SF is and will always be a completely free resource. We will never charge for membership or access on any level. The site is run by volunteers - no member of staff is paid in any way - and every penny of the money that is donated goes toward making sure that SF is secure, safe, and always available to those who need it.
Please only donate financially if you can afford to. The time and energy donated every day by our members to help other people is equally important and SF would not exist without that.
If you are able to afford to donate, please know that any donation however big or small is equally appreciated. Your donation will not show with anything related to the site name on your bank or card statement or your PayPal record so you do not need to be concerned someone will see it.
What Do Donations Pay For?
This is a frequently asked and completely legitimate question. There has been an explanation here for a long time but I am going to break it down and answer some of the more frequent queries.
The monthly donations go wholly and exclusively to:
Q. Why Not Get a Cheaper Server?
- Site security and server management
- Software/Plugin Licenses
- Platform Fees
A. SF has over 20,000 visitors per month and over 500,000 page views. Forums are dynamic websites with constantly changing pages so cannot utilise the same efficiencies in page caching to serve pages as most website types. We have over 300,000 pages and a very active live chat that uses our server to 'push' messaging back and forth at the rate of several messages per second. This means we need more server resource than average to keep the site from being too slow to be usable.
Q. Why are you paying for security and management?
A. In the past but SF was buggy, frequently down and the security was poor. Older members will tell you they remember logging in to find the entire site was replaced by something in Chinese (more than once) and in Feb 2016 the entire site was almost destroyed. It took us several days and a considerable amount of money for developers who worked day and night to rebuild it.
When our site is down even for a few minutes it causes many of our members a lot of stress and anxiety. For someone who is already struggling, the percieved removal of their community and support network can be actively dangerous. We pay for a very secure and fully managed server to ensure that SF is protected at all times, that backups can be restored at the touch of a button and that tickets can be placed for support 24/7.
Q. What are these license and platform fees?
A. We have three separate softwares/platforms integrated into the site and each of these are modified and expanded with paid plugins that come with annual license fees. There is an ongoing cost for the SF App License as well as Apple developer platform fees to ensure it can be used on iphone as well as android.
Q. Why are you paying developers?
A. Much of the work on SF is done by site Admin who have moderate skill with website coding but we have no professional developers on staff and while we have members who may be very skilled, the anonymous nature of the site means that any skill or capability a member may have cannot be verified and, further, that it is fundamentally unsafe to give members access to the 'back' of SF to do work.
To ensure that site is safe and that we are not compromising the site for the future by 'botching' the code, we pay independent professionals to do any work that cannot confidently be completed by the site Admin.
Q. What happens to leftover money?
A. On months when people are generous enough that donations exceed the goal for the month, the additional funds are 'banked' for those months when there may be an additional $400 to pay because several licenses become due at once or when we have to find the funds to pay a developer for repairs/adjustments.
There has not been any year on record that site Admin have not covered a considerable amount of the related expenses out of their own pockets. There has never been any 'left over' money, as the months that we have more donated than needed to hit the monthly goal do not balance out the months where we have far more expenses.
Q. Will the site be closed down if people don't donate?
A. No. Absolutely not. If every single penny had to come from my own bank account then the site would still be here. SF is a life saving resource for it's members and as one of the people whose life it saved, I would not allow it to close due to lack of donations.
Q. Does donating get people special privileges or stop them from being banned if they break the rules?
A. No. Donations are gratefully received but will not 'buy' a member out of a ban or account restrictions if they break our rules. Donating to SF is entirely voluntary and does not confer any special treatment or additional site options or privileges. Donations cannot be used to coerce the site into allowing behaviour that endangers our community.