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The 3% Solution


One of our Public Talks at 518 Valencia, Fall 2013.

Photo: LisaRuth Elliott

We launched Shaping San Francisco's digital archive at in 2009. Since then the number of our users has grown to over 30,000 per month! is a free public resource. We may look professional, and we ARE professional historians, but what you see mostly relies on volunteer labor to make it happen. No, we will never sell advertising space on this site, nor are we sponsored by companies or major patrons.

It is hard to become rich through cultural production, but we DO want to stay relevant and sustainable.

For this we turn to you.

We know you want to exist for you and others discovering and shaping San Francisco's history. Please help us by becoming part of the 3% solution. Sign up for our new monthly donor program, or just give us a one-time gift to say thank you for the photos and stories. If 1,000 people (3.3% of our monthly users) give $10/month, we can keep this resource going AND expanding. And becoming a monthly supporter gets YOU more history (see the fine print below).

Here's what you'll be supporting:

• Curation of new material to the archive at
10 bicycle and 6 walking tours a year highlighting areas of local history.
• Guest lectures, bike and walking tours for classes at local universities and high schools.
• Ongoing Public Talks 2-3 times a month September - May (archived Talks since 2006 are available here — they are FREE to download).
• Collaborative work with other local and neighborhood history groups.

Shaping San Francisco has existed since the late 1990s, and is committed to excavating the lost history of San Francisco's residents, landscape, and economy. We see history as a creative act in the present, and want to make it available to you.

Won’t you please be one of our hardy band of dedicated supporters?

Sign up today.

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Thank you!

The fine print:

Your donation to our efforts is tax deductible (we operate as a project of Independent Arts & Media, a California nonprofit 501(c)3 corporation). We will send you one of our books (3 to choose from!) as a thank you gift for signing up at $10/month—or more (you can impersonate 2, 3 or more people by making your monthly donation a multiple of $10!).

Shaping San Francisco is supported by individual donations and small grants, which have been the key to covering the cost of everything from our internet bills to rent for our Talks space and our small office. The two co-directors earn a modest monthly stipend. Given how many hours we work on the project, this currently works out to just under San Francisco’s minimum wage of $10.24 per hour.

We understand that a free resource like our archive at is easy to take for granted. And we don’t want to guilt-trip our users, or put a paywall in front of it and make everyone who comes looking for San Francisco history pay. But we think there are enough enthusiastic supporters like you who understand the drama facing independent media and independent historians and see the work we’re doing as a vital public good worthy of steady support.

History is (or should be) the air we breathe, the water we drink, the nourishment that keeps us connected to our lives where we are. It's a public utility! But no one pays for it like they do their electricity bills or water bills. Won't you join us in sustaining this vital public asset?

Chris Carlsson & LisaRuth Elliott
co-directors, Shaping San Francisco