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Why I’m Raising Money for The Black Urbanist and Why I’m Doing it On Patreon

Kristen Jeffers writing at Union Station in Kansas City, MO, Spring 2016

I am raising money to make this the online home I’ve always dreamed it could be and needs to become. I’m doing it through Patreon because Patreon makes it easier for me to see what I have to work with each month and it’s optimized for people who write and make audio and video to promote their work. You know, like a patron of the arts.

Getting to this Point on a Personal Level

Twenty-four hours ago I woke up on a sunny Saturday in a sour mood. I knew I needed help, I knew I didn’t have to stay grumpy and I knew there was a way I could shake myself out of my funk. I started tweeting.

For those of you who’ve been listening faithfully to Third Wave Urbanism, in our recent episode, we talked about the many changes we have going on in our lives. Katrina just returned from Sweden and Amsterdam and is currently raising money for a return trip to Sweden help build the Women-Led Cities initiative. She’s been able to secure a fiscal sponsor and Knight Foundation funding. While she’d had the seeds of this idea in her head for a minute, it was being at the big Women’s March in January, that prompted her to come up with a tangible idea for change and way to channel the energy of surviving our new political reality in the United States.

Meanwhile, I, on that march day, spent it with a long-time fan and now newly minted online friend in Harlem, reflecting on what the world could seriously look like for women of color and taking at least one good day to celebrate and enjoy ourselves, if things got really bad immediately. Later that night, I logged on my computer and saw all the women’s march pictures and I posted to Facebook how excited I was and how down I had been prior to the march and I was ready to take this energy and move forward.

I then launched my Patreon account and my friend, Zia, was both the nudge to do it and one of my first Patreons.

On that original night, I’d been working on three projects: this site, which I honestly just saw as continuing to be more of an archive and a personal blog; Plan to Speak, a webinar/event series I’d developed to try and have a less controversial, but still related to planning and placemaking way of generating income; and Kristpattern, my dabbling in crafts and making a few crafty things to sell and again, have a less controversial way of generating income.

The first push worked and I hovered at around $40-$60 a month in Patreon income. Yet also at the same time, I’d been experiencing early bouts of not gaining and keeping contracts and being able to completely sustain myself. I had rent to pay in D.C. and no one I knew that I could just crash with (as I’m doing now in Baltimore). I was adamant about staying in D.C. Then I did get a full time, well-paying contract in the District in March and I was able to start making headways on bills. I did an extra push of the Patreon around the same time and I narrowed focus back on writing this site.

However, when I went back to work, I was working for a somewhat conservative agency and I didn’t want to draw attention to myself or the more radicalized portions of my work. I really needed the money and finally, I’d found a way to make money in D.C. and enjoy being a Washingtonian and doing things like eating out and going to concerts.

Deep down though, my heart yearned to be writing more here and writing in the vein I’d started to crank up and go in into just before I started at that organization. Also, while I was on one floor doing one thing when, my original contract ran out in May and I was moved to another floor, where the work I was doing and the team I was doing it with wasn’t as interesting. I began to start planting the seeds for a full reboot of the site.

If you’ve paid attention since May, we one, relaunched Third Wave Urbanism after our election-induced hiatus. (This was also part of our channeling our Women’s March day energy into something positive). Two, I started to tweet more. Three, I’d already reshaped the weekly newsletter from being a place where I try to sell all the things I’m doing (like the courses and Kristpattern things), after having learned to do that and switching to a bigger email platform at a business event last fall. I went back to Mailchimp and I started doing what I do best– writing about urbanism straight from my heart.

When my job ended on July 28th, I had a week’s notice and I’d already started to put money away, as well as ramp up activities and I was confident that I’d be able to start doing more of my work and I’d find somewhere else to do it. The seeds of a move to Baltimore had also been planted in the spring. In fact, one of the first things I did with my new check at that agency was hop on MARC and come up and visit for a weekend, at the prompting of a friend who’s basically why I’m still in Baltimore now.

Then the floor flooded at my D.C. apartment on the night of August 4th.

I still didn’t panic. Well, I did that first night and texted a couple of people, but I was able to get the puddles under control and go back to bed and think about how I could continue to make my dark and imperfect basement apartment work. I went to see a few places in D.C.. However, I sent another text to another friend and colleague in Baltimore. One Facebook post later, I had a housesitting gig.

I got to Baltimore, started spreading the word about wanting to set up camp here more permanently and I’m now in what I’d like to call phase two, where I’m still crashing with friends, but I’m also excited to be starting not just a new job that allows me to do work I think is worthy (and pays me about the same as I was in D.C.), but also I have access to a car (thanks Lyft rental program!), things are a hair cheaper up here (and the food and cultural opportunities are better) and I also see and interact with people more often. Partly because I can drive or take the train into D.C. specifically for special events and otherwise for being included in things here in Baltimore. Which gets me to phase three– getting back to having one anchor client, which is my paid position at the Baltimore Community Foundation, paying all my bills, getting my own place, and taking this site to the next level. Plus, don’t forget, Baltimore is every city I’ve ever lived in and more.

Now, What I Want for this Site–a Managing Editor and More (Paid) Voices

I thought about what I needed the most for the site and going forward in life. Increasingly, that was my own managing editor. I’ve had some pushback with other editors and sites and I’ve also noticed that I don’t write nearly as much as I would like to, simply because I’ve been at the point where I know I can get paid for it, and potentially syndicate it, for a while now. While not everything I write is truly meant for publication, I’ve also thought about how folks like Seth Godin (and Michael Doyle a little closer to the planning world), are writing either daily or almost daily. They pump out good content and it still makes sense. Plus,I know for myself, I feel better and I start writing things that have even more power and punch.

With an editor, I can make sure one, my writing is clear and error-proof; two, it gets posted on the site; and three, they will be able to point out things that I can’t see and pinpoint places and spaces I could be pitching to, with hopefully writing that doesn’t need too much more editing to fit into their space.

Additionally, this person would help me make sure I’m not over scheduling myself, that I’m managing the funds we generate  well and yes that I eat and rest. Oh, and we hope that this person might also be able to pitch in and help some with editing and managing Third Wave Urbanism, but we are also hoping to raise money through that Patreon or foundation support to get it its own editor/producer.

The second piece of why I’m raising money is that I want this to be the premier space for black urbanist writings and thought. I want to be able to sustain myself writing explicitly and honestly about my experience loving cities, understanding suburbs, respecting farms and preserving natural areas as a black woman, with Southern roots and radical leanings.

I want to be able to call my other black urbanist and black city writer friends, hand them a few dollars and tell them to write with their heart and write directly to their people. Similar to what happens at VSB and Blavity, but with the frame of our urbanist news sphere. I also want folks to be able to write things here that they can’t get placed elsewhere.

I also want to tell city stories without having to explain the blackness or rely on frames that don’t really make sense and keep pushing stereotypes of all kinds that just don’t work. Lastly, I do want my black friends and family to understand our role in the sense of place and continue to create and share a black urbanist ethic, much like I wrote about right after the election.

And again, Patreon is great with writers and podcast makers. Also, Patreon will pay me once a month and I will be able to set a standard day of payment for all staff and vendors. I also would like to experiment with doing a print magazine, using Blurb and also doing a general call for articles quarterly and work to make sure that all content is placed and paid. In the beginning, we will still have more stringent standards, because we won’t have as much money,but if we can raise more money sustainably, we will expand our content.

And yes, I realize Patreon may not be your jam. For that, I’ll be introducing a media kit, or you can just talk to me about me working on a paid project of your own or ask me a question on the app Campfire. I also have a Square Cash setup for one time donations and I still use PayPal (it’s how I process my Patreon donations).

I want to go ahead and thank everyone who’s already donated, in money, time, stuff and a listening ear. Also, in the last 24 hours, I’ve recalculated all the math and we are already almost 50% to the first goal, which I’ve lowered to $250. Read on for more details about how all this works and what’s in it for you.

So What’s In This For You?

In addition to the content, here are the rewards spelled out. Note that if you’re an existing Patreon, these are changing to reflect the new focus on The Black Urbanist.

  • $1/month puts you on my holiday card list. Make sure you include your shipping address and I’ll be sending you a card. And yes, because there’s a lot of you out there (at least 7600+ on Twitter), $1 a month goes a long way.
  • $5/month currently gets you a The Black Urbanist sticker. It will be in your holiday card.
  • $10/month gets you three stickers. Originally it was a sticker reflecting all three brands, now you get three The Black Urbanist stickers. Want a Third Wave Urbanism sticker, donate directly to that Patreon. Look out for an additional reward at this level to be announced. And yes, the holiday card.
  • $20/month gets you all my books signed in perpetuity. If you don’t have a copy of The Black Urbanist yet, hold off, if you’re at this level, you’ll be one of the first to get the revised second edition. Also, this will be for sale. I’m going to be pulling the first edition off of Gumroad and all other online stores over the next few days in anticipation of the second edition coming out at the end of the year. And of course, the holiday card and the stickers.
  • $50/month will get you a custom-designed city related gift. I.e. I’ll be making one of my Kristpatterns and I’ll put it on one of a handful of items that I’ll order using Zazzle, Print All Over Me or a similar design-on-demand site. And everything else.
  • $100/month will get you a customized city map from Point Two/Design. I bought one of their city maps for D.C. back when I was in Vancouver for Placemaking Week and it was great. Sadly, it got lost in the moving shuffle, so in addition to reordering one for D.C., I’m ordering every city I’ve ever lived in for my future portrait wall eventually. And that’s why I’m offering to buy you one too. They will make whatever city you want, in whatever colors you want. I’ll contact you to get the specs. And you’ll get everything else.
  • And you are welcome to go above and beyond my campaign by donating $500, $1000, $2000 or more per month. But the rewards stop at the $100 level.
  • And you can opt out of rewards and just let my work be your reward, as several folks have already done.

And here’s the goals/plans of the site at a glance:

  • Amounts up to $250/month will go to site fees, i.e. Bluehost, Mailchimp, Soundcloud and Adobe. Also, this site needs some fixing and it will cover that too because I can do some of that work myself.
  • Pledges above and beyond $500/month will allow me to add an editor at a pay rate of $250 a month. The editor will help me get my newsletter out and look at adding more newsletters and other daily newsy content. They would also proofread any regular posts of mine and contribute posts as they saw fit.
  • Pledges above and beyond $750/month will allow me to raise the salary of my editor to $500 a month and we’d both be writing more stuff for the site. Also, they would be doing more office managerial things.
  • Amounts above and beyond $1000/month will allow me to start paying writers. Both I and my editor will write in the beginning, but then we hope to add two commissioned pieces a month at $125 per piece. These will be personal essays, i.e. what a traditional guest post would look like.
  • Amounts above and beyond $1500/month would allow us to commission an investigative piece at $750 a month.
  • And amounts above and beyond $2000 would increase my travel budget and increase the amounts of personal essays and investigative pieces we could do, but those would be the rates. Also, I’d like to get my editor to the $1500/month level eventually, possibly more. I’d also like to do special events and introduce a print magazine to highlight all this new digital work.

Whew, you’re at the end. But thanks to your support, I won’t have to end this project and it can grow even bigger.

I’m Kristen. Seven years ago, I started blogging here to make sense of the built environment around me. You can find me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. You can find out more about me at my main website, www.kristenejeffers.com. Support this project on Patreon for as little as one dollar a month.

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