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Ideas for Raising More Money on the Blog

Many thanks to everyone who responded to my request for comments about how to improve the blog.  I am taking all of them under advisement!  Here I’d like to flesh out a bit three specific suggestions and give my take on them (I will address a few others in my next post).   Please consider each of these and respond if you feel so moved!   These are themed: they are all about money and about how to raise more of it – one of my ongoing interests and concerns

1.  The Price of the Blog.

Several people suggested that if I want to achieve my fund-raising goals for the charities I support (i.e., make more money), I could raise the cost of the blog.  Simply charge more.   Some suggested $50 instead of $24.95.   I was amused to see that no one suggested I charge *less* in order to make more money.  It made me think that maybe there are more Democrats than Republicans on the blog.  J

The reason I don’t want to charge more is that I think the current levels ($3.95/month; $7.95/three months; $24.95/year) are reasonable and allow *most* people interested in such things to join.   For some people $25 is a lot of money.  On the other hand, for a lot of people it’s not much at all.   But I think I’m going to keep the price structure for now.

Still, a related idea did occur to me.   Several people said they’d certainly be willing to pay more.   And this brings me back to the issue of donations, which very easy to make on the blog, and very appreciated.   But what if everyone who really likes the blog – if you’ve read this far, that probably includes you – was urged specifically to donate $20/year on top of their membership fee?    That would raise the kind of funds I want faster than I can down a canapé.  Some people can’t afford $20.  But those who really wouldn’t feel the pinch at all could donate $40 to make up the difference.   Or people make regular monthly donations (as some people do), so as to make up for the people who really can’t give anything more.

Now, many of you *can* do that but simply don’t want to.  And why *should* you want to, just because I want you to?  Many of us donate our hard-earned money to causes we already believe in, and there’s only so much money to go around.   But what I would argue is that in this case you are supporting not only important and valuable charities, but also the blog itself, where you have the privilege of reading about issues in early Christianity to your heart’s content.   You could look at your $24.95 as a fair asking price for that, and your $20 (or $40; or $1000; or whatever) donation as a vote of confidence that this blog is doing what you want it to do.  Consider it what the Old Testament calls a Thank Offering.

So I like this idea.  Those who could afford it, could chip in a bit just to be nice.   And as a nice guy, I nicely accept your nice donations and give them over to nice charities doing nice things.  I feel good, you feel good, the charities feel good, and the world is a better place.  I guess we can’t put it to a vote, but I would be happy to know your opinion of a “suggested donation” (like the museums in London or Washington) on top of a membership fee.


2. Selling Myself Shamelessly

Over the past couple of years I’ve received several suggestions that all boil down to the same thing: that I offer myself or my services to blog members (or to the world at large) for a hefty price, and give all the money to charity.   The prices would indeed be hefty since, in reality, I don’t have time to do any of this and since, in more reality, the point is to raise as much money as I can.  The person doing the “buying” would realize that they are not getting good bang for the buck.

As examples: For $500 I could do a half-hour live phone conversation or skype on any topic someone is interested in; for $1000 I could spend an evening with someone who comes to Durham/Chapel Hill (at their own expense) and takes me out to dinner (at their own expense); for $5000 and expenses I could fly to someone for an event – for example, I come on a Thursday, give a public lecture somewhere that evening or, even better, have an evening of conversation in someone’s living room with friends or whatever, do dinner (and drinks!) together either out someplace or in, and have a leisurely breakfast the next morning with the person before flying back.   (I set the amount at $5000 for this one because that’s my standard fee for a speaking engagement, and this would be about the same amount of work.  Before you gulp too hard and roll your eyes at my hefty fee: my policy is to give all the money from speaking gigs to charity; on average I do five speaking gigs a semester, so it adds up.  I would have to decide whether I could afford to do something in *addition* to those or not, under this category of selling myself shamelessly).

Obviously I wouldn’t have a lot of takers for any of these schemes, since we’re talking serious money.  But what do you think of the general idea?  And do you have other suggestions for using my services to bring in cash?


3.  Gift Memberships to the Blog

One suggestion that I especially like, that I’m having my computer assistant, the brilliant Steve Ray, who keeps this blog running,  and without whom it would die in a nano-second, look into, is to create the option of members purchasing an annual membership on the blog for someone else – a friend, a family member, a neighbor, a … pastor. J  This would NOT replace what I did last year and plan to do again this year, namely ask for donations for people who really would like to belong to the blog but cannot afford the price of admission.  That was a huge success and I hope it will be again.  But that involves helping out someone – an anonymous person — who is very interested in the blog but simply doesn’t have the funds to join.  This new idea is different: is there someone your know who would really like, or maybe just kinda like, to be on the blog?  You could buy them a guest membership for a year.   It would be like other things: a friend of mine gets me a subscription to the New Yorker every  year for Christmas.  It’s not because I can’t afford it, but just because it’s a really nice gift.   Seems like that would be a good idea here too.   What do you think?   (In theory it can be done now, but it’s way too complicated; we’re thinking of setting up a button you would click that would take you to a page that would make it possible.)


National Cathedral Lecture – Misquoting Jesus
Follow-up Apologies for the Post on Dinesh D’Souza



  1. Avatar
    TomTerrific  August 7, 2014

    How many blog members realize one can donate a certain amount a month? $5 or $10 a month, automatically deducted, is a fairly painless way to support the blog over and above the standard annual membership fee.

    I have been a participant since the blog started and like the way it is going now. I am interested in most topics and find very few that I lack any interest whatsoever.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. Avatar
    MilkyWay  August 7, 2014

    My best idea is to work more on your YouTube channel! I know that is free but it is a hit-generator. You have barely 3,500 subscribers. You should have 350,000 subscribers.

    I’d like to see (although it probably wouldn’t generate that many views) a Q&A session where we can submit some questions…and you answer them. It’d be very interesting. And more lectures!

    For educational videos – it seems like the up-and-coming channels that generate 100s of thousands of hits spend a lot of time making the video look like a cartoon. (see this channel which is only 1 year old: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGXi_9A__Vc). Just my 2 shekels!

    • Avatar
      MilkyWay  August 7, 2014

      I forgot to add you can raise lots of money for charity on a successful YouTube channel. I know it sounds silly but mini-lectures (7 to 12 minutes) turned into mini-cartoons is the way to go. I think people have really short attention spans and seeing, say 3 pictures of bibles that say “Mark”, “Luke”, “Mathew” with a font above that says “Synoptic Gospels” with a voice over saying “they are called the Synoptic Gospels because…”…..Then a picture of bible that says “Gospel of Mark” with dates on the screen….”This is our earliest Gospel….It dates to 70 AD….Do we have the original copy from 70AD? No…..Our earliest copy of Mark was from P45 which dates to the year 250 AD….it was copied 230 years after the death of Jesus (maybe a new picture pops up on the screen here!)…..and about 180 years after the original copy of Mark was written….”

      Or a cartoon of scribes scribbling on a map of the Middle East…..with arrows….and voiceover saying “to get a copy of the bible in antiquity a scribe from Rome would sit down for days at a time, copying letter by letter”……”This copy got copied”…….”Mistakes were copied (picture of words in bible being mispelled”…..etc.

      Hard work but the way I’m picturing it seems like it would be awesome!

  3. Avatar
    tcroberts02  August 7, 2014

    All 3 ideas are plausible, though I think #1 and #3 are the most practical. If you added a “Suggested Donation” at renewal time and force me to refuse, I would pay it every time. I realize that forcing me to say no may sound a bit silly, but human nature being what it is, I think it would work better by making me feel a bit cheap and miserly if I say no. Perhaps you program the blog to display the suggested donation to a set amount, your $20 for example, with an option to change the amount.

    I also like the Gift Membership idea with only one significant drawback: I would absolutely buy one, but only one because I know only one person who would be even remotely likely to use such a gift!

  4. Avatar
    rlboles  August 7, 2014

    I read your blog daily and I would gladly pay more if you asked it. But I have other charities that I support, and I think your current rate is reasonable.

  5. Avatar
    doug  August 7, 2014

    #3 – the gift membership is a great idea. Often we just don’t know what gift to get for someone. If they are interested in learning more about the NT (and are not too religiously conservative), this might be just the thing. #1 – a suggested additional gift is also a good idea. Raising the basic cost of joining the blog would probably reduce the number of members. #2 – selling yourself shamelessly is not viable, unless you know of some way to clone yourself.

  6. Avatar
    dmaddock1  August 7, 2014

    #1: “I was amused to see that no one suggested I charge *less* in order to make more money. It made me think that maybe there are more Democrats than Republicans on the blog.” HA! Too true. Econ 101. I was all set to point this out when you nailed it. Another option might be opening up more content for non-subscribers but make those ad-supported.

    #2: I’m neutral on this idea, but wanted to point out that as described this isn’t improving the blog unless the custom content ultimately finds its way onto the blog. What about selling a blog post or youtube video reply to a question or topic of the buyer’s choosing (subject to your veto)? You already do this to some extent anyway so the increase in time commitment would be minimal and the results feed back into the blog content.

    #3: I like it.

    • Bethany
      Bethany  August 12, 2014

      Re: #2, I was thinking the same thing, a blog entry on the topic of the donor’s choice.

  7. Avatar
    JudithW.Coyle  August 7, 2014

    My idea is that those of us who’ve dropped out of church could give those weekly offerings to you for charity. but on a monthly basis (or annually).

  8. Avatar
    gavriel  August 7, 2014

    What you aim at is to maximize (number of members) x (membership fee) over the years. If you prefer to keep the fee unchanged, you will have to market your “product” (quality posts with comments, questions and answers) and possibly adapt it to the market.

    Clearly, you will find it difficult to maintain the product offered if the number of members (and questions and comments) increases enormously.

    Anyway there should be a “tip jar” some place, to offer gift memberships, specified or unspecified, or just tips.

    Can you raise more money just by marketing your trade books on a non-payment blog with fewer posts, comments and answers? An economist would ask what gives most revenue increases – one week spent on book sales promotions in other media or one week spent on blog maintenance.

  9. Avatar
    Joshua Gordon  August 7, 2014

    I vote for you making a polite request via email for an extra $20.00 per renewal when it comes due- more would be gratefully accepted or a membership for another person who needs it that can’t afford it.

    Selling yourself is acceptable too – especially a 5K speaking engagement.

  10. Avatar
    PamelaOConnorChapman  August 8, 2014

    I think for the first suggestion, $20.00 donation ( plus membership) is sufficient and I would encourage you not to do more. I believe many people will naturally donate more. I suggest you share periodically progress towards the $100k goal. This usually is a great way of rallying people to give. Thank you again for what you are doing. The Blog is outstanding and you doing all the work to make the donations makes it so easy for me.

  11. Gary
    Gary  August 8, 2014

    I’m working on my Christmas Gift list right now!

  12. Avatar
    prestonp  August 8, 2014

    Advertise. Get the word out. Print media, newspapers, billboards, magazines, Electronic media including broadcast and transmitted t.v. and radio, The internet. At your debates during opening and closing comments. At your interviews. In campus literature and in the stadium and gymnasium post signage. You can encourage your current subscribers through occasional, regularly spaced reminders to invite a friend. You could host a cruise to an exotic location and offer several classes on your favorite subjects. You could offer open sessions for questions and answers.

  13. Avatar
    prestonp  August 8, 2014

    members purchasing an annual membership on the blog for someone else

    good idea

  14. Josephsluna
    Josephsluna  August 8, 2014

    Have you heard of the Dionysian mysteries ?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 8, 2014

      Yes indeed. You should read Euripides amazing play, The Bacchae. For a collection of primary texts, see Marvin Meyer, The Ancient Mysteries.

      • Josephsluna
        Josephsluna  August 8, 2014

        thank you i just bought it thee one by marvin meyer . that will keep me busy for a while lol

  15. Avatar
    madmargie  August 8, 2014

    I’m spending about as much as I can afford right now, Bart. The new landlord here raised our rent $50 a month and that and having to pay for our own basic TV now has put me back into the part time work force at 78.

    I belong to the John Whitmer Historical Association too and over the years, their dues have gone from $20 a year to $40 a year. I had to drop out of that association after this year.

    It’s disgusting that prices for everything (groceries, gas, utilities, sales taxes, etc. …) continue to go up and yet our social security goes up just enough to cover our raise each year for our supplement insurance. I know…gripe, gripe, gripe. 🙂

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 8, 2014

      I appreciate your participation on the blog. And you have every reason on earth to gripe!!

  16. Avatar
    Joel_Lisboa  August 8, 2014

    Another idea that just occurred to me is that you can offer “special” discounts and nice deals for some of your books and lectures only if you are a member of the blog. That may attract more people to the blog.

  17. Avatar
    mary  August 8, 2014

    The donation idea works best for me. I really do not like the selling yourself method. the other suggestions seem to be either childish ( tongue in cheek?) or way to time consuming. However, I am not familiar with the advertising business.

  18. Avatar
    Jim  August 8, 2014

    I say, take the money from this years membership fees and gamble it in Vegas. If God blesses you, … then we’re all rich.

  19. Avatar
    nichael  August 8, 2014

    (Fee free to skip making this public, but here are a couple other thoughts on this subject.)

    With an eye toward not increasing your (already enormous) workload, while still thinking along the lines of an extension to the blog, would it be helpful to think along the “NPR” model and offer “premium memberships”? That is, in addition to the normal subscription, for an higher amount the subscriber would be entitled to a bonus?

    Just a couple thoughts:

    1] Each year the subscriber would get an autographed copy of your newest book? (I assume the one-per-year rate will keep up, right. 😉 ) Moreover, I’m making an assumption here that, as the author, you might be able to get new books in bulk from the publisher, and, possibly, at an early date.

    2] Access to a video channel for watching your classes? (To be clear, I’m assuming no class participation, the subscriber would just be a passive “auditor”, electronically “sitting quietly in the back of the room”)

    Needless to say, in any such case the increase in membership fees would need to be sufficient to cover any overhead, while still leaving enough over to make a meaningful charity contribution. (Likewise, I’m sure that, in these specific examples there might be “license-like” issues that need to be ironed out.)

    But I’m sure something along these lines would be very attractive to the folks who do (or would) subscriber here, (but without requiring others to pay more than they can). And, as I say, while there would no doubt be some initial “set-up” effort required, once things were up and running it’s to be hoped that it could require minimal on-going effort on your part personally,

  20. Avatar
    Matt7  August 8, 2014

    I like Idea #2. I think a lot of people would pay $500 for a half-hour phone/Skype conversation. If you could fit in 2 hours a week for that, it would raise an extra $100,000 per year. Even just 2 calls per week would yield $50,000. I would probably take advantage of the opportunity if you decided to make it available, especially knowing that it all goes to charity.

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