Looking Back: Two Years as a 501(c)(3)
Building on the foundation laid by two friends with a mission to improve accessibility in tabletop roleplaying games, DOTS has reached a new benchmark: two years as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization! None of the partnerships, prototypes, or people could’ve been reached if not for Jack and D who followed their dreams for this passion project. Join us now for the follow up to our previous blog, Looking Back: One Year as a 501(c)(3) as we cover some of the most amazing things that have happened over the last year!
Since that one piece of paper arrived, a world of possibilities opened up for DOTS. Conversations, collaborations, and partnerships happened more quickly and easily this past year as we were already an established nonprofit known in the community. Though COVID put a halt to many of our plans and projects, the foundation was set for new opportunities down the line. It also caused us to refocus our main projects, putting more attention on digital accessibility and mass producing braille dice since community spaces like FLGS were not available. The sudden shift to digital this past year brought many new TTRPG writers and game designers to the table with an increased need for screen reader accessibility awareness on the PDF content they were producing. We worked to build a Resources section of our website and expanded the accessibility related things we could offer. Much of it is still a work in progress, but the potential is huge!
Our largest project to date for the entire life of our organization has been working to mass produce braille dice. Something that seemed so far off years ago when Jack was 3D printing imperfect pieces on an entry level printer has finally become a reality. With the start of our Hidden Trials program in October 2020, we began testing prototype designs for a new style of braille dice. This will not only make it easier for us to mass manufacture within the requirements of factories, but it will also give us the opportunity to patent our design. The patent will help us control who is allowed to manufacture our style so we can make sure their quality is good enough. We want to be able to stand behind our dice so BVI folx that may purchase them online without feeling them first can buy with confidence that they’ll be readable and high quality. Eventually someone may knock off our design, but if we have the patent in place it will be very easy for us to say yes these are approved DOTS dice or no they’re not.
With many moving parts to this project and a very high cost associated, it's certainly a huge undertaking. It's extremely exciting for us to finally be tackling it though, and we look forward to the day when braille dice will be available through in person and online retailers alongside other dice. Having accessible gaming aids as part of a regular catalog will help normalize Accessibility in Tabletop discussions, promoting more open conversations and more inclusive tables.
The Accessibility & Disability Consultant Directory is one of our favorite new projects, an ever-expanding list of consultants available for different accessibility and/or disability related topics. "Accessibility" is a broad term that can mean something very different from one person to the next. We never want to be seen as the single source of experts on accessibility because we know how important it is to have feedback from people with unique lived experiences. While we can never be the one place with all the answers, we do have hopes of the DOTS Guild being a great place to visit for those who don't know where to begin. If we can be a reliable source that connects people in need of assistance to those who can provide the assistance, we've helped the community grow a little bit more each and every time. The TTRPG community is vast, but those who focus on accessibility and disability within the community is a lot smaller. We aim to support and amplify the voices of folx who align with our Accessibility in Tabletop mission because we're best when we work together!
With the addition of new resources and accessibility offerings, it only made sense to improve the DOTS Family program. This change was hinted at in the past but over the last year it became obvious it needed to be something new. We still offer braille dice donations to community spaces like FLGS, schools, libraries, and more, but we now consider family members those who have committed to prioritizing accessibility in their tabletop related content. This can mean a wide variety of things but has most recently taken the form of game developers and publishers working with us to ensure their digital content is screen reader accessible. With the recent addition of the Technomancers to our volunteer positions, we expect this particular category to expand in the coming months. This has been reflected on our Join the DOTS Family page as well, so people can have a better idea of what type of accessibility assistance they can request from us. We want being a DOTS Family member to be a badge of honor people and companies wear, something that signifies their commitment to doing accessibility the right way instead of trying to get by with the bare minimum.
For our location-based DOTS Family community centers, we will be working to rebuild the relationships with those who have weathered the COVID shutdowns. We're not quite sure yet what the future looks like for this branch, but we are hopeful for the potential to host community events worldwide when it's appropriate.
As we did with our One Year blog, let's take a look at some of our stats from the last 12 months! All of these are estimates or rounded numbers.
Funds raised: ~$11,000
Braille dice donated (7 piece sets): ~30
Tactile FATE/Fudge dice donated (4 piece sets): ~5
3D file downloads: ~1000
Shapeways purchases: ~65 sets
New 3D files modeled/prototyped: ~15
Individual braille dice 3D printed: ~625
Individual braille dice 3D print failures: ~185
3D printer run time with braille dice and prototypes: ~700 hours
Transparency is something we take very seriously as a nonprofit, working to make sure we always share where our funding comes from and gets used for.
Of the ~$11,000 raised, Patreon brought in ~$2,400, DOTS Gear sales ~$1,400, donations from individuals or companies/organizations ~$6,400, and the remaining ~$800 from partnership programs like Amazon Smile and the PayPal Giving Fund.
Costs over this last year were different compared to the year before, but had some similar recurring operating costs. All of our state and federal filings have been completed for many different elements, and most of them will have yearly or quarterly fees to file things like taxes and other compliance reports. We will always have costs for website and email hosting, program and app subscription fees, and other services that we need to keep DOTS up and running on a day to day basis. Creating braille dice with our 3D printers costs a couple hundred a month as well for supplies including but not limited to resin for printing, repairs and replacement of consumable printer parts, papers and gloss paint for sanding and finishing, and other small things needed to get the dice ready to be donated. We didn't purchase a lot of new DOTS Gear merchandise this year, but did partner with Die Hard Dice to create the Dragon's Orb 25mm d20. Our most expensive project to date has been everything involved with mass producing braille dice; the cost of making prototypes to be tested by volunteers, creating dice molds for the factory to produce sample runs, and preparing and filing patents for our new design.
We still have goals for the future to produce a limited amount of braille rulebooks on demand, but have not explored that within the last year as many locations weren't in need of them anymore. Another hopeful project is a unique mobile app for use in TTRPG sessions, but has been put on hold while we focus on the braille dice production.
We're still finding our way in some places and learning when it's appropriate to make changes like we did with our rebrand for 2021. It may have been two years, but we've only begun our journey because as we grow, so do our ambitions. With the utmost sincerity, we thank you for all the support because no matter the size, it’s made a difference. The tabletop community has welcomed us with open arms and we are humbled by that love and support each and every day. The future is filled with hope, and we are excited to share this adventure with you all!
Much Love from the DOTS Guild Leaders!