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Metafilter Scholarship? August 26, 2013 4:10 PM   Subscribe

Was there discussion at one point about establishing a metafilter academic scholarship? I seem to remember this, but could be making it up. Seems like a great idea to me, and I'd kick in. I'll take my answer off the air.
posted by cjorgensen to MetaFilter-Related at 4:10 PM (46 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

If you take a look through posts tagged scholarship you'll get a rundown of the history. The most recent time Matt commented about starting a new scholarship (that I could find) he said, "...the scholarship contest was a ton of work and I only got to pull it off back in 2001 because the community was smaller, easier to manage, and we were less popular. To do it today would require many months of planning."
posted by pb (staff) at 4:31 PM on August 26, 2013


Also someone threatened to sue me on sweepstakes/lottery rules if I ever did it again. :(
posted by mathowie (staff) at 4:37 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seriously? What a fucker.
posted by klangklangston at 4:43 PM on August 26, 2013 [23 favorites]


Ha, I remember asking about that on the call-in show. Sad to hear that lawyers screwed it up, though.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:01 PM on August 26, 2013


Yeah that's the work of a fucker alright.
posted by SpiffyRob at 5:01 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


mathowie: "Also someone threatened to sue me on sweepstakes/lottery rules if I ever did it again. :("

What in the holy fuck.

What possible motivation could they have? I mean, it's not like you were hurting someone by giving them a scholarship, right?
posted by scrump at 5:22 PM on August 26, 2013


Also someone threatened to sue me on sweepstakes/lottery rules if I ever did it again. :(

So...what if we just name the scholarship after that person?
posted by yoink at 5:51 PM on August 26, 2013 [16 favorites]


Sue you on lottery rules? Boy - somebody really must have coveted your powerballs.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:52 PM on August 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also someone threatened to sue me on sweepstakes/lottery rules if I ever did it again. :(

Yeah, given the evil in the world, it's sad to say that this doesn't surprise me.

But... (BIG "BUT" HERE) folks, what if we set up a "metafilter academic scholarship" fund through some community foundation? I'm familiar with laws in Michigan, and these might not apply in other parts of the country, but it would be possible here to establish a donor directed fund with a local community foundation that would be designated to provide scholarship funds to individuals meeting particular qualifications. This isn't something that can't be done, it just needs to be done right. I would be willing to contribute to establishing this type of fund, and would be willing to work to how to establish it.
posted by HuronBob at 6:42 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


mathowie: "Also someone threatened to sue me on sweepstakes/lottery rules if I ever did it again. :("

yo, fuck that person.
posted by boo_radley at 6:58 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


mathowie: "Also someone threatened to sue me on sweepstakes/lottery rules if I ever did it again. :("

This is why we can't have nice things.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:01 PM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Someone who undoubtedly didn't win said scholarship.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:05 PM on August 26, 2013


Someone who undoubtedly only comes to the party to shit in the punch bowl.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:07 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


what if we set up a "metafilter academic scholarship" fund through some community foundation?

That is definitely the best way to go with any such effort. It's come up before, but I'm on vacation and I've had wine and am too mellow to do the search. A community foundation fund provides the structural distinction that would allow a collection and disbursement of donations through a third party in total compliance with tax law and according to any fair criteria MeFi wants to set up.
posted by Miko at 7:22 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, I managed to search anyway. Here's one of the threads that talks about developing a MeFi donation arm.
posted by Miko at 7:28 PM on August 26, 2013


So, what if we followed the community foundation route? I've a personal connection with such an entity and would be willing to put some effort into determining how we might establish this. Obviously we would need to determine some criteria for the scholarship, and a system for distribution of funds, as well as a conduit for revenues to flow into the fund. Is there sufficient interest in following through on this? Metafilter is a powerful community, it would be fantastic to see this group promote this type of philanthropy.
posted by HuronBob at 8:19 PM on August 26, 2013


mathowie: "Also someone threatened to sue me on sweepstakes/lottery rules if I ever did it again. :("

You've gotta be kidding me. What an asshole. :(
posted by zarq at 8:33 PM on August 26, 2013


If all y'all want to set up a scholarship for college-bound students from my high-poverty urban school district, I WILL SET YOU UP with all the appropriate community foundation support and I will personally serve on the committee that reads 50 freaking applications from deserving high school seniors with excruciating personal essays that run 6 pages each. In the alternative, we have a foundation that will direct gifts to any specific use you choose, such as a Metafilter-supported science lab or a Metafilter-supported Lego club or a Metafilter-supported pregnant teens support center or Metafilter-supported comprehensive sex ed or Metafilter-supported Kleenex in pre-K classrooms and there are naming opportunities and I will mention you AT EVERY SINGLE SCHOOL BOARD MEETING plus for an additional $50 donation I will use any non-obscene vocabulary word you choose when I do so, up to and including "Tully Monster" which is the state fossil of Illinois and then people will correct me and say "Telly Monster" and I will say "NO TULLY MONSTER, not Sesame Street, FOSSILS" and everyone will get really tired of hearing about Metafilter but I will do it at EVERY BOARD MEETING.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:37 PM on August 26, 2013 [55 favorites]


I'd also be happy to serve on a review committee. I do something similar for institutions and enjoy the process of taking criteria and applying them to applications. AS a working-class kid who became a 1st gen college attendee, I'm also super sympathetic to the project.
posted by Miko at 8:42 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


so, let's do this...
posted by HuronBob at 8:48 PM on August 26, 2013


P.S., we also have a recently-revived and thriving vocational tech program that is always in need of funding because there's not a lot of funding for voc tech and I get my toes done there ALL THE TIME and I cannot even tell you how these girls have transformed from slouch-shouldered muttering grumpy teenagers into poised, articulate, small-talk-making businesswomen, many of whom plan to fund their college careers by working in salons and others who want to get degrees in order to open their own businesses. In case you prefer voc tech to college. (I mean like autobody is awesome too and they are placing students at repair shops right out of high school and their math class pass rate is through the roof because kids works their butts off to stay in autobody but autobody doesn't give me pedicures and really we need to focus on the important things here which are MY TOES.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:48 PM on August 26, 2013 [21 favorites]


"Metafilter-supported pregnant teens support center"

im sorry i just think its rong to pay kids to get pregant
posted by klangklangston at 9:12 PM on August 26, 2013 [21 favorites]


I'm also a long-time Mefite with nonprofit board experience. Happy to volunteer as needed.
posted by judith at 11:33 PM on August 26, 2013


My vote for Eyebrows McGee's word of the day: Hoppitamoppita.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:28 AM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also someone threatened to sue me on sweepstakes/lottery rules if I ever did it again. :(

Ok. This is why nobody goes to law school on scholarship.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:43 AM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also someone threatened to sue me on sweepstakes/lottery rules if I ever did it again. :(

There's a special place in hell...
posted by RolandOfEld at 5:28 AM on August 27, 2013


The best way to spite some litigious jerk is to give Alvy some money. That'll show 'em!
-Old Ampersand Family Saying
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:18 AM on August 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


In my previous life I was a Grant Administrator, responsible for millions of dollars of historic preservation grants, and I read and scored dozens of applications per year. I've also served on a United Way allocation committee, and I would be honored to help with any sort of MetaFilter-based foundation.

Please MeMail me with your email address if you have any interest in this, and I will start an email conversation so we can present some options to Matt for his consideration. Alternatively, Matt, if you want to nip this all in the bud due to liability concerns, just say so in the thread, but I do think there are ways we can put something together without putting the site itself in legal hot water.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:18 AM on August 27, 2013


Unfortunately, there are laws about scholarships and contests, both tax and substantive, which would make this sort of thing difficult to do without opening it up to the public at large.

On the tax side, creating any kind of charity--which this would presumably be--which incurs a benefit on a particular set of people can be problematic. So if it was open to anyone who applied for it, that might work, but now it wouldn't necessarily be a "MetaFilter" scholarship as much as one of those umpty-dozen things you hear about from high school guidance counselors. Sure, the criteria can be tailored a bit, but "Membership in a group which charges a fee" isn't a valid criteria. Doing that wrong might make the thing non-tax-exempt, which just makes the whole thing not worth doing.

On the lottery/contest side, same deal. You know all those "No purchase necessary" disclaimers on "games" like McDonald's Monopoly deal? They aren't kidding: you can mail in for game pieces. And you can do that because the states say that you have to. It's quite a set of regulations, mostly designed to avoid the real possibility of fraud. Say what you like about PowerBall, it does what it says it does. But lotteries and contests were abused pretty regularly in the nineteenth century. The standard gimmick would be a contest/lottery in which fictitious winners would be announced, or which required a purchase to play, usually combined with a misrepresentation about the chances of winning and prizes on offer, etc. Lottery hucksters were a pretty common feature in earlier portions of American history, and no one is really sad that they're gone.

TL;DR: There's a reason we don't see more of these sorts of things. It's because they were abused in the past and there are now laws which pose barriers to entry and make it harder to do what the MeFi community would probably want to do.
posted by valkyryn at 9:41 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


If this proves to be too difficult legally, we might consider crowdsourcing charity donations under a Metafilter umbrella using Crowdtilt. Last I checked, transaction fees were 2.5%. Donations to 501(c)(3)'s or non-profits are tax-deductible and they do send you a receipt.

I happened upon the site a couple of months ago. Keep meaning to build an FPP around it but haven't had time. If anyone would like to instead, please feel free.
posted by zarq at 9:57 AM on August 27, 2013


I brought this up because I think it would be an awesome thing to contribute to. I'm not so much interested in doing the direct work (it's not what I am good at), but I will commit to $200 towards such a fund. My thought is there are others like me, and if you got enough of them together you could really make an impact.

I was thinking the contributors would be mefites, but that the scolarship would be open to anyone.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:05 AM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


valkyryn: On the tax side, creating any kind of charity--which this would presumably be--which incurs a benefit on a particular set of people can be problematic. So if it was open to anyone who applied for it, that might work, but now it wouldn't necessarily be a "MetaFilter" scholarship as much as one of those umpty-dozen things you hear about from high school guidance counselors.

Yeah, like cjorgensen, I was thinking more along the lines of something like Eyebrows McGee was suggesting -- MetaFilter funding a scholarship that is awarded by some existing organization, preferably with some kind of input from the MeFi community or a subset/committee thereof.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:10 AM on August 27, 2013


So if it was open to anyone who applied for it, that might work, but now it wouldn't necessarily be a "MetaFilter" scholarship as much as one of those umpty-dozen things you hear about from high school guidance counselors.

Was anyone thinking of this as something that would go only to Mefites? That would seem a bit odd.
posted by yoink at 10:13 AM on August 27, 2013


Two thoughts:

First, I remember when I was in college, getting a scholarship for a hundred bucks or so because I was over six feet tall. I know there are plenty of arbitrarily delimited scholarships out there, so I assumed there was a fair amount of leeway.

Second, we could always include a $5 membership with the scholarship. Like, congrats, kid, here's some money for college and also you're a member here please don't make us ban you.
posted by klangklangston at 10:31 AM on August 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


I just think it would be awesome to see "Brian Grainfeld the 2013 Metafilter Scholarship Recipient, Stephanie Klackus the 2014 Metafilter Scholarship Recipient, etc." then in another 10 years maybe one of these people does something worth doing and I can point and say, "I helped her make that possible." It's also conceivable that such an award would be a downfall. "So you are the metafilter scholarship recipient and you really think you're worthy of political office? Can you explain the chicken fucking thing? Also, back away from that child. The TSA is on the way!"
posted by cjorgensen at 10:32 AM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


but it would be possible here to establish a donor directed fund with a local community foundation that would be designated to provide scholarship funds to individuals meeting particular qualifications

We could definitely do this through the Oregon Community Foundation, which might make sense since MetaFilter is based here. This is exactly what the OCF is for, actually.

We talked quite a bit in previous threads about what it would take to set up a MetaFilter Foundation as an actual 501c3. I think the consensus has always been it'd be more hassle than it was worth, more or less, But doing a donor advised fund is easy enough.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:58 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Like, congrats, kid, here's some money for college and also you're a member here please don't make us ban you.

This was my immediate thought, too: "man this is gonna be a weird ban."
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:25 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


TL;DR: There's a reason we don't see more of these sorts of things. It's because they were abused in the past and there are now laws which pose barriers to entry and make it harder to do what the MeFi community would probably want to do.

We've already covered this - you need an existing nonprofit charitable organization to run it through. We could either build one or use a community foundation. As klangklangston notes, it is really not that hard or at all risky. There are mechanisms for doing it. It is a simple thing to do correctly. The handwringing about it is unnecessary.
posted by Miko at 12:56 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


http://howtothinkforyourself.co.uk/
posted by Wordshore at 1:54 PM on August 27, 2013


I love you's guys. I really do.
posted by slogger at 7:48 PM on August 27, 2013


Count me in for a chunk of change.

Also, slogger has a lot of love for Mefi.
posted by adrianhon at 4:56 AM on August 28, 2013


I'd put some money in this.
posted by darsh at 6:12 AM on August 28, 2013


yeah, i would definitely plug in a small bucket of cash for this.
posted by chasles at 10:39 AM on August 28, 2013


Count me in for some dollars, if something does happen here. (And feel free to remind me I said that. Most days I'm lucky if I remember both my keys and my wallet when leaving the house.)
posted by brennen at 9:45 PM on August 28, 2013


In for monies.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:37 AM on August 29, 2013


It's awesome to hear that a bunch of folks are interested in contributing, but it would be even awesomer if some people with knowledge of how to appropriately set up this type of situation would get in touch with me. I'd love to make some forward progress on this, but I'm not entirely clear where to start.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:58 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


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