Canadian Atheist financial prospectus


Canadian Atheist’s expenditures are decided according to a very simple heuristic where items are ranked in order of priority, and each higher priority item is satisfied before moving on to the next, lower priority item, until the money runs out. Any non-required items left are simply dropped.

If the money has run out while there are still required items left, those items are paid for out the personal finances of the managing editor. In addition, because CA is not incorporated, any taxes associated with it are taken out of the personal taxes of the managing editor. (And because it is functionally impossible to determine how much of the personal taxes are due to CA, tax costs are simply ignored in CA’s financial reports, and just absorbed by the managing editor.)

The items that Canadian Atheist’s income will be spent on, in order from highest priority to lowest, with required items marked, are:

  1. Web presence [required]
  2. Credit card [required]
  3. Branded merchandise
  4. Paying down previous balances
  5. Purchasing content
  6. Reciprocation of support
  7. Potential extra ideas

Each of these items are described in detail below.

Web presence

The primary (and arguably only) costs of running Canadian Atheist are the web presence costs. These can be broken down into three components:

Domain name
The domain name is “”, and like all domain names, must be purchased from a registered domain name provider.
The server is the actual (or rather, technically, virtual) computer that contains all of Canadian Atheist’s data, and serves it to web clients and browsers on request.
The nameservers connect the domain name and the server. In simple terms, if you want data from, first you query the nameservers to find out the IP (Internet Protocol) address of CA’s server, then you send a request to the server for the data you want.

Often these three components are bundled together in various ways in hosting packages, so it is rare to have to consider them separately. But all three are always required to make a website work.

Because these are the fundamental (and, again, arguably only) expenses for Canadian Atheist, they will be paid for first, before anything else is considered.

Credit card

All of Canadian Atheist’s expenses are currently paid for with a personal credit card owned by the managing editor. The card has a yearly fee, and required monthly payments for any balance carried. These must be paid in full to be able to continue using the card to pay for CA’s web presence expenses.

The credit card is used for other expenses unrelated to Canadian Atheist, but they are not included in considerations of CA’s finances or expenses. If it becomes worthwhile – that is, if CA’s finances become complicated or large enough to warrant it – a credit card devoted solely to CA’s finances can be purchased. This might be a little cheaper, because it could be a bare-bones, no-rewards credit card. However, by that point, it would probably be worthwhile to incorporate CA, which might give us the benefit of a card with corporate rates. This idea is included under “Potential extra ideas”.

Branded merchandise

Once the above costs are covered, any cash left over is technically profit. The “proper” thing to do at this point is probably to use that profit to pay down the deficit from previous years. However, this is put off until the next item, “Paying down previous balances” for reasons explained below.

For years, Canadian Atheist readers have been asking for branded merchandise: T-shirts, hats, mugs, and so on, with the Canadian Atheist logo on it, and other designs or quotes related to Canadian atheism. In the past, the official response has been “you’re free to make your own designs!”, simply because we didn’t have anything to offer. You are still free to make your own designs, subject to certain restrictions (see the branding section for details). But if CA’s income allows it, Canadian Atheist will start creating and selling branded merchandise.

Canadian Atheist logo

CA has already commissioned a logo and other branding elements (this was necessary because the copyright status of our older branding elements was unclear). We could start making items with the logo any time. Additional designs could be commissioned or requested from the public.

If we do start selling branded merchandise, none of it will be sold on CA simply isn’t in the business of selling stuff – our primary purpose will always be quality content for our readers – so it is not worthwhile for us to transform our site into an e-commerce site, with all the additional security and other headaches that entails (charge-backs, etc.). CA will use an existing service for selling our branded merchandise, like Gumroad or something similar. Merchandise will also be given away for free, for example as swag at conventions, or as rewards to donors.

This item is given fairly high priority – even higher than paying down CA’s debt – because of how popular requests for branded merchandise have been through the years. Given that interest, there is a fairly high probability that we could get a decent return rate on any reasonable investment we put into it. There are also several incidental benefits, such as the promotional value of getting our name out there and more visible. And of course, if we have tangible rewards to offer, we might get significantly more patron support. In other words, this expense item might actually result in increasing our income. That means that if we put this before paying down the debt, we might be able to do both this and pay down the debt faster than just paying down the debt.

Until we know exactly what we are going to do – what merchandise we will make, what quality, how we will sell it, and so on – we cannot say exactly how much will be spent on this item. And how much we will spend will depend on how much cash is available – if we have a glut of money, we can get higher quality and more varied merchandise, but if we only have a small surplus we will have to be more modest. A minimum of 25% of the current balance will be set aside for the next item. Any remaining surplus will be put to this item, unless it is too small to make any difference, in which case, it will be put to the next item.

Paying down previous balances

By this point, all Canadian Atheist costs for the year have been covered, and some amount of cash might have been put into creating branded merchandise. Whatever is left could be considered “profit”, except for the fact that CA ran for many years with zero income, so there is a very large negative balance carried over from previous years. The next item, therefore, is paying down this large negative balance – in essence, to clear Canadian Atheist’s debts.

Purchasing content

If we get to this item, we have not only covered Canadian Atheist’s costs for they year, we have also cleared its debts and bought some branded merchandise to sell or give away. At this point, if any surplus money exists, it could be considered pure profit.

In order to increase the value of Canadian Atheist for its readers, some of that profit will be used to buy additional content.

Precisely which content will be purchased will depend on how much money is available, and the costs of the content. The following list is just a very rough list in priority order; actual purchases may not be in the order shown:

  1. translations
  2. research
  3. art & media

Details of each item follow.


The upcoming Canadian Atheist Rosetta project will include translations of documents important to Canadian secularism, humanism, freethought, and atheism into all official Canadian in all provinces and territories, and as many other unofficial languages as possible. It will also include a specialized multilingual translation dictionary of Canadian secularism, humanism, freethought, and atheism terminology into those languages.

While it is hoped that a lot of the content for Rosetta will come from contributions by its users, Rosetta is one of those things that will be completely useless at first. Once it has a certain amount of content, it becomes useful to people, and thus we can hope they will show gratitude for its usefulness by adding or expanding content. But until it has that content, it’s just not worth anyone’s time.

Rosetta already has quite a bit of content. However, it is probably not enough to cross that threshold of utility.

Thus, if we have the surplus cash for it, some of that cash will be spent paying professional translators in Canada’s official languages – mostly indigenous languages, in all likelihood – to translate Canadian secularist, humanist, freethought, and atheist terminology and documents.

This will have other benefits besides those direct benefits for Rosetta itself. For example, one of the goals I’d like to accomplish is to get the title “Canadian Atheist” translated into as many Canadian languages as possible. That would become part of a T-shirt design, among other things.


There is a dire lack of information about Canadian atheists. We know very little about their demographics, their politics, and so on. And the lack of this information may be putting us as a political disadvantage. If it is true that the number of atheists in Canada is as grossly underestimated as many experts suspect, then the widespread belief in politics that one must pander to religious populations may just be a myth.

If funding permits, Canadian Atheist will commission studies and surveys about atheism in Canada. The results of these studies and surveys will, of course, be published in Canadian Atheist. But the data will be released under an open data initiative, for any researchers to use as they please.

Art & media content

If money permits, Canadian Atheist will commission works of art from Canadian atheists – or works of art by anyone about Canadian secularism, humanism, freethought, or atheism. These works of art will then be featured in Canadian Atheist.

Precisely what kind of art or media items will be commissioned will depend on what kind of funding is available, and what artists are available for commission. But items may include graphics, music, or even video. If we have the cash we may even do something crazy like commission a statue somewhere!

This item intersects with the “Reciprocation of support” item. By commissioning art about Canadian atheism from Canadian atheists, that will be CA’s way of supporting Canadian atheism and Canadian atheists.

Reciprocation of support

If we get to this item, not only has Canadian Atheist been fully funded, there has also been enough surplus to fund some interesting and important projects. That would mean that CA has satisfied any reasonable definition of being financially successful. But CA does not exist for the purpose of making money. So at this point, if CA has become financially successful, then it is time to start giving back to the community.

Precisely what this will entail will be left unspecified for now, because the likelihood of getting to this point is basically zero. However, to give a general idea of what CA might do:

Funding other Canadian atheist initiatives
CA might become a sponsor or patron of other Canadian atheist media or projects. That includes Canadian atheist writers, bloggers, vloggers, podcasters, and so on. CA would focus on contributing to those who need it most – quality Canadian atheist media providers or projects who just aren’t widely known or getting a lot of love.
Donating to atheists in need
CA could chip in to funding drives for atheists in need.
General charitable donations
CA could donate to charities or charitable causes supporting secular, humanist, freethinking, or atheist goals.
Funding conventions or events
CA could sponsor atheist conventions or other events across Canada.

If our funding ever reaches a point where any of these ideas is feasible, the community will be asked for suggestions on where the money should be spent.

Potential extra ideas

By this point we’re just blue-sky spit-balling. Canadian Atheist is simply not designed to be a money-making machine; all I really hope for with our funding is to be able to pay CA’s costs, so that CA is self-sufficient. That would be success enough. If we can afford to pay for some of the additional items above, that would be more than I could hope for.

If we get to this point, Canadian Atheist will be wildly successful, and taking in far more money than I ever planned for it to handle. I would have to start taking steps to separate CA’s finances from my personal money – by incorporating it, or maybe even applying for charity status.

I would also have to find ways to safely compensate contributors. Right now, Canadian Atheist can’t pay contributors; not just because we can’t afford to, but also for legal reasons. As long as they’re unpaid, if anyone sues a Canadian Atheist contributor, they are usually protected by their homeowners insurance. But the moment they start getting paid for their contributions, they have no protection unless they have media liability insurance… which is apparently damned expensive. Traditionally, journalists and other contributors working for media outlets like newspapers and magazines have been covered by the outlet’s insurance. If CA was going to pay its contributors, it would have to first buy media liability insurance for all its contributors. But if we were making enough money, that would be something worth doing.

If CA is this successful, we’d have to start looking for other projects and initiatives to invest in. Because the money is never just going to end up in anyone’s pocket. Yes, as the managing editor, I will take some of the money, because I am shouldering a lot of hidden and incidental costs, and paying taxes on everything Canadian Atheist-related. But I have no intention of getting rich of off CA. Whatever income CA gets, the vast majority will always either be put back into CA, or put into projects sponsored by CA… which readers and contributors will always be able to confirm by looking at CA’s publicly available financial reports.


If you have read through this prospectus, you may have noticed that the first few items are relatively clear, but things get progressively more vague in the following items. The reason for that is simple: Canadian Atheist has never had an income before, so there is absolutely no basis for estimating what kind of income we can expect. It could be $5 a month, or it could be $50,000 a month, or anything in between and beyond. There is simply no way to know yet.

With no idea of what the income will be, it is difficult and pointless to spend too much time worrying about how large amounts of income will be spent. Realistically, it is unlikely there will be much income. In all likelihood, CA probably won’t even be able to break even.

After a few years’ worth of data, there will be a clearer idea of what levels of income Canadian Atheist can expect. At that point, this prospectus can be rewritten with clearer goals. For now, this is the best we can do.

The following flowchart illustrates CA’s current spending prospectus: