I was part of the EFN board before the Eugene Free Community Network merged with Lane OnLine and helped negotiate the merging of the two organizations. Since then, I've helped lead the OPN board in passing resolutions regarding service pricing, hiring staff and other key issues.
I wrote a number of fund-raising appeals and e-mailed them to the general membership of OPN on a weekly to monthly basis. When I began handling on-line fund-raising in February of 1994, contributions were running less than $400 per month for about 200 members online. Now (Feb. 1996), contributions are running at about $30,000 per month for 6,100 members.
Invented Priority Access Funding Model
In March of '94, It became apparent to me that most OPN members, even the generous and helpful ones tend to follow the path of least resistance. Even though they might mean to send a check into their local free net every month, they often procrastinate. Also, I noticed that some people who were not so well-off but generous-to-a-fault sent in money they probably couldn't afford to part with while others, whom I presumed to be more well-off financially, were not as forthcoming with contributions.
As the system began to become overwhelmed with users and the resources available to serve them became insufficient, I felt it was unfair to those who contributed to OPN to force them to put up with the lack of availability caused by the large numbers of free users when it was certainly not their fault. The solution, I reasoned, was to reserve some of the incoming phone lines for donors. This was dubbed "Priority Access".
I implemented the on-line priority access screening program and installed it on the EFN system.
With priority access, people who haven't contributed the suggested $7/month and login when all the free lines are busy are asked to try again later and to contribute in the future if they'd like to enjoy priority access too. Then they are disconnected. With this system, popularity of (and the consequent difficulty in connecting with) the system actually fuels donations and helps the system grow to keep pace with its popularity. There are probably more free lines available today for those who can't afford to pay than there would be without such a system, and those who are able to pay receive a sufficient level of service that they remain OPN members, continue funding OPN and are not easily tempted to switch to other on-line services.
Designed Payments Database in ACCESS
Priority Access created the need for a payments database to keep track of people's donations and generate suggested contribution statements to mail out monthly (quite similar to bills) and authorization lists for the priority access on-line screening mechanism.