The Future of Soberistas

On Monday we announced that Soberistas would, from the 27th April 2014, be introducing a small membership fee of approximately £3.00 per month. Whilst the overriding response to this news has been positive, there have been some suggestions that the website should remain free to those who use it, or that we should seek finance from elsewhere. I’m writing this post in the hope of reassuring anyone with doubts that a membership fee is the best financing solution for Soberistas.

Hello Sunday Morning is a great Australian website which aims to offer individuals a chance to explore their relationship with alcohol, with a broader aim of addressing binge-drinking cultural norms. It is not wholly dissimilar to Soberistas in that it enables those who sign up to blog about their new-found sobriety, and to gain insight into living without alcohol. Since 2010, HSM has attracted over 20,000 people who’ve signed up to three months off the booze.

The following extract is taken from the HSM website;

“Hello Sunday Morning has now raised $200,000, including from Queensland Health, to support operations in Queensland. We are now looking to raise a further $300,000 to help the program expand operations across the rest of Australia. The funding will enable Hello Sunday Morning to:

1) Rebuild the innovative online and offline program to support a growing community of people who would like to change the way they drink;

2) Undertake a nation-wide media campaign to share local stories of change, challenging the negative aspects of a drinking culture that costs Australia $36 billion and 3,000 lives every year;

3) Complete invaluable research into the culture of unsafe alcohol consumption designed to improve online programs (applicable to other health issues), government campaigns and programs.”

The above extract demonstrates that websites such as Hello Sunday Morning and Soberistas can be about so much more than merely a blogging site.

With sufficient funding we will be able to greatly improve Soberistas (specifically, the website is currently hosted by third party software which restricts what we can offer our members in terms of functionality.  These restrictions can be addressed with additional funding). It will enable us to conduct research in order to improve the services we offer, and which would crucially be of great value in terms of reducing alcohol-related harms on a wider scale.

We would also love to facilitate the organisation of the real-life Soberistas meet-ups which have been taking place during the last few months around the country. Your feedback tells us that these are invaluable for aiding your sobriety and cementing online friendships.

Put bluntly, funding will arm us with the potential to greatly improve thousands and thousands of lives.

Soberistas has been in existence for less than half the time of Hello Sunday Morning (we launched on 26th November 2012) and currently has 25,194 members (albeit many of these are not always active). My partner Sean and I have financed Soberistas entirely on personal funding, a small amount derived from member donations and, more recently, advertising revenue. In order to sustain and grow the site to where it is today, it’s been imperative that we work on it for free and in our spare time (Sean works full time for the fire service and I am a full time mum of two). We have done this because we believe wholeheartedly that Soberistas helps people escape the hell of alcohol dependency and offers a lifeline that otherwise would not be so readily available.

In addition, my sister Claire has worked for free for us since September 2013 and has helped fund Soberistas from her own pocket. This is because she believes in Sean and I, and she believes in Soberistas.

Funding obtained through grants has been explored as a potential revenue source but we have not been successful in securing this (other than a one-off lump sum that we won last year in a social enterprise competition, and which was quickly swallowed up on much-needed technical improvements to the website, legal requirements and re-branding). In addition, funding which is derived solely from grants and loans is not a sustainable way to operate any business, and social enterprises in particular commonly fold after their initial financing from such sources runs dry.

Advertising and sponsorships are not secure methods of funding in the long term for relatively small sites (in terms of traffic) like Soberistas, and particularly in times of recession these financing sources cannot be relied on.

We are proud of the fact that we have managed to maintain and grow Soberistas from absolutely nothing, on a shoe-string, and with little more than the odd hand-out from people who really believe in it (i.e. my family). We are proud that we have worked every spare hour to help build a community that really helps people, a community which makes them feel less ashamed and desperate, and which offers a sense of optimism for the future.

I created Soberistas in the aftermath of one of the darkest periods of my entire life, and its core aim was (and still is) to offer a lifeline of support and friendship to those who feel utterly lost and hopeless because of everything alcohol has robbed them of. It has proved invaluable as a resource and I believe passionately that it has to continue, it has to grow, and it has to have proper investment and time devoted to it.

In addition to the obvious benefits to our members that a fee will bring, we’ll also be able to donate to a charity of Dr Julia’s choice (who so generously gives up her time for free every month to answer your questions in the Ask the Doctor feature) by way of thanking her for her monthly contributions to the site.

We believe in the future of Soberistas as a sustainable, modern and carefully-thought out social enterprise which, with the support of its members, can thrive and offer a lifeline to thousands more people in the years to come.

We sincerely hope that our members will see the vast potential in Soberistas to help not only them but many more people besides.

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50 thoughts on “The Future of Soberistas

  1. Margaret says:

    Excellent idea. I spent 100 times more than that to buy the alcohol that almost killed me. I love this site and all the amazing people that have taken the time to create this and keep it going. I will look forward to the membership fee with an open and grateful heart. Thank you Lucy.

    • Thanks for this comment Margaret – we really appreciate you expressing your support. It will be great to be able to invest properly in Soberistas instead of running it on a shoestring and we are really looking forward to all the improvements that we will be able to make. Best Wishes, Lucy x

  2. Hey,

    Have only been looking on the site for a couple of days, and think it’s great.

    Must admit, though, I would not be happy to be on a site where some people did not feel able to be a part of for financial reasons, no matter how small the subscription fee was. It would be like refusing entry to an AA meeting cos they didn’t have the cash to get in. In AA meetings no one cares if you don’t have the dosh to donate, they’re just happy you are there. And if the treasurer finds the kitty is short to pay rent for the room, etc, s/he just gently reminds the meeting, and those who can afford it put more in.

    Still think it’s a great site, though.

    🙂

    • Thanks Polly. I agree that in an ideal world it would be best if we could ensure the financial future of Soberistas in an alternative way – however, despite best efforts this has not proved possible and therefore rather than close the site we have opted for a small membership fee. Thanks, Lucy

  3. Nickykinz says:

    Hi. As the idea of joining Soberistas is to stop drinking, people should be able to find the money from what they would have spent on alcohol. However, you have referenced Hello Sunday Morning, and one of the things they have done is have a 2 tiered system. If you don’t pay you can access a basic level of the site. If you do pay you have more functionality and access to other features. Could you allow a certain amount of interaction for free (like reading articles etc.) and only allow say, chat rooms and blogging for paying members?

    • Hi and thanks for this – what HSM have done is a great way of allowing access to all to their website. Unfortunately this is one of the restrictions that is imposed on us using the platform we currently use to host Soberistas – it’s a catch 22 situation, as until we get extra funding we cannot pay for more sophisticated software that would enable us to do this. With funding, however, this is something which we are hoping to be able to implement in the future. Thanks again for taking the time to comment, Lucy

  4. ave says:

    If it wasn’t working so well the funding issue would be redundant. Well done on getting it to here let’s see it continue to prosper. D

  5. kbyoung says:

    I’m in, but I don’t see where I can sign up. Would you post the link? By the way, almost finished with your book and it is fantastic. Thank you for your honesty and willingness to share. xo

    • Hi, thanks for your comment. The membership fee won’t come into force until the 27th April, and after that date you’ll just be prompted to pay when you sign in. We will be sending out a lot more information on the details of payment prior to then, so hopefully any questions you may have will be answered. Glad you like the book! Lucy x

  6. Molly says:

    I am 100% onboard with what you are doing. Your website has saved me and I am AF 8 months on Saturday. I look forward to seeing the new site and am excited to be one of the first members. I live in the USA and would love to see (and help) with promotion over here. I know it has been a hard week for you and your family but stay strong. Nothing worth doing comes easy! Change is hard for some people but I believe in Soberistas and know that people will eventually see the benefits of this small fee:)

    • Hi Molly, thank you very much for your support. I’m so glad that you’ve been AF for 8 whole months – that’s amazing, well done! I’m sure all those who choose to stay with us will see lots of benefits and improvements to Soberistas, and we believe firmly that this is the right step to take for the website. Many thanks once again, Lucy x

  7. Kim says:

    Lucy – happy to pay and support you in your vision for the future. Soberistas has been a lifeline for me and I want it to continue for the benefit of others xxx

  8. janenicole66 says:

    Lucy, you and your wonderful helpers have built a great website allowing so many people to connect with others in similar circumstances and turning lives around for the better. Compared to what I paid for one month/year’s supply of alcohol, the cost of membership is miniscule and the benefits tremendous! I’m with you all the way.

    • Hi there, thank you for your lovely comment. I’m really glad that you think what we are asking for membership fee is reasonable – we hoped that by keeping it so small we wouldn’t exclude anyone. We will now be able to make substantial improvements to the website and thus, I hope, be able to help many more people for a long time to come. Thank you so much, Lucy x

  9. bd says:

    I’m not a soberista but i completely understand the need for the support, and would be happy to help by contributing on a regular basis, to help provide access for anyone who needs the support offered by your community. Having grown up with members of my family who had (and have) alcohol dependency issues, I know the importance of such a community.

    • Thanks bd for your message. Soberistas is an important community and I’m really pleased that so many people, including yourself, can see the value of it and the need for it to continue. Thank you for your support, Lucy x

    • Hi thanks for this. We are currently looking into the possibility of a free period for new members as we are very aware of the fact they really would benefit from this. We’ll keep you posted – thanks for taking the time to comment, and for your suggestion. Lucy x

      • I think what you are doing is really important as you are reaching so many who would have not got to the old fashioned AA type groups. I really hope your community grows over time. I feel fellowship is incredibly important for many people in the initial stages of going alcohol free and I found it helpful to meet people who had managed to stay stopped for some time.

  10. Nic Willett says:

    At first I thought, well Ive been AF for six months so it doesnt bother me not to join up. Soon afterward it dawned on me that if it wasnt for you my life would be so different and I would still be very unhappy for many alcohol related reasons. Go for it! Im in, and if you need any help with UK events let me know x

  11. Iambizi says:

    I agree! Have a trail membership for new bies, say one week. To see if they can benefit and learn about the different aspects of the site.
    biziThe chat room feature has been a life saver for many!

    • Hi and thanks – we are looking into the month’s free trial and will keep you posted. We are really keen to have this feature for exactly the reasons you mention – just a technical issue at the moment but hopefully we will be able to do this. Many thanks, and I hope you are well. Lucy x

  12. Snowgoat68 says:

    Hi Lucy, I think you have been very brave at every point of making this great service happen. Hundreds and possibly thousands of us are breathing lungfuls of wonderful alcohol-free air because of you. I’ve been on the chat sites a few times over the last few days, and it’s true that some of your regulars are perturbed. I don’t share this view, but there are some who are feeling aggrieved and believe that this will be a way of you ‘profiting from our misery’ as we struggle with our issues with alcohol. Myself, I feel that paying to use this site would be more a strategic investment in my own recovery, and a chance to stay part of a generous community of people who genuinely want to support each other with the unglamorous slog of recalibrating our approaches to life day after day. It’s still early days for me (I am now day 12 AF, I think), but the positivity of this site is its unique calling card. Good luck with it all and I’ll be happily depositing my money in a Soberistas account when required.

    • Hi and thanks. I understand that some people don’t like change, and where money is concerned I guess there will always be some who are suspicious about motives. All I can say is we will be investing a great deal back into the website and associated support ventures which will hopefully help more people – in the long run I think it will be clear that this was the best decision to take for the future of Soberistas. Your support is very much appreciated, Lucy x

  13. Charlie says:

    What about calling it a Funding Fee rather than Membership? I think membership makes the site sound like a fun club or a hobby! At least with Funding fee, you suddenly understand the reasoning . Amazing what words can do.

  14. Joyce says:

    The fee is small change literally in a typical month it works out at 10p daily. The savings in terms of my health & esteem as a soberista after 10 months AF are “priceless” – its an investment in myself.

  15. Shona says:

    I’m with you all tne way Lucy. The price is tiny and equates to half a bottle of cheapish wine a month. I cant understand how people who, do or used to, drink a lot are unable to commit to that. Good luck x

  16. annistablog says:

    You have my whole hearted support and gratitude. My mind boggles with the excitement of the potential of future Soberistas, the site itself, the meet up’,s the promotion of how great an AF lifestyle is if you choose it, changing the way alcohol is advertised especially towards young people etc roll on the Sober Revolution Lucy!! Xxx

  17. burnsie says:

    Totally agree and we wholeheartedly support you. This site saved my life and gave me back my husband. Certainly hard to put a value on that! This is an amazing site and I personally owe it so much. Keep strong and keep going x

  18. Han says:

    Hi Lucy, only just found your site. Not chatting to anyone yet but have found the articles and info really helpful. Hopeful that I will be AF soon. More than happy to contribute.

  19. Hi all and thanks for your lovely, supportive comments. We are really grateful to you for taking the time to tell us your suggestions, and will keep you informed of the details relating to the membership fee. Soberistas is an amazing community and we believe firmly in its potential to help thousands more in the years to come. Lucy x

  20. No problems with new charge…its the price of a Costa Latte!

    Your site has been a huge part of my ongoing recovery and long may it continue to help others.

    Keep up the great work Lucy and team 🙂

    Claire x

  21. Elizabeth says:

    I can totally see where you are coming from. My only concern would be for anyone in despair and lurking for a couple of weeks, for some it takes a while to get the courage to just read and look. And having to ‘join’ something that week might not be what they are ready for, but being able to read other success’s might give them the inspiration albeit eventually.

    What ever happens you will still make a difference to some so that is pretty awesome!

  22. Als says:

    There has been lots of heated debate on this. I have no problem in paying a small fee. One of the arguments pro fee is that it is nothing compared to what people save in booze. Some people in site still drinking so not saving, I think it would be a good idea for a donate button to fund people who want to join but can’t afford it. A donate button for a recovery charity could also be a nice idea, donate part of what you spent on drink to help others. Guess you need funds from fees to implement feature like this!!!

  23. LisaMarie says:

    Hi, I’m new to this site. I’ve been at HSM for months and have found real support. I’m in Auckland, New Zealand though. Will meetings be organised here? I’d be happy paying a fee if I get the same support as members in the UK! Saying that, is there anything I can do to help here? Very excited about meeting regularly. Love the positive ness of this site and HSM 🙂

    • Hi LisaMarie – thanks for your comment. As you are aware we will be introducing a small membership fee on Soberistas this Sunday, April 27th. The money raised will be spent on Soberistas in a number of ways, from making technical improvements to the site to enabling us to organise regular meet-ups in a more formal way, and generally increasing the level and effectiveness of the support on offer for the benefit of our members. If you are on our mailing list as a registered member of Soberistas then you’ll receive updates regarding these improvements as we move forward.
      Really glad that you like what Soberistas is about, and welcome! Lucy

  24. Maria says:

    I used Soberistas when I first got sober in February 2014 – for whatever reason, meetings never seemed to help. I was online talking with people and getting support in those early days, weeks and months – and I managed to hang on solely from the help, love and support of complete strangers (!!) on Soberistas. People that became very, very important to my life and sobriety. I’m happy to say that tomorrow marks 1 year of sobriety for me.

    But, I cannot join the many folks who are being understanding about the membership fee – as I stopped being able to go onto Soberistas when It became a pay-only site. And, I miss it very, very much.

    Aside from my own sadness, however, it pains me to think of all of the people (like me) who now don’t have the support that Soberistas was able to offer me. People just starting out on that shaky road, trying to get sober and looking for something, anything to hang on to and keep them afloat. Something that, for the most part, doesn’t PUSH AA down your throat or any particular ideology – but rather, is just an incredibly positive and up-lifting group of people looking to reach the same goal (not a feeling I ever had at an AA meeting..which is why I don’t attend them).

    Anyway, I know, I know, most things that do well, tend to start charging $$$, but I just can’t share the joy. I think it’s a shame. It’s something great, that could and should be open to anyone regardless of their ability to pay.

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