At OpenStack, we do payments to about 50 local user groups every year so they can have some cash to celebrate the birthday of the software. While the wisdom of this is still being discussed, it does mean we’ve garnered some experience at paying random people in the far reaches of the world.
The first discovery we made in the early days was that mandating a payment method caused problems - it became more hassle to deal with the exceptions than just asking in the first place. So, we made a form where we asked groups to select their payment method from: Paypal, SWIFT Transfer, Visa Gift Cards, BitCoin, Google Wallet & Other. Last year, we marked Paypal as our preferred option, since it’s the fastest to process from a time perspective, and very simple to provide details from the recipient perspective.
Two years ago, we had the following breakdown across 6 continents:
- Wire Transfer: 11
- Visa Gift Card: 12
- Paypal: 13
For last year’s event, after we marked Paypal as preferred:
- Wire Transfer: 9
- Visa Gift Card: 4
- Paypal: 37
We gave every group the same amount regardless of transfer fees they’d have to pay, so this indicates that some groups had a strong preference for Wire Transfers despite this. Sometimes this is because the group has been incorporated as a legal entity. Other times it’s because it’s simpler to subsequently use the money.
It seems like Visa Gift Cards and Paypal were both more or less doable by many groups, but once we expressed a preference people were happy to please us
Though, as hinted in the original post, the availability of Visa Gift Cards varies. Initially, we could get them from our local bank, but then they stopped offering them. It probably depends on your country, but a quick search found an alternate supplier. The Visa Gift Cards were invaluable in some South American countries in particular.
To keep the workload low and ensure we only had to ask for details once, we designed our request form (using google forms) to have a bit of conditional logic so it would request the correct details based on the payment method chosen.
Other things we required:
- a public registration page, showing a ‘significant’ number of registrations
- photos and videos of the event
This is probably for another post, but our next evolution related to this topic is our soon-to-be-launched online store. That’s going to let us give out codes for free swag to user group leaders so we don’t even need to have cash changing hands in some cases.