Free Software starts in your pocket

(This is the 2nd part of On the topic of paying)

My last blog post was…rather long. So as a reward (and because this one might be even longer), I’ll tell you right up front about this one:

The problem: Lots of change in my pocket.
The solution: Donation to Free Software

Oh, you probably guessed it as soon as I wrote that catchy title up there, didn’t you?

But what you didn’t guess was the marvelous way in which all of the pieces come together, killing several birds with one stone. So bring your little birdies and bag full of change along and I’ll tell you what to do.

First, you go out and buy things. I’d suggest buying things from Farmer’s Markets, the local Coops and health food stores, and local businesses that keep the money in your own community, but you can shop at Wal*Mart if you really want to. Either way, pay in cash and shove the change into your pocket.

=> I went shopping yesterday, so I currently have $3.04 in my pocket.

When you get home, empty your pockets into some kind of bucket. I’d suggest using an inanimate object like a jar or sock instead of an living receptacle like a tree, dog, or toddler, but either one will do. When the bucket gets full, take a little time to empty it out and count it. If you’ve got kids, this will probably be tons of fun. Write that number down.

=> I’ve currently got $38.63 stacked up in little piles.

Now comes the thinking part. With all of your coins piled up on the table like a display of pirate’s booty, think about the Free Software that you use and the groups that support Free Software and freedom online like the FSF and EFF. Make a list:

  • Free Software Foundation (FSF)
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
  • Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC)
  • Ubuntu
  • Firefox
  • Gnash
  • Coreboot
  • Pidgin
  • etc…

Now $39 isn’t much to split up amongst all of those projects. People are always talking about micropayment systems to avoid the overhead of transaction fees, etc… but I don’t know of any site like that for Free Software right now. So I’d just pick one or two of the projects each time you empty your bucket and give it to them. If you put a small notebook in your bucket along with the change, you can keep track of who you’ve given money to, how much you gave, and when.

=> I’m giving this money to Gnash, because I really, really, really want a Free Software Flash player!

“But what about all of the change?” you say, “it’s inconvenient, and what am I going to do with it?”

Time to do some more thinking. Think of all of the local charities or non-profits that could use your support, and pick a few of them. If you don’t know of any good local charities, ask some of your friends. If you don’t know much about the charity, learn a bit before you give them money to make sure that they’re legit and doing a good job. Here’s my list:

=> I’m probably going to pick the Listen Center, as I can stop right by one of their thrift stores.

Okay, so the change goes in a bag and gets delivered to the charity. If you are going to claim this money on your taxes then you can get a receipt, otherwise you can just make like Santa Claus and say “Merry Christmas,” give them the bag and walk out. You’ll probably make their day.

Now for the Free Software project or group: To be super slick, use your bank’s online BillPay system to send the money so it doesn’t cost you a check or a stamp. Make sure that you get the address and name on the check right — you may need to email the project ahead of time.

So that’s it! My super-de-douper method of dealing with and effecting change in one fell swoop.

Benefits include:

  • Each purchase you make using cash “naturally” puts money into the fund
  • You generate donations for both Free Software and for a local nonprofit/charity
  • You don’t have to remember when to give, as the full bucket will be an obvious sign

This process is similar to that of the LinuxFund credit cards, with a few differences:

  • Cash: doesn’t use a credit card (which may be good or bad, depending upon the person)
  • LinuxFund: you don’t have to deal with change
  • LinuxFund: you don’t pick projects (which may be good or bad, depending upon how involved you want to be)
  • Cash: Per dollar spent, probably results in more money for Free Software projects; Also gives equal money to local charities
  • LinuxFund: The donation money comes from credit card handling fees, not your own wallet, however these fees are expensive for small, local businesses like Coops

Obviously, this system should be massaged for different people. If you have a limited income, you could consider giving a fraction of the change you receive to Free Software projects, and if you make $100,000 or more a year, then perhaps you’ll want to beef up that donation with some Franklins.

Generally speaking, I think that this system might work for you. Give it a try for a few months and see how much money you’re putting into the jar. You might be surprised at how soon the quarters stack up and you end up with $25 of change.

Let me know how it works out for you!


4 thoughts on “Free Software starts in your pocket

  1. Ubuntu doesn’t need money, they have Mark Shuttleworth’s millions. Substitute Ubuntu for Debian in your post please.

    • That’s a good point. One thing that I haven’t bothered to find out yet (and perhaps should) is what Ubuntu gives back to Debian. Obviously just using the code and filing upstream bug reports is a great start, but I wonder if they pass some funding to Debian, too.

      Funding for Debian should be given to Software in the Public Interest (SPI).

  2. On supporting FLOSS charities… « Things that have escaped from my mind

  3. Pretty cool post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say
    that I have really liked reading your blog posts. Anyway
    I’ll be subscribing to your blog and I hope you post again soon!

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