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Need your valued input: Funding stream strategy for ALiEM


MoneyOver the past 4+ years, ALiEM has grown to be an exciting educational blog which focuses on the clinical, educational, and academic aspects of emergency medicine. It has far exceeded any of my expectations and has been an incredibly valuable and rewarding experience for me personally. Since its inception, the site has transitioned from a single-author site to a site with a superstar team of authors who cover a diverse range of clinical (e.g. cardiovascular, critical care, geriatric EM, pharmacology) and educational (book club, MEdiC series, educational pedagogies) content as well as an expert peer-review system. As now the blog’s Editor in Chief, I am constantly amazed that we have been successful on pretty much a small, self-funded budget. Going forward, I now realize that the blog’s continued growth and creative strategies are rate-limited by funding.ย 

We value your opinion

I foresee the hundreds of hours that goes into this site as a challenging endeavor to sustain long term with continued high-quality standards, unless we start planning for an operational budget. I have always had a blanket rule NOT to cross the line towards revenue-generating affiliations, such as banner advertisements and paid backlinks, to avoid seeming biased or insincere in our educational mission. But now I at least wanted to hear your opinions because once this line is crossed, I feel that it’s impossible to uncross. Am I being overly paranoid? Am I correct to stay away from ads? Should we open up a bake sale instead? Suggestions are welcome.

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Michelle Lin, MD
ALiEM Editor-in-Chief
Academy Endowed Chair of EM Education
Professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine
University of California, San Francisco
Michelle Lin, MD
Michelle Lin, MD

Latest posts by Michelle Lin, MD (see all)

  • Shaciski

    You could just ask readers to donate. (another blog site) does this and seems successful in staying afloat.

    • Michelle

      Oh how interesting. I do read (the .com site doesn’t exist) on occasion. They have a GINORMOUS following. I’m intrigued by this idea of crowd-funding from a donation approach. I have no clue whether people will donate (besides my parents). I’ll definitely think about this more. Thanks for the great idea!

      • TChanMD

        I think people would contribute. Don’t call it donation. It’s about adding their $0.02. Some (like me) will do it as a metaphor and might contribute content… but others might like to contribute $$. I actually would be happy to do both. ๐Ÿ˜€

        Another option would be to consider hosting the ‘Best of ALiEM’ conference… Could be virtual or real… but to use it as a fundraiser.

        ….Really, I just want an excuse to go to SoCal. As do many other docs. ๐Ÿ˜€

        • Michelle

          Ah good point on labeling it as “contribution”. If there were a way to collect just $0.02 per viewed page in August, we’d have $2,000 to kickstart the budget!

          I’m intrigued by the idea of hosting a ALiEM conference. It’d be TONS of work to set up but a VERY intriguing and really fun idea for down the road as we continue to grow. You are always welcome to visit California (although I’m in the north).

  • Gemma Morabito

    My web site already lives with donations. And we are much less popular than aliem. Just make a try to see if it works. Launch a campaign of donations to ‘save’ aliem as a free resource. You may be surprise

    • Michelle

      Hi Gemma: I didn’t know that about your site. I’m seriously considering this donation option, but I’m always too bashful to ask for personal donations. On principle, I’d like to keep the resource at zero-cost to the readers. That being said, perhaps a short-term fundraising period might be a necessary first step to kick start something, as I decide what to do with all the helpful crowdsourced information above and some insightful emails that I received. Thanks for sharing your experience.

      • Gemma Morabito

        Mee too Michelle. But, as your website is becoming an editorial project, more than a personal blog, you wont ask for personal donation anymore. Things have changed. And they change because our passion fit a need that has no other answers. I do not think you started ALiEM thinking it would become as big as it’s now. So, go ahead. And do not be ashamed. Everyone already know about your style.

  • Threehills

    I’d go the donation route as well.

  • Fred

    Create new sections that only subscribers get to see and use. Ask users what sections
    they would like to see added. Add a Groups section, a user advertisement section (possibly).
    I also like the ideas in the chechbox ๐Ÿ™‚ Money-tize.
    If you can recommend books, you would make a good Amazon Affiliate, etc..
    just some opions, go with your heart! All the best.

    • njoshi8

      I like the thought of making some areas pay only.. or do what NYTimes does, only allows me to access an article only a few times in a month before I can’t click on anything.. but I can read all the tantalizing headlines, which makes it so tempting to pay their price!

      • njoshi8

        Kickstarter is another idea

      • Michelle

        Thanks Fred and Nikita. I’ve been debating the approach of a paid, subscriber-only, “high value” section for a while now. I think I’d like to leave everything open if possible. On principle, education should be free to all those who are interested, especially because often those who need the “high value” content are those with the least financial resources to pay for things. OK will continue to brainstorm. These comments are super helpful!

  • TChanMD

    If you wanted to go after Grant money… UCSF seems to have some sources you might be able to tap…

    Also, the Macy foundation which has a mandate to fund new models for clinical education:

    You, yourself, might apply to:

    with your institution’s support…. as a leader in the #FOAM stuff.

    • Michelle

      Hey Teresa: Great finds! I think these are very worthy and competitive granting sources but my gut sense is telling me that long-term, sustainable funding will reside outside of the traditional academic funding streams. Most grants are for just 1 year (occasionally 2 years) and that you need to show sustainability without further funding from them, and I really don’t want to be constantly hunting down more grants instead of focusing time on the creative and scholarship aspects. Also educational institutions have a rapidly diminishing pot of money so I wanted to look at resources that have potential for revenue growth and sustainability.

      • TChanMD

        It’s totally true. ROI is not necessarily worthwhile. It may be great for seed/start up money but it won’t be sustainable as you point out.

        That said, I think grants are … like seed money.
        You now need to figure out how to get sustainable market share.

        I have a feeling #CrowdFunding is likely the answer – possibly finding a way to get nonprofit status so that donors can reap some benefits (tax exemptions etc..) but that takes start up $$…

        Wikipedia etc.. have all gone the way of #CrowdFunding.
        It is a new frontier.

  • Fred

    EM is really an interesting subject, they even made aa movie “ER” about it, am i right?
    You might strike gold creating free promotional videos about your goal here.
    They can be the lead-in to all the ‘pay-per-view’ videos you can produce after that.
    (try all types of fund raising with these).
    Having a few to start, all based on the EM Acedemics subject and worthy cause
    (only with exciting topics or situations included)
    In any case a few promotional videos can go a long way to raise awareness
    of your goal. Where as Wikipedia is very well known.
    Your funds coming from a ‘spin-off’ keeps your site exactly like you want it,
    free and with no ads, other than your own.
    just an opinion. An awesome video has ‘viral’ potential this day and age.
    all the best ๐Ÿ™‚