I just logged into my Google AdSense account to see I’ll be earning a whopping 3 cents today. This is usually the norm for the income I generate.
In fact, features and traffic surges included, since starting this project I’ve earned well under $2 a day. To put it simply: Technically, I am just as poor (if not poorer) than the people I help.
With that in mind, I thought now would be a good time to talk about what role I feel ads through my YouTube partnership play in this project and how I hope it will fit into the big picture.
More after the jump…
In it’s present form, this project is unsustainable. Part of the reason for that is because of the standard I’ve set for how I accept donations to help those in need.
The Project Fund is a fund where no cut is taken for overhead. None. I even have a friend who donates to cover your PayPal fees for sending the money so 100% of what I receive is what I give away.
This, of course, does not cover the cost of equipment to film and photograph all that I do. It doesn’t even cover airfare or the travel costs of reaching these remote villages once in-country.
That’s where the Operating & Equipment Fund comes in. This is the fund which has helped pay for my new camera and microphone. There’s also enough money to cover some (but not all) of my in-country travel expenses while in the field.
But, when I need a haircut, who pays for it? When my toothbrush needs replacing, who covers that? And when I need down time so I don’t go insane and burn out, where does the money come from?
Right now, that money comes from my parents.
The fact of the matter is, if I am to be able to do this project with any semblance of dignity, I need to be able to do this project in a way that doesn’t require my parents to give their adult son an allowance.
I believe that being a YouTube partner is not only the solution to this problem – but the most ethical path to sustainability.
As much as I’ve been giving charities flak for making it hard to team up with me, I must confess that almost all of the charities I’ve talked to have offered to hire me.
But because I want to be an independent voice, and because I want you to be sure that the charities I endorse are ones I truly believe in, I have rejected all the offers to blog and vlog for pay.
I also believe this speaks to how I’d like to sustain this project.
I would like to be less like a charity – where the CEO gets a salary based on a cut from public donations, and more like CNN – which pays it’s reporters based on private revenue through advertising.
This also helps structure my work in a way that helps me make the distinction of how I’m different from a charity. I feel this project is more about citizen journalism combined with a citizen philanthropy component.
I also think this is more fair. A charity CEO’s salary is fixed regardless of how many donations come in per year. The income I generate is entirely dependent on how well received my work is.
And, while I do often reinvest ad revenue back into the project (by contributing to the funds used to help those in need and/or to buy equipment), I have always treated ad revenue as part of my personal income.
It’s also important to keep things in perspective.
Even Scott Harrison, the CEO of Charity: Water (a charity that takes no cut from your donations) still is able to earn (through private funding) a six-figure income greater than the income of most Top 100 YouTubers.
Anderson Cooper, who often travels to developing countries to highlight natural disasters and poverty, is able to earn a multi-million dollar salary greater than the income of the Top 100 YouTubers combined.
My hope is that, if my income ever improves through ads and my YouTube partnership, you guys will give me the same level of understanding as you have other with YouTubers earning money through YouTube.
After all, if getting rich was my goal, there are better opportunities outside of this project.
[Update: In case you were wondering, through donations, the CEO of the American Red Cross earns over $440,000 per year, Save the Children USA earns over $350,000 pear year, World Vision USA earns over $370,000 per year. I think these CEOs do a hell of a lot of work - and put up with a lot of life & death pressures - for what they get paid. So, this isn't a critique against their salaries. I'm just posting this for some additional perspective.]