Alternative ways to for users to help fund Zotero project

I read with interest this comment from @dstillman that the storage subscription is what really funds the Zotero project:

I use ZotFile with a Dropbox folder, so I currently don't pay for storage. Moreover, the ease of finding a PDF in my file hierarchy outside of Zotero, the ease of sharing individual PDF files with colleagues and students via Dropbox links, and the fact I already pay for Dropbox cloud storage makes the idea of transitioning to Zotero storage not very appealing.

Nevertheless, I would like to support the project and would consider other subscription options.

For example, given the popularity of the iOS Zotero App (Beta), I wonder if it's worthwhile for some features there (maybe even the whole app eventually?) to be subscription based. I would certainly pay for that, particularly if it gave the developers the extra incentive to create a workflow for sharing PDF in/out of Zotero in iOS:

Even if the iOS App isn't the way, I would like to hear what folks think other subscription options could be :-).
  • I maintain an unlimited storage subscription that I essentially do not use. That is a demonstration of the high value that I place on Zotero.
  • Like wise, I would happily pay for the iOS app in order to support the project — especially if that meant development could proceed faster,
  • My adventure in academia is on indefinite hold, but I gladly support Zotero with a 60G subscription.

    I don't use iOS, but I hope that Zotero doesn't go subscription for features. One of the major attractions of Zotero for me is that if you don't co-author, everything about Zotero can be free, and I think it's fantastic that a struggling academic doesn't need to compromise here. If you do co-author, it's a bit more setup for all involved, but you can still get a free setup if your budget doesn't allow for the convenience of Zotero sync.
  • A simple "donate" button on the main zotero homepage would hopefully bring in quite a lot of money, without making anything paid. The diversion through paid storage is cumbersome and non-obvious. I think the developpers think the "upgrade storage" button on the homepage does the same trick, but it really does not.
  • yeah, I'd rather donate than pay for a feature I don't need.
  • But then it's more that you want to donate one-time rather than having a subscription? Because if you want to make an ongoing donation, why would you care that it gives you access to something you don't plan using?
  • An app with a free trial period that expires after two weeks has no barrier to entry and allows users to determine its value up front. Companies benefit in many ways from the consistent revenue stream that subscriptions provide so going that route makes sense. I was a long-time Mendeley user -- just installed Zotero today. If the importer allowed me to transfer 20 documents for free so I knew it worked, I would have paid them just for that function. Instead, I bought 6GB storage for my 2GB library.

    I developed software for 20 years so know a quality product when I see one. A $50 annual subscription for the iOS app is less than a once a month visit to Starbucks...
  • My point is not about whether to donate once or having a subscription. It is about the psychology of paying at all. At the moment, nothing in the webpage tells a (willing to pay) zotero user how they can pay. It only says "upgrade storage". But if a (willing to pay) zotero user does not need to upgrade their storage, then there is simply no obvious way to pay or donate. Having a button that is as least as prominent as the "upgrade storage" button that says: "donate" could lead to a page that offers one time donations or repeat donations, and zotero could for example suggest the kind of donation/subscription that they expect/wish for.
  • Ah OK, gotcha. I think that is a good point.
  • Just to spell it out further. Imagine someone who say moves from endnote to zotero, or just someone who just finds zotero, has just started with a small library of 50 or 200 items and obviously has no use at all for paid storage and thinks: "wow, what a great software, I would like to support this". I find it hard to imagine that they will ever think: ah, I could buy some (unneeded) storage to support this.
    The whole donation/support issue is thought purely with advanced users in mind, who are encouraged to buy more storage than they need (and even for those the whole point is non-obvious).
    But more generally, it just runs counter to how we think about "donation" or "subscription". If say, I would like to support a venue that is suffering from the pandemic, or a charity, then being told to buy 50 tickets for events that I wont attend does not make sense. I would like to donate them some money, without entertaining a transaction for stuff that I do not need.
  • Literally the first item on the “Support Zotero” page suggests to upgrade storage.

    IIRC, Zotero many years ago did accept donations, but the accounting issues with doing so weren’t worth the small number of donations received.
  • But again, even from the page you refer to it is totally non-obvious what to do. Also please read the post that started this thread. it is literally someone saying: I want to give money, but I do not need storage. If what you say would work, then the first post in this thread would not have been written.
    If there are accounting issues, and you cant just add a donate button, then I suggest to at least add a sentence that spells the work-around properly, such as: "If you would like to financially contribute to the development of zotero, please do so by paying for upgrading your storage, even if you do not need additional storage."
    And, if you cant say "donate" for accounting reasons I would still change the top menu to at least say "support zotero" (funnily, this is how you call the menu in your own post, but its not called "support zotero", its called "get involved", which invokes work, not donations).
    I suggest you do a mini survery, sit ten random people in front of the zotero website and ask them to support zotero financially, and see what happens. My guess would be that none of them will buy storage upgrade.
  • (If people are eager to support Zotero's components, I'll just note that we at CSL really don't have any source of revenue other than donations and have sponsorship button on our github repo: -- the money goes to Rintze who feeds it back into CSL, e.g. to pay for development)
  • edited December 3, 2021
    The subscription is too expensive and only small storage and need continuous payment, so I personally prefer using WebDAV.
    I just want to do something in my modest, so I think a patron page or github sponsor is a good way. @dstillman
  • Interesting thread - I agree that it's not obvious on how to help fund Zotero. I do maintain an unlimited storage and have for years - I didn't need the storage but now I do!

    I agree subscriptions would limit the usefulness of Zotero for co-authoring - it's a massive advantage in getting people to switch, and as someone who goes in and out of academia and non-profits is a major reason I advocate for Zotero everywhere.

    I can see the point about donations being too small to be worth the pie, although now micropayments are more common wonder if it would be worth a try, with more visibility on how to donate.

    I have helped a number of organisations transition to Zotero who do normally pay for Endnote, and it seems a missed opportunity since they have the funds already (in general, as they are maintaining their own file service they can't justify paying to upgrade storage). Their main concern in transitioning from Endnote is support - I wonder if a service offering might be a different approach. I think in a previous forum there were concerns raised about a 'paid' channel for support, but a one-time transition fee might work both to increase usage and increase funds. In general, to get an organisation to switch over, I would have to: 1) convert the Endnote database, 2) train staff on how to use Zotero, 3) provide a package of educational resources for ongoing use, 4) set up some of the more advanced features and default settings. Most of that stuff can be more efficiently (and no doubt better!) done by Zotero as a paid service.
  • With respect to support, I think you will find that the free support provided on these forums by the lead Zotero developers themselves and dedicated volunteers is much more responsive than any paid support provided by for-profit competitors
  • I agree though that as demand/customer concerns go, a direct "premium" support channel would add real value. E.g. someone able to get on a Zoom call to sort out an issue. The question is how to do that logistically. Obviously Dan can't provide that support, so who is knowledgeable enough about Zotero - and available for hire - to do that? As bwiernik says, most existing examples of direct support are less than inspiring. (Mendeley's support during their first ~10 years comes to mind as an exception, but that was so expensive - two highly qualified London-based employees - that Elsevier scrapped it within a couple of years of their purchase)
  • I absolutely agree @bwiernik that the free Zotero forums are better than any support provided by paid-for products, and that is what I tell the organisations I’ve migrated to. But there is a nervousness about going without support and, if you’re working in a conservative organisation, they don’t feel comfortable going on to forums … it’s a cultural issue (and also you probably don’t want them on the forums, they don’t understand the rules about checking existing documentation and giving details!)

    I agree the logistics would be difficult if what they needed was technical support, but my experience is they don’t need that kind of support. They think they do because Endnote corrupts endlessly, but the kind of support they actually need is more in the nature of education and training, and sometimes simple style changes and on the odd occasion help converting their Endnote database.

    So rather than ongoing technical support, I think I saw it more as a package of resources that could be paid for, possibly with some elements like a webinar or email inbox that could be manned by experienced users (to overcome the fear of forums!)

    Another simpler option might be to have a premium option for style changes. Many organisations need minor changes to an existing style but don’t know how to make these changes and aren’t going to learn how to edit the style. I know academics paid for a style I use often to be updated by someone at Zotero - that could be made a more visible offering (and others could volunteer to help when making minor changes).
  • Personally I think some version of enhanced/paid support is worth considering both as a revenue stream and to encourage/facilitate lab/institutional conversions to Zotero. But the Zotero core team would have to make the call on that and organize it.

    As for style requests -- we actually do a fair amount (I'd say ~1/months) typically via @damnation is doing most of those, which is nice because that means he also gets some income out of the massive amount of work he's putting into free and public styles. This isn't direct Zotero support, obviously, but it does support an important and otherwise largely unfunded component of the ecosystem (disclaimer: I'm obviously not unbiased on this). All this is to say: we do have the structures and capacity to do this already, so any ideas on how to further advertise (without being pushy or discouraging people from figuring it out themselves) and if we need to think about a model for minor changes (a style from scratch is typically in the $200-300 range, but obviously something like "remove the DOI from style X" or so would be much cheaper)
  • Are there other ways to help? For example user communities, some ambassador program...
    @sean @dstillman
  • I've just renewed my storage subscription for the 3rd consecutive year. Although I submitted my dissertation now, I consider it worthwhile just to maintain what I have gathered.
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