As I indicated in my previous post, we had our eighth anniversary as a blog two days ago, on April 3.   How things have changed since started this little venture in 2012.   As I have said before, at the time I had no idea how the blog would work or go.   A friend had suggested the idea of a blog over drinks, and I thought it was crazy.  Who has time to do a regular blog?  Lots of people, I guess, since there are millions out there.  But I said: No Way.  So he suggested I do it for money.  I said, Money for a BLOG???   Plus, I told him, I was doing just fine, thank you very much.  But then he said, You could do it for charity.  BINGO.

I thought about it.  Steven Ray contacted me out of the blue to see if I needed any website help.  I conferred with him about the blog idea, but it off for months and months, and finally toward the end of 2011 I thought I wanted to try it.  I thought, hey, maybe I could raise $20,000 a year for charity.  THAT would be good!   I conceptualized it, Steven designed it, we started it, and here we are.

I am thinking of 2019-20 is the year the blog started taking steps toward serious growth and development.  I think we are at the beginning of a sea change, thanks to sage advice, new directions, and lots of help from others..  We are starting to transform the blog from a mom-and-pop show to something more significant.  It will take a while, but it looks like we may be heading there.

The idea is to keep the same concept we’ve always had, but figuring out how to improve and to expand our presence.  As from the beginning, I post 5-6 times a week, every week (haven’t missed a week in 8 years), on topics of all sorts connected with the NT and Early Christianity.  All proceeds from the blog – membership fees and direct donations – go straight to charity.  (None go to the overhead costs of the blog). But we are working hard on getting the word out there, growing our membership, and improving the packaging of our product.   It’s already paying off and we hope this coming year it will pay off far more big time.

So here are the year’s numbers.   I just checked: I made 289 posts this past year, so on average about five and a half per week.   Altogether, since starting the blog, there have been 2302 posts.  Them’s a lot of words.  I have also posted 14,322 comments from y’all this past year — some 275/week – so your voices are being heard as well.   Altogether we have posted 94,811 comments since the blog began.

Yet more important: right now we have 9426 paying members.  That is up from 7100 last year at this time, an increase of nearly 33%.  We also have a number of free members, both those who cannot afford the membership fee who have been given year memberships through generous donations of other blog members for the purpose, and now, for the past two days, Free Memberships for a two-month period, as we are in the midst of the pandemic.   We’ve had more than 450 people take advantage of this recent offer, and have 595 free memberships out there altogether, making a total of over 10,000 members of one kind or another on the blog.

Now *that’s* a milestone.  And if we can keep growing at this rate, or even better, a higher one, well, we are all intimately familiar with exponential curves these days.  Only this time it will be for a very GOOD thing.

For me, one of the most important gauge of our success is the amount of money we raise for charity.  Corresponding to all the other increases, we have done gratifyingly well this past year.   Altogether we raised and distributed $189,000.   That is nearly 20% more than the year before ($158,000) — which itself was slightly less than a 14% increase we over the one previous.  So we are growing our revenues at a higher rate, and are definitely moving in the right direction.    If you want to see which charities we support, please simply click on the Philanthropy tab on the home page, and you’ll see.

As am important side note:  I have just now – this morning in fact – learned a flaw in our system related to donations, for which I need to apologize.  As you know, we use PayPal, and I receive an email from PayPal for every membership fee and donation that comes in (so: I get numerous emails of this kind everyday).  I rely on these notifications to tell me when a Donation has been made.  Looking at other things in our PayPal account, I have just now realized that some donations have not been reported to me as such, but as “payments” (the term normally reserved for Membership fees).  And as a result, SOME donations have not been acknowledged in a personal email from me.  MANY MANY apologies if that has happened to you.  I had no idea, and am so sorry if I have not thanked you for your generous gift.  If you’re not thanked from here on out, please let me know (“Hey Bart, did you get my donation?  Just making sure….”) and give me a VERY hard time.

The new phase the blog is now moving into will become graphically evident to you in the not too distant future.  Steven designed the blog stie back at the end of 2011, and for the past two years he has been holding it together with duct tape and bailing wire.   A year and a half ago he started building a whole new platform.  We have been working on it, both conceptually and materially, and we are getting close to being able to roll it out.  It may be another month or so, but when we do, it will be VASTLY improved in every way.  My posts will be of the same sort – I’m not changing that at all.  But the blog site itself will be brought up to date and improved.

That will help us as we try to get the word out there and acquire more members, which will mean more people better informed about these topics we are all deeply concerned about; it will mean more money for charities that now desperately need it more than ever; and so it will mean a better world all around.

I conclude with some words of thanks.  First and foremost, thanks are due to Steven, who has labored long and hard on the blog, entirely behind the scenes, and has done a fantastic job with his massive technical expertise on the site itself, membership services, and advice to me.

In addition, we have had the new phenomenon of volunteers this year, a number of them who have done a number of tasks.  Many, many thanks to all, especially to three volunteers who have come forward to donate significant amounts of time and effort to make the blog far better:  Nathan Gordon, Chris Huntley, and Ben Porter.   Their names won’t be in lights on the video screen, but they are all making an enormous difference.

Most of all I thank all of you, for joining the blog, participating in it, supporting it with your fees and donations.  It would not happen without you, and I appreciate your involvement, at whatever level, very much indeed.   As we move forward, please feel free to make comments not just on the content of the posts but also on the quality, usefulness, and utility of the blog itself.  Anything we can do to improve will be good for all of us.

If you want to help out the blog even more, it requires just one thing, involving no expense and very little time.  Please tell everyone you know about the blog.   Use your social media; email people; talk to people.  It is endlessly frustrating for me to hear stories from devoted blog members, who have been with us for just months or a year, who are extraordinarily interested in what the blog is doing, but until now had never heard of it.  Word of mouth (or word of social media) is the one and best way we have of communicating our existence.  Please join us in doing so.

And most important, in this time of serious crisis, please stay safe.

Here’s looking forward to the blog’s 2020-21 iteration!