Building Fund Club

This is a post about why and how we developed Fund Club, and what we’ve learned in the process.

by The Editor on September 1st, 2015

Three months ago, AlterConf and Model View Culture partnered to launch Fund Club, an initiative to get more money to projects by and for marginalized people in tech. Fund Club members pledge $100 a month, and working together, we fund one project, event, team or organization each month. Since launching, Fund Club members have raised over $20,700 for three amazing groups: #WoCInTechChat, TransTech Social Enterprises and the Prompt initiative for mental health in technology.

Logos of Fund Club recipient projects to date, as seen on

This is a post about why and how we developed Fund Club, and what we’ve learned in the process.

Fund Club developed out of the realization that one of the primary structural challenges in the diversity in tech movement is getting financial resources allocated to marginalized people and their work. People doing vital work to improve the tech community – from leading events and meetups, to creating educational materials, to building new apps and platforms – face constant struggles to get the needed resources to start and continue their work. We are in an industry that claims to care about diversity, but continues to give billions of dollars to white-male-led companies while making it impossible for marginalized-led efforts to even pay for labor and basic materials. We’ve also consistently observed patterns of discrimination in funding alternative tech projects and structures: for example, initiatives focused on white women in tech are often able to attain funding, while those focused on other groups receive less press, support and community backing.

So what to do about it?

Minimum Viable Fund Club  

Fund Club emerged from a few questions, like: how can we work together as a community to get more funding to marginalized people? How can we get money to important initiatives at essential time periods and growth points, that can mean the difference between success and failure?

We started thinking about ways to harness the collective and disproportionate financial power of many tech workers, lots of whom make over $100,000 a year and are among the highest-paid professionals in the world. How can we leverage this collective financial privilege to help more startups, apps and organizations created by marginalized people start and thrive?

Designing a methodology to do this was a challenge: both AlterConf and Model View Culture have tiny staffs, large agendas, and significant existing time commitments. We needed a low-maintenance, heavily automated process that enabled high impact. We also wanted to avoid handling any money to maximize the donations made to our funded organizations. This decision removed a large amount of complexity, security concerns, and administrative overhead.

We wanted to use the best, easiest tools for the job, so we settled on a few both AlterConf and Model View Culture were already familiar with. Fund Club is essentially four pieces: a site, a mailing list, a Google Form/spreadsheet, and some automation magic to act as glue between.

The Site

Fund Club home page. is a simple, one-page static site hosted on AWS. We needed the site to be responsive and accessible, while conveying all of the important information quickly. Using Bootstrap, we had a site pulled together within a week.

Each month we add information about the organization we funded that month and the amount funded. This gives people an opportunity to see our “portfolio” of sorts, so they know what kind of organizations we support and why.


Email Template for Fund Club. Reads: August's Pick is Prompt: Mental Health in Tech

We use Mailchimp for the Fund Club mailing list, which consists of just one list and a number of auto-updating segments denoting if an individual has donated yet, if they joined during or outside of a funding round, and if they should be removed for failing to donate. Early on, we made the decision to remove Fund Club members who don’t donate, so that we are able to predictably and consistently deliver financial results to the chosen organizations.

We send just a few emails each month, introducing the organization we’re funding, and then a few reminders to those who haven’t donated yet. Since we don’t act as the go-between for donations and we didn’t want to create any additional overhead for the organizations we were funding, we needed a way to determine who had donated, which is where the I Donated button above comes in.

Google Form & Spreadsheet

Spreadsheet template for Fund Club, with columns for timestamp, confirmation of donation and email address.

We decided to use a Google Form to collect confirmations of donations as quickly and painlessly as possible. The “I Donated” button is a POST request to a Google Form, grabbing the email address of the Mailchimp subscriber. Unfortunately, Google Forms doesn’t allow auto-submitting via POST, so they still have to click the submit button once landing on the form, but at least it’s all filled out for them. If you’ve used Google Forms before, you know that all submissions end up in a Google Spreadsheet, which makes this next part pretty easy.

The Automation

Zapier set-up for Fund Club, which matches up our Google Spreadsheet data with our list of Mailchimp subscribers.

AlterConf has been really pleased with what they were able to do with Zapier to handle things like creating attendee lists and automating accounts receivable. If you’re unfamiliar, Zapier is an API-to-API SaaS, allowing you to connect various apps to one another to pass information back and forth. Fund Club uses Zapier to connect Mailchimp and Google sheets to move a subscriber from one segment to another after they’ve clicked the I Donated button in the email. It also allows us to keep discreet sheets to track who donated to which campaign.

Though we’ve made a couple mistakes along the way trying to get the correct results in each segments, we’ve ironed out the process over time and the result has been a simple, repeatable and maintainable process for carrying out Fund Club operations each month.

What We’ve Learned

Starting Fund Club has been a great learning experience. Here are some key points that will hopefully help other people who may be thinking about starting their own small projects and hacks to improve our community.

Think Small, But High-Impact

The reality is that underrepresented tech workers are operating in hostile, resource-constrained environments, and often balancing intersecting marginalizations across work and life — yet they are doing most of the work to change tech culture. While the dominant narrative of the tech industry encourages us to “think big”, we often don’t have the resources (emotional, financial, time, support, etc.) to start “big things.” And sometimes what is needed is not BIG, but small, well-designed, efficient hacks targeted at specific problems in the community.

Identify Your Target Audience

We decided early on to focus on tech workers with the financial privilege to comfortably donate $100/month to a cause each month. This would help to ensure that Fund Club is able to consistently and reliably get funding to causes, and would not cause a financial hardship to members. Think of the many tech workers who earn more than $100,000 a year – $100 a month is only about 1% of their total income. Focusing on this group has allowed us to effectively market and grow the Fund Club member base.

Finding the Balance

Feature creep is a massive problem that affects and derails many social justice projects in tech. We are often engineers, entrepreneurs, dreamers, visionaries, and we want to build things that are large, engineered beautifully, and vast in scope. But trying to get to the Big Goal right away can keep you from launching something that will make an impact now, and hopefully get the traction over time to become something bigger. Finding the balance between impact and possibility requires a lot of strategic thinking, but is critical for creating efforts under challenging and constrained conditions.

Things Will Go Wrong

In setting up Fund Club, we’ve run into a few snags along the way: errors in our email logic, people being accidently removed from the list, and other administrative burdens. It’s also taking some time to smooth out the processes of communicating with both Fund Club members and recipient organizations. At the end of the day, things will go wrong, especially in the early stages – just work to proactively communicate, fix problems as they arise, apologize, and remind people that you’re still working to get things off the ground and you need their help and support even when there are some bumps in the road.

What’s Next for Fund Club?

We’re looking forward to our next funding round, coming up in September. We’d love you to become a part of Fund Club – you can sign up at to help fund amazing and essential work in the industry, and be part of a close, connected community working to create change!

Our main goal right now is to grow Fund Club so we can make more of an impact each and every month. Even if you can’t afford to join, we hope you’ll spread the word, and we hope you learned a little more about us in the process!