#EthicalChristmas: Wildmind - The Evolution of Dana-Based Online Teaching
On Fri, 5 December, 2014 - 16:54
There’s been a rapid evolution of how Wildmind runs online courses. For years we held online courses with anything from half a dozen to 20 participants. Then we decided to start 2013 with a more public 100 Day Meditation Challenge, followed by another 100 days exploring the four Brahmaviharas. For these events I wrote a daily (or almost daily) article on Wildmind’s blog, accompanied by guided meditations.
When Mark joined the team, we decided to develop that model yet further, in order to create a year-long schedule of meditation events for 2014. This became our first Year of Going Deeper. We offered a program of eight online courses, covering everything from learning basic meditation techniques, to cultivating absorption (jhana), to developing insight.
We’ve learned a lot as we’ve gone! With the two events in 2013 we didn’t know how many people were participating; we guessed it was a few hundred, but we were simply posting material on the blog and hoping that people were paying attention! So for our first Year of Going Deeper we decided to run the events via email. This gave us a clear idea of how many people were participating. As it happened, we had over 1,200 people sign up for each of the eight events!
We’re building on that success by offering another Year of Going Deeper in 2015 with an even larger program.
One thing we’ve learned is to have shorter events. For example, instead of a 100 day event exploring the four Brahmaviharas, we have one 25 day event for each of the four practices. This is less daunting for potential participants, and allows people to join at different times.
We’ve also learned not to use the “f-word” — that is, the word “free”! We’d said that our first Year of Going Deeper was “free,” but that donations were welcome. That turned out to be a mistake! The word “free” is very attractive, but it sets up an unhelpful expectation: last year only around five percent of participants donated.
Like any organization we have financial needs, and we’ve really struggled this year because of our missteps in communicating them. So for 2015 we’re encouraging participants to donate when they enroll, being more upfront about our needs while (we hope) avoiding being pushy.
Our first event of next year — a 28 day meditation challenge called “Sit Breathe Love” — starts on January 1, and so far the indications are good. It’s quite likely that we’ll end up the same number of participants as last year, and so far about 50% of those who’ve enrolled have made a donation: a ten-fold increase on last year. We’re hopeful that this is going to bring us some much-needed financial stability.
Wildmind, I think, does an amazing job in reaching out and making meditation instruction available on a mass scale. We’ve literally touched millions of lives through our website. I’m looking forward to the day when no longer have to do this on a shoestring and with an anxious eye on our cash-flow, but instead have an abundance of resources to draw on!
I’m sure that 2015 won’t be our last Year of Going Deeper. In fact I’d like to keep running these events and for them to grow. Wouldn’t it be inspiring to have 10,000 people participating in each of these events? Or even 100,000? I hope you can join us for one of them!