Sunday, September 19, 2010

Project Outline: Think Tank / Policy Institute in a Box

Nothing against the think tanks and policy institutes which operate on millions, or at least tens of thousands, of dollars per year. I just happen to be one of those guys who tries to do everything on a shoestring budget.

Here are a couple of rough outlines I've been working on, thinking they might be useful to Activist A with Cause B that he or she would like to build at least a skeleton web-based promotional organization around. There are bigger projects that have been done for less -- this is just some noodling and doodling that I thought worth sharing.


- $1,000 buildout and annual overhead:

Web Hosting: $432 (one year of GoDaddy's "Value" Virtual Dedicated Server package @ $36/month -- 30GB storage, 1,000Gb/mo bandwidth)

Domain Registration: $50 (one year of registration for .org, .com and .net domains, plus maybe .info, etc. if they're on sale)

Phone Service: $250 (one year of Net10 Service, 2.5 hours per month, $30 bi-monthly, with $70 allowance for phone hardware; Google Voice number to link to the phone is free)

Content Management System: Pay for a CMS? Are you INSANE? Depending on your needs, WordPress or Drupal should do nicely

Email List Management: $210 (Trafficwave.Net offers unlimited lists/autoresponders with all the double-opt-in doodads and such, serving up to 10,000 subscribers @ $17.50 per month)

Misc: $58 (templates, themes, stock photos, clip art, etc. to trick out the site)

Total: $1,000

- $9,000 Operating costs:

Development Director: $1,000 (10% commission on fundraising gross of $10,000)

Contribution Processing Costs: $500 (5% of $10,000)

Bloggers: $5,100 (four paid substantial "commentary" blog posts per week @ $25 each x 51 weeks -- take the week between Christmas and New Year off!); you fill in some, and expect the paid bloggers to throw in the occasional two-paragraph "well whaddya know about that" or "Jesus, did you see Obama's EARS?" post without payment.

Monthly Policy Paper: $2,400 ($200 x 12 months -- let your bloggers have this work, if they want it, when possible!)

Total: $9,000

Grand Total: $10,000


- $135 buildout and annual overhead

Web Hosting: $120 (one year of Hostgator's "Baby" shared hosting plan -- unlimited domains, unlimited storage and bandwidth, but if it gets busy you'll get shut down for consuming more than your share of CPU on the shared server)

Domain Registration: $15 (.org domain only)

Phone Service: $0 (get a Google Voice number and forward it to your personal landline and/or cell)

Content Management System: Free

Email List Management: Free (use Google Groups or Yahoo Groups)

Misc: None (do all your own templating, theming, artwork, etc.)

Total: $135

- Operating Costs

Development Director: $0 (all fundraising done via web site/email appeals)

Contribution Processing Costs: $125 (5% of $2,500)

Bloggers: $1,200 (you do half the work gratis and pay some eager beaver $100 a month to do the other half)

Monthly Policy Paper: $1,000 ($100 x 10 months -- you do two of them; let the aforementioned underpaid eager beaver have as many of the other 10 as he wants!)

Misc: $40 for an iTunes gift card, sent in a CafePress mug with the think tank's logo on it, at Christmas for the eager beaver

Total: $2,365

Grand Total: $2,500

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