It's great that Rockfax have made donations to some bolt funds. Is there anywhere where you state how much money you donated to these funds? Are regular donations made to the bolt funds of areas covered by the Rockfax catalogue? Perhaps proportional to the sales revenue (or no. of downloads) from guides describing those areas?
Apologies if these questions are already answered elsewhere. I had a quick look on the RF donations page and couldn't find the answers.
> It's great that Rockfax have made donations to some bolt funds. Is there anywhere where you state how much money you donated to these funds? Are regular donations made to the bolt funds of areas covered by the Rockfax catalogue? Perhaps proportional to the sales revenue (or no. of downloads) from guides describing those areas?
The standard method we use is to pay around £1 from each of the initial book sales of new books to the appropriate local bolt fund. If you dig into those articles you can find quite a few pound figures - https://www.rockfax.com/news/category/donations/
When we originally set up this system we capped the amount to around £2000 per area/BF, but kept the £1 donation per book sold online going for the full print run (since we make more money on those). The figures aren't precise though since occasionally we have chucked a bit more in and also occasionally funded individuals who do specific re-bolting work. So far we haven't linked anything to the digital sales since those haven't been significant enough until we went to subscription last month, so it does need looking at.
This has worked well in the UK where areas have organised bolt funds with PayPal pages and we have given a lot in North Wales, Dorset, South Wales, Yorkshire, Cumbria and I also chuck a fair amount at Gary Gibson's fund page. We have also recently targeted environmental projects from non-sport books like the paths around Portland from Dorset Bouldering, and now hopefully the bridge at Harrisons Rocks by working with the BMC ACT.
In Spain and France it is much more difficult to arrange. Most of the areas don't have public bolt funds, and the concept of climbers donating to bolting is fairly alien to them. I never really understood why they make a thing about guidebooks funding bolts in these areas but seemed to put little effort into getting the public to help with the funding. PayPal funds don't really exist, there are few rattle tins, and little text or explanation in guidebooks about how bolting is funded and how readers can help.
I recently had a very revealing conversation with Pedro Pons and Nuria (Chullila) where he explained to me that the system of public donation just doesn't seem to get traction in Spain (and France I suspect). He told me the story of the rattle tin they had at their refuge for 6 months and, in the end, it had €23.50 and 20 of that was a single donation he witnessed from an American climber.
So in order to actually contribute in Spain and France we have had to take a different avenue. In Mallorca, working with ex-pat Derek Watson, we arranged for around £1500 bolting materials to be bought but the whole process to around 18 months and lots of emails (not Derek's fault). In the Cote d'Azur, Mike Owen has put us in touch with some locals and we have made a few decent donations of around £1200 so far and this is ongoing and we will keep it going through the life of that guidebook (ie. not cap at £2000). This does indicate a problem though since the donations there are only going to one of the areas covered in that book. In El Chorro we are in contact with two groups of active bolters as mentioned in the article with this thread. Donations are around £1800 so far and ongoing for the life of that book. We have also helped establish a PayPal system in conjunction with the Olive Branch.
I have been in touch with bolters in two areas in Haute Provence - St. Leger and Dentelles de Montmirail - and offered them money and help with communicating the bolting message. They have been friendly and cooperative but have so far not accepted any money despite at least two years of trying.
Kalymnos is a whole different ball game with some bizarre politics going on. Our one-off donation last December of £1500 to the Glaros BF probably pissed off as many people as it pleased, but we are confident that the money went into bolts.
So that is the picture. It is all a bit ad hoc and there are areas like the Costa Blanca where we certainly need to put some work in, but I think we do our bit now. Hats off to Adrian Berry who was the driving force in getting our system going.
Thanks Alan, sounds like there's some good work going on. Very depressing to hear the tales from the continent - it all seems a bit backwards.
Apologies if this seems like prying for the sake of trying to find some fault, but do you continue to make donations once a publication is beyond its first print run or edition? And what would the size of a typical print run be (I'm trying to think about the £2000 cap in the context of how big the run is).
> Apologies if this seems like prying for the sake of trying to find some fault, but do you continue to make donations once a publication is beyond its first print run or edition? And what would the size of a typical print run be (I'm trying to think about the £2000 cap in the context of how big the run is).
Well, as mentioned above, we have don't cap the donations for non-UK books any more. We never really established any payment channels before this anyway so the cap thing has only ever really been for UK books. I also said that we continue donations based on our direct online sales for a full print run - again, only UK books so far.
We would regard a complete new edition as resetting hence start donations again. The Cote d'Azur donations are based purely on the 2017 edition. However, because of the difficulty in paying to appropriate funds in Spain and France, the amounts we pay have become separated from the print runs in most cases, but I do try and look at local funds when publishing a new book. El Chorro is an example of this working really well recently, although that is connected to the book sales.
Print runs vary from 4,000 to 10,000 depending on the book.
> Thanks Alan, sounds like there's some good work going on. Very depressing to hear the tales from the continent - it all seems a bit backwards.
Actually I should clarify my comments. I don't think that bolt funding is backwards in France and Spain, I just think it is a different system. It clearly works in most places since there are lots of well bolted routes. I have my reservations about the quality and availability of local guidebooks it leads to but I also don't think that better produced international guidebooks have much effect on the system.
The main thing I take away from my struggles to actually contribute financially to the bolt funding in some areas is just confirmation of my theory that this debate has never really been about actually funding bolts. It is about localism and who has the right to document information in their own areas - climbers resent outsiders covering their climbs. It is understandable but it isn't going to stop us producing our books since I think that the climbing community itself is better off for the things our more professional approach allows us to develop.
> The main thing I take away from my struggles to actually contribute financially to the bolt funding in some areas is just confirmation of my theory that this debate has never really been about actually funding bolts. It is about localism and who has the right to document information in their own areas - climbers resent outsiders covering their climbs. It is understandable but it isn't going to stop us producing our books since I think that the climbing community itself is better off for the things our more professional approach allows us to develop.
I expect there is a lot of truth in that. To be clear, that isn't why I asked the questions above. I was just curious as to what the mechanism behind the funding was and how much was actually going to the bolt funds. The original article, though I recognise it was really just signposting people to the Rockfax donations pages, was very light on detail.
I'm sure you're well-versed in my Rockfax scepticism but it doesn't really stem from the issues mentioned above. I don't really want to drone on about this but I want to be clear that my questions on this thread don't have any malign intent. Firstly, I don't subscribe to the notion that only certain locals should be allowed to document an area's climbing, and I don't necessarily think that all guides should be produced on a not-for-profit basis; however I do think that having non-locals write the guide or doing it for profit tends to lead into poor practice or poorly researched guides.
And secondly, although I think that it's a good thing when the proceeds of guidebooks are routed into bolt funds, and this should continue to happen, I don't think it's sustainable to rely on guidebook contributions to provide a significant portion of the total money available to local bolt funds. In any big sport climbing area there are going to be thousands and thousands of bolts out there, and the proceeds from guides are not likely to prop this up on their own. An exception might be in an area where the guides are provided in a well-established app with relatively few overheads.
I think we are probably close to agreement on this, especially your last paragraph.
I do normally at this point though take people to task for the use of the 'not for profit' tag which is essentially meaningless in this context.
All charities/organisations/businesses aim to take in more money than they give out on their day-to-day activities and the surplus is called profit. It is what you do with the profit that counts. If you step back and look at it in simple terms, there is little difference between a charity, an organisation and a small employee-owned business. For example, the BMC get money from subs, selling books, insurance, etc. From this they pay their bills and staff and use the rest to do good stuff for climbers. UKC/Rockfax get our money from selling advertising, books and app subscriptions. I pay our bills and staff and use the rest to do good stuff for climbers. Obviously the governance of these different types of organisations is different, but the basic financial message isn't.
The use of 'not for profit' in these discussions is a way of making something seem more worthy. I maintain that there is no real difference in fact I would dispute that the term 'not for profit' applies to many organisation/businesses that claim it. Either that or most small employee-owned businesses can claim precisely the same. It is meaningless unless you are talking about large businesses with third party shareholders where substantial profit is used to pay dividends to make rich investors richer. It has no place in discussions about guidebook production.
'this debate has never really been about actually funding bolts. It is about localism and who has the right to document information in their own areas'
100% agree. The recent new guides covering the Costa blanca and nearby, support this. (German Vs local)
(The German guide contributed to our sella bolt fund, the Spanish one didn't, and yet included our routes.. and has the cheek to call itself 'against vampire topos' ... Lol)
Jonathan, one day last winter when I was soloing at Toix, I got chatting with some guy; sorry, can't remember his nationality (but he wasn't from Barnsley!) He was doing yet another guide. He knew all about the recent guidebook history (all I knew was gleaned from Kris) and seemed concerned to do things right. Maybe there's a ray of hope?
I agree absolutely that this argument isn’t really about bolt funds, it’s about people profiting from other people’s work by bringing out guides for areas that they have done little or nothing to contribute to the development of (save for the odd bolt fund donation).
I think you’re perhaps over reaching a bit when talking about the status of other not for profit or charity organisations being similar to ukc/Rockfax as it’s what you do with the profit that counts.
Charities are closely monitored by the charities commission and although keep some money in the bank (called reserves) in case they should come into financial difficulty, they invest all the rest into their charitable activities. If they’re not doing much of this beyond paying for their own existence they will be wound up.
UKC/Rockfax can make a profit which it is entitled to keep as cash at bank. If the the company is sold or wound up this would go to the owners of the company. This is a quite fundamental difference to how nfp/charities operate.
I’ve no real issue with how you operate as a business but I think it’s a little unfair on charities and genuine not for profit organisations to say you operate in a similar way.
Does it really matter?
Would you rather they didn't give money to re-equip or create new routes?
They don't have too you know.
No, it doesn’t matter, but this is an internet-based forum where users express opinions and information, that’s what it’s for. You don’t have to read it.
> I agree absolutely that this argument isn’t really about bolt funds, it’s about people profiting from other people’s work by bringing out guides for areas that they have done little or nothing to contribute to the development of (save for the odd bolt fund donation).
You are missing my point here while indulging in the very activity it was directed at.
How about this example:
Imagine UKC/Rockfax was a not-for-profit and we had a series of mountain huts around the country made available to an exclusive set of paying members. Instead of using the proceeds from our guidebooks to fund digital guidebook development and an open access web site, we used it to maintain our mountain huts exclusively for our members.
This statement illustrates that it is possible to spin these discussions whichever way you want. By focussing on the 'profit' element of a small business as if it was a bad thing, without looking at the bigger picture of what is actually happening, then you are guilty of making a similarly crass judgement to this one I am making about clubs and huts.
You then compound this by judging us on things we might do in the future to support your profit 'stick-beating' analysis.
(Before everyone jumps on the bit in italics above let me reiterate that I have nothing against clubs and I regard them as a valuable and crucial part of the culture of climbing in Britain. I realise they have significance and impact way beyond their members-only functions).
No Alan, i’ve absolutely no problem with you running a successful business that turns a profit, working in the activity that’s your passion, in fact I applaud that.
I think a few of the decisions you’ve made have pissed a few people off over the years, and I can see their point of view. No biggie...
You also do a lot of good too, so that’s to be applauded also.
I fully appreciate the bolt fund contributions made to me by Alan. I do have a donate button on my web page but this year have received only around £250 from it. Http://www.sportsclimbs.co.uk
Are you suggesting that a levy on guide-books (as is the case in most of continental Europe) is a better way of funding bolts than a system of voluntary donations?
Where did I suggest that? I have a donate button on my site, where did I suggest a levy? It’s your choice if you donate. I spend around £1000-£2000 per year purely on regearing.
Although I haven't given you a dislike, I find it hard to imagine how you could have made such a deduction from Gary's statement. Were you being provocative?
Gary says he appreciates the money from Rockfax guidebooks because he doesn't get much through private donations. That suggests that guidebooks are more effective at raising money than charity. I just took the reasoning one step further to suggest that an actual levy on guidebooks might be an ideal way for route equippers to buy more bolts. Has anybody ever tried this in the UK?
No offence intended. I was just extrapolating from what you said. Thanks for all the hard work and investment!
> Gary says he appreciates the money from Rockfax guidebooks because he doesn't get much through private donations. That suggests that guidebooks are more effective at raising money than charity. I just took the reasoning one step further to suggest that an actual levy on guidebooks might be an ideal way for route equippers to buy more bolts. Has anybody ever tried this in the UK?
I think you are mistaken in suggesting that this "is the case in most of continental Europe". There is nothing remotely as organised or pan-European as you suggest. There are areas where a guidebook funds local bolting and other areas where it doesn't and there is no connection. Sometimes it might be an amount per guidebook, other times it might just be one-off donations. Most common though is probably the guidebook being written by local developers where the 'donation' is actually just them getting some money back for the work they have done. Another common situation is that local councils fund bolting and they request that the climbers produce a guidebook in order to promote visitors to the area.
Rockfax are probably the closest to establishing a levy system in the UK which we have done in Dorset, North Wales, Yorkshire, Cumbria and South Wales (plus non-bolt funds ones also in Dorset and Southern Sandstone). Other guidebook producers have made donations but I am not aware of them being formally linked to guidebook sales directly.
However, in the UK the public donation system is pretty good. In Dorset Marti Hallett has done an amazing job of creating a Facebook group and publicising his bolting efforts to boost donations and, as far as I am aware, he gets more money in from Facebook donations than the Dorset Rockfax has managed to generate. In Yorkshire the Leeds Wall Bolt Fund did a great job of boosting funding and certainly received more from public contributions than guidebooks.
So I would advocate both donations from guidebook sales and a public donation system.
A final point worth noting is that bolt funds are ostensibly aimed at re-bolting not new routes. If you talk to anyone who does this kind of thing they will always tell you that money isn't nearly as big a problem as getting people to actually do the rebolting work. There is no glory in rebolting a route, in fact, in the UK, there is often only grief!
(This post will probably be deleted by Alan and my profile banned - might want to copy/paste for continuity)
No discussion on guidebook companies funding bolting should fail to mention the North Wales Limestone guidebook. Researched and produced by volunteers for zero pay; we covered all our publishing and other costs within the first 3-4 months of sales. Without wages to pay it wasn't difficult!
To date, our NW Limestone guidebook has raised over £15,000 profit in the bank from sales. Of this, we've given the North Wales Bolt Fund regular top-ups as required - approx £5,000 so far - with more available whenever required. We have plenty of funding for the second edition when it is required.
This successful example proves that the model of local volunteer-written guidebooks CAN work well - something that some commentators on here were seriously questioning at the time of the controversy over the Onsight NW Limestone guide versus Rockfax North Wales guide. Obviously our model requires motivated and dedicated people who are prepared to put in the graft for a cause that motivates them, rather than for monetary gain, and this perhaps isn't so common. Or maybe people just don't believe they can succeed against the grain of a commercial model that predominates - in many walks of life not just publishing. All I can say is I loved the feeling of being able to be part of a creative adventure, which created something of value in my local area, in an activity I deeply enjoy. I think that sort of opportunity to go it alone and be creative is becoming more rare and is worth preserving against profiteers. It also speaks to a spirit of self-reliance which many who climb cherish.
The Rockfax model also works well by incentivising people (sometimes local, but quite often not) to write guidebooks for wages. It doesn't need me to point out that there are clearly many people with concerns over quality of information and 'feel' with some RF guides, just as there are clearly many people who rate them highly.
RF's contributions to bolt funds is to be applauded, they're only doing what they should be doing.
Just wanted to add something regarding the funding on equipping in France. In my local area (Buis les Baronnies) the guidebook is local in the local climbers produce it. It is actually published by the FFME (French BMC) who take in the funds generated and used them to fund their activities, one of which is funding re-equipping of crags. I know that all the new developments in the area are nothing to do with the FFME - and are done by a voluntary organisation called Greenspit who got a bit tired with the FFME and they have a subscription model whereby you join up and all the funds are turned into climbs. They produce basic topos which can be downloaded from their website. They are having their annual meeting this weekend at Mollans - in case anyone is interested.
If I many venture into some of the other issues raised, I think that some people who have a problem with 'profit' need to think more about what it is. Businesses wishing to raise funds to develop can choose to borrow from a bank and pay interest (like Thomas Cook?) reagrdless of how well they are doing or can issue shares and pay investors when times are good but without the obligation to fork out cash when times are hard. As Alan says, it really doesn't apply much to small businesses where surplas is just re-invested and there are no investors to satisfy. The big difference with Rockfax is that authors get paid - and hence do a pretty thorough job.
One more thing about local guidebooks vs outsider guide - having produced a couple of guides to France, and using local sources for data - route names and grades - I can honestly claim that the errors in the local texts are horrific, and much of the hard work is sorting them out. I think that as an outsider, you are actually in a better position to write a helpful guide as you don't assume anything and see the area through similar eyes to those visiting. If I were to advice someone competing with Rockfax, I would suggest the gap we leave in the market is for guides with lots more local information - about the routes - the history - the stories that inspire - the kind of information that authors who are in the area for just a few months at a time won't know about.