Thanks for the feedback, your past contributions and your questions.
So, I don't know of any website that discloses all operating expenses openly, I suppose there are any number of reasons; expenses aren't always consistent (monthly bills tend to fluctuate), not everyone is particularly interested, it is privileged information (no one is required to pay to use Simtropolis, and I definitely want to keep it open and free), and it is extra work, if we're being honest . But I'm happy to offer some background and context in terms of revenue and expenses.
We have a base monthly server hosting cost of course for a number of servers for our various web properties, but our monthly obligations can be different from month to month. For example, we've also got technical support and license costs (the licenses aren't just for the board software, but also for any paid 3rd party addons we're using, and almost any kind of integration has some recurring cost associated). All of these have different renewal frequencies, ie. some are every 6 months, some quarterly, etc. Other expenses include things like shipping costs for producing and sending out DVDs (amount varies depending on the month). Additionally, we also periodically like to make enhancements and upgrades to the site when warranted.
The majority of our income comes from donations. We also make money from ads, which is an unfortunate reality; I dislike them, and prefer to not have them at all, but they do help generate some extra revenue. We also have affiliations: EA, Origin and GOG.com, where we can make a cut of sales generated, but I confess, these affiliations need a lot of work to maintain and it's something I would like to try to set up a bit more earnestly!
But let's get back to your point about transparency. When you make a donation, you get an automated confirmation email in which you are asked to reply to let us know: if you want a Collector's Disc, and if so, do you want to use the same or different shipping address, or if you wanted to get the digital download instead. Starting in October, we'll also let you know that if you're interested to see where your donation comes in with respect to our monthly goal, you can request that, too. We'll tell you what the dollar obligation we're trying to meet is, and how your donation helped.
In the coming months, I'd like to work on a more integrated system with donations and the board, for example, automatically be given a member distinction for donating a minimum amount, and receiving some member perks. We would need to take some care to think about this, as we don't want to create a "class" situation. But some member perks could be faster download speeds, extra forum tools, first to get access to test new features, more personal storage space, access to additional Discord functions, and cosmetic distinctions. And we could also have a "donor's club" or "donor's forum" where donors can socialize in a more relaxed atmosphere, and where we can provide monthly dollar updates to those who are interested, get the scoop about what's coming up and be able to preview things before the general population.
Your other question was, what happens if a monthly goal is not met? The answer is that it comes out of my pocket. It's been this way for some 14 years, being my site, of course, I have to be the one holding the bag. Ideally, I could try to roll any shortfall over to next month's obligations to see if we can meet it, but in reality, I just pay for it out of pocket and hope we do better next month.
I hope that addresses your point, and every day I'm still so pleased to know that people are still enjoying Simtropolis even after all these years. I do genuinely appreciate the support of all our contributors; thank you!!