Frequently Asked Questions

Pic of Alex Zorach

Hello! I'm Alex Zorach and I am the founder and currently sole administrator and author for

I have worked on for over a year as a side project with no compensation, and in the subsequent three years with minimal compensation, while using other sources of income to sustain my work. I am raising funding both in order to compensate myself, and so that the project can progress faster, both by me dedicating more time to it, and by hiring others if we receive enough funding.

What are your fundraising goals?

Our current short-term goal is $20,000, which includes all past donations. If we meet this goal, we will take our donation banner down until November of 2023.

In December 2021, we set a short-term goals to raise $5,000 by year's end. Because we did not meet this goal immediately, we are kept the donation banner up until the goal was met towards the end of summer of 2022. We then took our donation banner down until December of 2022.

Our medium-term goals are to raise ongoing donations for an annual budget of $70,000. This will allow me to work on the project full-time with a reasonable salary, cover all the site's expenses even if hosting needs increase, and have some discretionary spending left over. If we exceed this goal in the short-term, before we have time to create the structure to hire employees, we will donate more to related organizations, and we may also set aside some of the money to create an endowment that could be used to generate investment income to fund a long-term budget so that we are not as dependent on donations.

Our long-term goal is to raise an ongoing annual budget of $300,000 to allow us to hire other full-time people to expand the offerings of the site. Our ideal fundraising scenario is to meet our $70k annual budget goal quickly, but take longer to reach this larger, more ambitious goal so that we can have time to scale up our organization effectively.

How does differ from existing websites?

The most important answer is a greater focus on ecology, including plants' habitat, life-cycle, and faunal associations. This focus on ecology also involves using ecoregions rather than political boundaries. We also focus on making rigorous ID more accessible by publishing plant comparison and ID guides.

On top of this, we also employ a lot of newer technologies, such as making our site fully optimized for use on mobile devices without the need to install a separate app, and using dynamically-generated maps. We have a custom content-management system that enables to build and maintain our site with less effort. We also utilize cloud hosting and newer versions of scripting languages and open-source databases.

Our site is also optimized to reduce CPU load both on the user and server end, and we are proud that we do this more effectively than much of the web. This efficiency not only makes our website faster and helps your laptop or phone battery to last longer, it also reduces energy usage and thus combats carbon emissions and other pollution. By donating, you can help us keep our site ad-free, which is a major factor in its efficiency.

How can I donate?

You can donate directly on our Donate page, which is linked in the header and footer of any page on our site. Donations are processed through Stripe, which accepts credit cards, Google and Apple Pay, and many other payment methods. Donations made in this manner will be recognized on our site, and we will allow you to create an account noting that you are a donor, if you so desire.

We also accept anonymous donations through Liberapay, which accepts payments through credit cards, bank accounts, or Paypal. Liberapay is similar to Patreon, if you are familiar with that service. We chose Liberapay because it allows you to make recurring donations, it is free open-source software, and it charges no additional fees beyond payment processing. Liberapay donations are anonymous if paid through Stripe and anonymous except for email address if paid through Paypal.

If you are interested in a greater portion of the proceeds reaching us (credit card processors, take 3%-3.5% of a typical transaction) please contact us about donating by personal check or other method. We currently limit online payments to a minimum of $10, but strongly recommend larger, less-frequent payments for small donations in order to keep fees low. You can see the portion of your donation taken as a fee on the donate page.

If you are interested in donating but none of these options work for you, please get in touch and we can work something out.

How can I support if I can't or don't want to donate?

If you want to support us financially but either lack the means to do so, or just don't want to, you can ask others to donate on your behalf, as a gift. You can also share our material with others who may be more likely to donate.

You can also help us a lot by sharing or linking to our site, and following our accounts on social media, which you can find links to on the footer of every page. Raising awareness of our site not only indirectly help us raise funds, but, more importantly, it helps get our educational resources to a broader audience, which furthers our mission. More traffic to our site also helps us get better data on what information there is demand for, which helps us to better prioritize our work.

Lastly, you can also help us by contacting us with corrections, additions, or feedback about areas you would like us to focus on.

Why would I donate to an entity that is not a non-profit organization?

An organization being a 501(c)(3) organization in the United States, or any other type of legally-recognized non-profit organization, is a formality that affords certain tax advantages to organizations that are structured and run in a specified way. An organization's non-profit status is not a guarantee that the organization conducts itself in a way most people would deem charitable. For example, some charities pay their CEO's salaries over $1 million annually (source), and if you look specifically at hospitals and large health clinics, there are many people paid over $5 million in salaries and an overwhelming majority of such organizations paying their top executives over $1 million (source). There are also non-profit entities that are more legally-aggressive about enforcing their trademarks than most for-profit corporations (source).

The 2017 Tax Reforms in the U.S. greatly reduced the portion of people itemizing deductions, and under current tax law, without itemizing deductions, people can only deduct up to $300 of charitable donations from their taxes. Even if you itemize deductions, you can still achieve more good in the world by giving to a non-tax-deductible cause if that cause is achieving more with your money.

I am committed to running with financial transparency that goes above and beyond how typical non-profit organizations are run, publishing our income and expenses in easy-to-understand documents on our website. You can be assured that your money will be used more responsibility and transparently than many non-profits use their funds.

In the long-run, we may look into becoming a non-profit, but it currently does not make sense because it would introduce overhead that would distract from our work. If you work for a non-profit that shares our values and might like to include under your umbrella to address the economy-of-scale issues, please get in touch with us.

How and where will you use the money?

We have negligible costs currently, because of piggybacking on the other websites managed by Merit Exchange LLC, which include RateTea, a predominately ad-funded site with a comparable amount of traffic to,, a site about microtonal music, and several other websites. However, as scales up to have more traffic, we may need to pay more for cloud hosting and other technology services including email.

Initially, most of the income will be used to pay me (Alex Zorach) for my work on the project. The initial goal will be to pay me a living wage to compensate me for full-time work on the site and related ecological restoration work. If we reach a sufficient threshold, we will hire others. I am committed to never paying any individual, including myself, more than about $99.5K annually (in 2022 dollars, adjusted for inflation) and would hire another person long before paying myself a salary this high. This figure is based on inflation-adjusting a 2010 study that found that increases in personal incomes over $75,000 do not affect happiness. A 2018 Study found similar results.

We would also like to donate money to organizations whose work, resources, or data we use, to nature preserves or land conservation organizations, and other organizations that closely align with our mission, especially when the work is directly related to material on our site. Currently we donate a small amount to iNaturalist, a citizen science website with overlapping goals, in large part because we have relied on them heavily as a source of images for our articles and plant ID guides.

You can find more details on our finances page, which you can always find a link to in our footer.

What are some results that could be facilitated by more funding?

With more funding the following projects could advance more quickly:

In addition, we could undertake more forward-looking work such as further developing the interactive features of our site.

How can we trust that you will use the money to make a difference in the world?

One of the best indicators of how an organization will use money is the work it is already doing. Since our launch in 2019, we have published hundreds of articles, ecoregion maps of North America, and tentative range maps of most plants native to North America. We then revised the maps and replaced all range maps with superior 2nd-generation maps. We have integrated a significant number of taxonomic updates that go above and beyond those used by the USDA, BONAP, and many other sources. We also have developed and tested many of the interactive features of the site for tracking and reporting plant observations.

And we've done all of this with zero funding whatsoever in the initial stages, and only negligible funding in the first two years.

Many organiations have achieved a lot less than the work we've already done, with significant budgets and personnel. You've seen what we can do, and you can expect more of the same! Funding will primarily ensure that we can continue doing what we already have been doing, and that we can do more of it, as well as continually improving the quality of the resources we have already created.

Are you seeking any income or monetizing the site in other ways?

Not currently.

The other sites run by Merit Exchange LLC generate income through advertising and affiliate links. I would rather keep advertisement or affiliate links either off entirely, or to a minimum. However, I have considered seeking income through these methods. The best way to ensure remains fully advertising-free is to donate money so that there is no need to resort to these other income sources. Without any donations, I will probably eventually add at least some minimal advertising in order to cover server costs and provide some minimal compensation as the site grows. I have also considered an institutional subscription model as some educational institutions subscribe to various databases and open journals.

Since I am actively soliciting funding, if I do earn any income associated with through advertising, affiliate links, or other sources, I will publish the gross earnings through these sources as well.

Any more questions?

Please get in touch using the contact link in the header or footer! I am eager to answer any further questions from anyone considering donating!