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History of the ReligiousTolerance.org website

Funding sources. Incoming emails

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OCRT funding:

We originally received no outside funding from any source. But then our numbers of hits spiralled upwards, and our Internet Service Provider started to charge excess throughput penalties. We started to seek sources of funding. They currently are: donations by cash, checks, money orders, charges on U.S. visitor's telephone bill via a 900 number, and credit cards. We have created a "300 club" for visitors to our site who are willing to have $5.00 or more in U.S. funds charged on their credit card every 30 days. The latter is a major source of funding. We also sell banner ad space throughout the website. We obtain commissions from book sales on Amazon.com that are referred from our site.

Our current main source of income is the banner ads that we have placed on most of our busy essays and menus. We receive a small commission for each "click-through." This occurs when a viewer clicks on a banner and moves to the advertiser's web site. They pay nothing for each viewing of the banner. Only about 0.3% to 1% of the readers typically click on a given banner.  The critical factor to the webmaster is the number of cents per page view.

Our major expense is the cost of books for our company library. This has been reduced since 2009 because we now try to purchase E-books rather than hard copies. E-books typically cost $9.99 each which compares favorably with the cost of most hard copies. Next is the cost of web hosting. This runs many hundreds of dollars per month. Our server is located in one of the CI Host server farms in Texas. We are currently looking for a substitute web hosting service because of the degeneration in support offered by CI Host. Next are office supplies

All OCRT staff were originally unpaid volunteers, no salaries were paid. Still, the OCRT was originally a money-losing proposition since its start-up in 1995. We broke even in 1999 and later hired our first and only employee: a part time person Friday.

It is our goal to put the OCRT on a firm financial footing so that it will survive into the future, past the lifetimes of its current members. We would also like to hire paid staff. We currently have four volunteers that contribute the equivalent of about two full time staff positions. In order to update our present essays, write new essays and respond to the influx of Emails, we estimate that we would need a total staff of about 3.

We may reorganize the group as a non-profit agency. This would make it possible for us to apply for grants from foundations and religious denominations. Unfortunately, we will not be able to obtain permission from Revenue Canada to issue tax-exemption certificates for most of our donors' charitable contributions. Canada and the United States do not recognize cross-border charitable contributions. An additional complication is that Revenue Canada will not register religious groups as charitable agencies unless the latter teach the existence of a deity.

Emails from visitors to our web site:

Webmasters of religious sites can expect to receive a great number of unsolicited Emails from their readers. We originally received about two negative letters each day. Some can be considered hate letters. We received a few death threats each year. Of the very critical Emails that we have received since start-up five years ago, we can recall:

bulletOne letter that came from a conservative Sikh who complained that we had misrepresented the source of his religion. Our essay stated that most historians believe that Sikhism is a syncretistic religion, blending Islam with Hinduism. We also explained that traditional Sikhs believe that their religion is not related to any other religion but was revealed by God. The visitor threatened to lodge a formal complaint against us with a human rights body unless we deleted the first statement. We refused to follow his request.
 
bulletA series of letters came from a conservative Muslim who was very seriously distressed at what he felt were errors in our essay. We were able to resolve his concerns.
 
bulletWe received three letters from Satanists who were angry that we had published a section on Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA). We pointed out to each of them that the SRA essays described it as a hoax. Two of them wrote back, apologizing for their Emails.
 
bulletAlmost all of the remaining very negative letters came from conservative Christians. We have probably received about 3,000 by now. Our favorites describe how we and our children are going to burn in hell because of what we have written. We collected some of the more interesting Emails, both positive and negative, and placed them on-line. 1
 
bulletMany letters question our theological credentials. We explain that we are not religious innovators; we are simply reporters on religion, spirituality and ethics. A formal theological degree or bible school diploma would be counter-productive. It would tend to bias our understanding of religious matters in either a liberal or conservative direction. The post-secondary education that we have taken has trained us in the skills that we need as reporters: analytical thinking and the ability to express thoughts clearly.

Conclusions:

The OCRT began as little more than a hobby. It has grown to be a full-time assignment for one of our volunteers, and a part-time task for the others. We hope that it will expand further to become a sustainable agency that will endure into the future.

Copyright © 2000 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-MAR-1
Latest update: 2010-APR-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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