Ada Lovelace Day has grown a great deal in a relatively short time. It was started by Suw Charman-Anderson in 2009, with the aim of raising the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and maths by encouraging people around the world to talk about the women whose work they admire. From its start as a day of international blogging, ALD has expanded to include all kinds of events, including a flagship ‘science cabaret’ in London every year.
For most of its history, ALD has been run on a shoestring. The flagship event and the website have attracted some in-kind support, such as partnership with venues, but we have mostly relied on volunteers to do vital creative and admin work. Almost all the other expenses, including organising costs, have come out of the pockets of founder Suw.
But in the last few years, we’ve begun to get financial sponsorship to go alongside the in-kind support that we’ve had in previous years. That income has been essential to our growth and is now helping us to secure the future of ALD.
In the spirit of transparency, we’d like to explain how we are creating and funding a sustainable network, where that money is coming from, where it goes, and what we plan for the future. We want to make sure that everyone — whether speaker, volunteer, organiser, sponsor or event participant — has the opportunity to see how ALD is paid for and organised.
This statement refers to the activities organised under the Finding Ada umbrella. Ada Lovelace Day as an annual celebration of women in STEM has taken on a life of its own, which is truly excellent, and the hundreds of grassroots events and other activities that are organised independently of Finding Ada have their own organisational structures and sources of funding, and are not included on this page.
Ada Lovelace Day’s finances are currently cared for via Y Ffynhonnell Ltd, a UK limited company owned by founder Suw Charman-Anderson. When our finances allow, ALD will be spun out into a separate legal entity, but at the current level of income it makes no sense to have to spend money on two sets of accounts. Y Ffynhonnell Ltd deals with income both from Ada Lovelace Day sponsors and supporters, and from Suw’s other work as a consultant.
Suw has done the lion’s share of organising since Ada Lovelace Day began in 2009 and until recently has worked unpaid. ALD is now Suw’s full-time job, even though current income levels do not support a full-time living wage.
Suw has been joined during this time by various volunteers, including Helen Arney from 2011 every year for the production, promotion and presenting of ALDLive!, and more recently by Lorna Richardson, also on the production and promotion of ALDLive!
The ALDLive! organising team has usually included — to a greater or lesser extent depending on the venue — staff from the ALDLive! partner venue, who do this as part of their paid job. ALDLive! would, of course, not be possible at all without all the speakers and volunteers who work on the day itself.
Where the money comes from
- Corporate sponsorship: This is at present the main source of income for Ada Lovelace Day. We hope to increase this to a level where it can support two full-time staff.
- Ticket sales for ALDLive! annual flagship event: This helps pay some of the costs of staging the yearly flagship event, but note that ticket sales do not cover all costs, even with capacity sales, as we think it’s important to keep tickets affordable.
- Donations: We currently use Patreon as our donation platform, which brings in a very modest but regular income, and we’d like to increase it.
- Merchandise: We are developing some merchandise to be sold via print-on-demand vendors which we hope will provide a stable revenue stream in the future.
- Grants: Whilst we have in the past received one grant, we think it unlikely that this will become a major source of income. Most of our costs are core costs, and there are few grants for which we are eligible. If you have expertise you can offer on this, please do get in touch!
Where the money goes
- Professional services: We want to pay for professional services for a number of reasons, including quality of service, being able to set deadlines, and accountability. The kind of services we pay for include those performed by professionals for whom it is their day job; tasks that could not reasonably or efficiently be done by volunteers, such as accountancy or videography; and essential services that are time sensitive, such as admin support. Having said that, we have sometimes accepted in-kind donations from businesses, volunteer work from professionals, and “mates’ rates”, but our aim is to be able to pay market rate whenever we can.
- Overheads: Overheads include things like server costs for the forum, office supplies, travel, phone bills, and all the other normal costs of running a business. Since 2013, any surplus income from sponsorship has been used to pay for some of Suw’s time. As we develop a reliable income, it is our intention to pay her a full-time wage so that she can focus entirely on running Ada Lovelace Day.
- Speaker expenses: We offer reasonable travel expenses and overnight accommodation in London for our speakers at the annual flagship event. We have also recently started to offer speakers a token honorarium — not anywhere near the level of a professional fee, but a token recognition of the fact that women’s time is worth something. Our long-term aim is, again, to be able to offer market rates for our speakers.
Like any such social enterprise, ALD is always in a state of growth and always adapting to changing circumstances. The above statement is meant as a guidance for readers so that they understand our position, and it is current as of May 2015. We will do our best to keep it up to date as and when new developments occur. If you have a specific question about anything in the above, please do get in touch.