollars.

  25. #25 lylebot
    October 11, 2007

    Well, I suppose I’m a “New Atheist”, and I thought the post title was pretty funny. And the post made me think about donating, which maybe I’ll do tomorrow since it’s payday.

  26. #26 PZ Myers
    October 11, 2007

    Whatever you do, though, don’t donate to the Appeaser/Accommodationist/Chamberlainist/Wimp challenges — you’ll want to donate to the one run by a cheap bastard.

  27. #27 Rebecca
    October 12, 2007

    I wasn’t going to donate because I thought you wanted to prove that you atheists were just as charitable as us science- and reason-loving liberal-religion type religious people.

  28. #28 Jud
    October 12, 2007

    David H wrote: “I’m an AmeriCorps VISTA.”

    Yeah, I was with VISTA too, before AmeriCorps. My stipend was $300 a month. Didn’t have a bank account, because the monthly fee would’ve taken a day’s pay or more. I learned to love ramen noodles and fried fish cakes (made ‘em ourselves from canned mackerel – pre-made fish sticks were way too expensive). You could be making quadruple the income? I think I could have done a little better than $1200 per month at the time with my law degree and bar license.

    Now, if you’d bother to look at the Donors Choose site, you’d see, for example, a project to help a class of kids with disabilities, where there is so little money (90% poverty rate) that they can’t even afford to buy paper for the copier and printer. So they’re asking for the princely sum of $140 for a few reams of paper. Think you can spare $10 out of your stipend so a poor disabled child can show off a printout she made and smile? You, and a few more like you, and that $140 could be paid off today. See http://www.donorschoose.org/donors/proposal.html?id=111399

  29. #29 Jon Eccles
    October 12, 2007

    It’s slightly off topic, but the whole Chamberlain analogy is bad history. The British Establishment weren’t avoiding confrontation with Hitler out of weakness or pacifism, they had global political reasons for doing so.

    I wrote about it here (the history bit starts about half way down).

    http://secback.blog.co.uk/2007/10/03/the_chamberlain_school~3081209

  30. #30 David H
    October 12, 2007

    Jud-

    I don’t know when you served, but your numbers are out of date (or we’re in different programs). I do $865 a month, which must be quite the fortune compared to when you served–I’m curious, where and when was that? I roughly felt I could do about $40,000 a year outside AmeriCorps. That might be a little high, actually.

    Anyway, yeah, I can afford $10. But do you see my original point? Do you see the difference between your appeal and this blogger’s? Yours was much, much better, even if it was lost on me, because guilt doesn’t work well on someone who already gives and sees that same kind of appeal every day. (And writes them, for that matter.)

    I try to donate either my time or in-kind items, because I actually try to have a little bit of spending cash, and avoid the fishcakes, while still doing my share. $10 is a bit of partying, which helps keep me sane while entering my second year of this. If people want to fault me for that…oh well.

    (But I might be motivated to give on PZ’s side out of annoyance. It’s all for a worthy cause, right?)

  31. #31 Jud
    October 12, 2007

    David H wrote: “I don’t know when you served, but your numbers are out of date (or we’re in different programs).”

    Oh heck yeah, they’re out of date. Note I mentioned that I was in VISTA before it was associated with AmeriCorps. The Reagan administration shut down the original VISTA in the U.S. in 1981 – I got a lovely letter from Nancy Reagan, telling me the $300/month they were paying me as a licensed attorney had been determined not to be “cost-effective.” (Funny how I never saw the cadres of $200/month attorneys they were apparently comparing me to.)

    So that’s the when, and the where was a center for women victims of violence in a medium-sized town in Oklahoma.

    “Do you see the difference between your appeal and this blogger’s?”

    I took Chad’s words as a sort of “Go, team!” speech, like a coach’s locker room talk to a football club that hadn’t done as well as expected in the first half. So, perceiving him as saying “*We* have to do better” rather than “*You* have to do better,” I felt no resentment at all.

  32. #32 lara
    October 13, 2007

    I feel really strongly that my money and time are better donated to the political campaigns of people who want to influence the system from the inside, rather than just plug random holes with fundraisers. The godless liberal in me believes government isn’t a bad word — just a neutral term used to describe the means by which a tribe of primates (made up of several million people) uses collective strength to help the weaker among them.

    Incidentally, this sort of thinking also drastically skews studies of who gives to “charity” — unfairly, I think. There’s a huge difference between donating to a politician who wants to expand Head Start programs versus one who wants to cut taxes on hedge funds. I consider my political donations to be charitable, even if the people who turn such things into statistics don’t.

  33. #33 jason brown
    October 24, 2007

    nice.

    my vote goes for the lady who counts political donations as charity.

    for the rest of you, doesn’t it seem just a little bit … i dunno … dumb? … raising piddley amounts of money for schools when your own government is busy hosing down politically correct corporates with not millions but billions of your tax dollars? often without trace? y’know, places like I-raq….

    as non-us citizens, we love you guys, but … sheesh. do americans even have a gag reflex? or y’all been on your knees so long you just swallow whoever steps up?

  34. #34 Chad Orzel
    October 24, 2007

    Shorter jason brown: Why light a candle, when you can curse the darkness?