Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Share your views on the policies, philosophies, and spirit of Burning Man.
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sayZar1999
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Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by sayZar1999 » Sat Dec 13, 2014 12:02 am

I have been to Burning Man twice. 2011 and 2014. Both very different and amazing experiences. I have volunteered at the airport, as a Temple Guardian, and as an Embrace Guardian. There are many people who have put in countless more hours than I and who have been to Burning Man many more times than me.

I was bothered by an email that I got from Burning Man® today. I am speaking specifically about The Jackrabbit Speaks V19:#8:12.12.14 Supporting Burning Man
In this email Burning Man® ASKS FOR A GIFT. This is heresy. By this point I would guess that most if not all Burners who actually participate know about the Burning Man Project® and have at least some idea of what it entails. I believe that we have reached a fork in the road. There are now two Burning Man (Men?). Version one is Burning Man. Version two is Burning Man®. Version one is the one I fell in love with and gave my time and money for. Version two ASKED FOR A GIFT.

The Free Dictionary by Farlex defines a gift as: Something bestowed or acquired without being sought or earned by the receiver. This has always been my definition of a gift. In my email account I have a special folder with JRS newsletters that I have archived since I first took an interest in Burning Man. I read and keep them all and treasure them. Today I received what I consider my first piece of spam email from Burning Man®. I feel that Burning Man might have lost his way a little bit by becoming so big. Money does not change a personality, it magnifies it. I know that people change as they grow because they learn new things and are influenced and acted upon by outside (and often) inside forces. Burning Man, please don't lose your way. Please remember where you came from and what you mean to people. You need to trust that the playa will provide. Don't turn into a corporate sparkle pony and come begging for food and water (money) in my camp. Come sit with me, share a hug and a story, and know that the community that made you what you are today is THE GIFT. You will have what you need. We will give it to you. Please don't ask for a gift.
I am today a better person not because of all my successes in life, but because of all my failures.

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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by GreyCoyote » Sat Dec 13, 2014 5:06 am

Asking (begging?) beats scalping tickets in hush-hush sales. I think... :shock:
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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by omegared » Sat Dec 13, 2014 6:47 am

Yes the most recent edition of JRS didn't sit well with me either. I understand the need to get the information out there for those who wish to donate, but issuing it via JRS kinda came across as a plug for money. Put it on the website...
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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by Elderberry » Sat Dec 13, 2014 7:27 am

Here we go again. :roll:

You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time.
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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by lucky420 » Sat Dec 13, 2014 8:26 am

Yes to each their own. I prefer to give money to local nonprofits that help humans and animals.
Oh my god, it's HUGE!

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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by Leo » Sat Dec 13, 2014 8:34 am

When I read the latest issue of "Jack Rabbit Speaks" my first reaction: You have got to be kidding!
After sherpagate, commodification camps, the lack of transparency, the minimal response to repeated questions, you guys have the balls to ask us for money?
If you have to ask for it, it isn't a gift.
Best Regards,
Leo

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spacetime
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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by spacetime » Sat Dec 13, 2014 8:37 am

I think I understand why this request was made. I believe that most active non-profits remind their patrons that their organization meets the tax-exempt status for donations at end of year. Simply: "If you give money to us before the end of the year, it is a write-off on your taxes. So don't forget about us as you write your checks."

The folks running the Fundraising office are probably aware of how much money an email can bring in because many people are in fact looking for ways to lower their taxes in the coming year. As described in the email, that money can go to good places that do benefit participants.

That said, I imagine this will still hit many folks in a strange and unfamiliar way that borders on uncomfortable.

One reason is that I didn't think this newsletter meets the past general criteria of what The Jackrabbit Speaks is. As a relative noob, I think Jackrabbit Speaks is actual news information or updates about BM. This came across almost entirely as a financial appeal, the music bit just kind of inserted in there so it was not 100% a request for money.

Given 30% of attendees are international, and probably don't have readily available benefits from saving on US taxes, a whole lot of people were not good recipients for this 'gift' request.

I also get the vibe that people are still getting used to the idea that BM is a non-profit. While I don't know the details, you don't have to look further than the wikipedia page to know how recently the LLC was brought to a financially murky end. Perhaps this request came a year early, since only a single burn has passed since the transition to 501c3 in March.

While it isn't what stuck out to me in this newsletter, OP's note on a misuse of the word gifting has merit in my mind. Gifting does have a special use on playa, which arguably should be maintained through defaultia if we're carrying these values out here. At BM you just don't ask for a gift and a gift is not money.

But in terms of 'the holiday season' in defaultia the word gift makes sense in what they're asking for.

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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by Roundabout » Sat Dec 13, 2014 9:38 am

What exactly is the burning man non-profit raising $ to do? I was unable to discern any clearly cast vision that would motivate me to be involved. It seemed like some amorphous, take over the world, ego driven project to get bigger just for the sake of getting bigger. It also seemed likely that this effort would put the org in direct competition with artists who are raising $ for the projects they are bringing to the playa. Burning Man participants themselves are the best means for spreading the values of Burning Man around the world. There was no articulated reason why some giant money driven organization is needed to assist what is already happening in a very organic and natural way.
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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by lucky420 » Sat Dec 13, 2014 9:40 am

Roundabout wrote:What exactly is the burning man non-profit raising $ to do? I was unable to discern any clearly cast vision that would motivate me to be involved. It seemed like some amorphous, take over the world, ego driven project to get bigger just for the sake of getting bigger. It also seemed likely that this effort would put the org in direct competition with artists who are raising $ for the projects they are bringing to the playa. Burning Man participants themselves are the best means for spreading the values of Burning Man around the world. There was no articulated reason why some giant money driven organization is needed to assist what is already happening in a very organic and natural way.

Yep
Oh my god, it's HUGE!

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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by GreyCoyote » Sat Dec 13, 2014 9:55 am

Suggestion: everybody gift one dollar, and request a tax receipt. (It will cost them more than that in time and tracking. Hehehe)

So when is a gift not a gift?
1). When you have not asked what they want, and they tell you anyway.
2). When it costs more to accept the gift than the gift is worth.
"To sum up my compassion level, I think we should feed the unwanted animals to the homeless. Or visa versa. Too much attention and money is spent on both."
(A Beautiful Mind)

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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by Ratty » Sat Dec 13, 2014 9:58 am

Roundabout, I like the 'roundabout' way you think.
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Pictures or it didn't happen Greycoyote

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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by Elderberry » Sat Dec 13, 2014 10:01 am

Roundabout wrote:What exactly is the burning man non-profit raising $ to do? I was unable to discern any clearly cast vision that would motivate me to be involved. It seemed like some amorphous, take over the world, ego driven project to get bigger just for the sake of getting bigger. It also seemed likely that this effort would put the org in direct competition with artists who are raising $ for the projects they are bringing to the playa. Burning Man participants themselves are the best means for spreading the values of Burning Man around the world. There was no articulated reason why some giant money driven organization is needed to assist what is already happening in a very organic and natural way.
Oh you silly person. Their goal is clearly stated on their website: "To bring Burning Man art and culture to the world."

(whatever that means. :? )
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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by Just_Joe » Sat Dec 13, 2014 11:31 am

lucky420 wrote:Yes to each their own. I prefer to give money to local nonprofits that help humans and animals.
Word.
My limited charitable dollars are spent helping local hungry kids .

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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by trilobyte » Sun Dec 14, 2014 1:30 pm

You're of course welcome to think or feel whatever you like about the message in this week's Jack Rabbit Speaks, but for what it's worth, I think it's a bit different than you may think.

The Burning Man charitable entities - Black Rock Arts Foundation (now Burning Man Arts under the Burning Man Project), Black Rock Solar, and Burners Without Borders have been accepting (and soliciting) donations for years (for far longer than you've been going to the event). They've even had donation fields in the ticket purchase process for years.

It's important to note that none of those entities has ever solicited donations on the playa during the event. The closest there was to any of that was what led to the formation of Burners Without Borders in 2005. Hurricane Katrina made landfall during the event, and a group of burners who were moved by the tragedy put a collection bucket out in the post event exodus line to ask for support. That group went on to head to the affected area and help a community rebuild, and they then became Burners Without Borders (which has gone on to help communities rebuild after earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters). The excellent documentary Burn On The Bayou tells the Katrina story very well, in my opinion.

My feeling is that it's like any other camp or art project. It would be foolish to pretend that no money ever changes hands - organizing a camp or art project or building a mutant vehicle... all takes a lot of money. Fundraising for these things outside the event is fine (and has been going on not only longer than you've been going to the event, but longer than I have too). As long as it's not happening on the playa, I'm fine with it.

As for the JRS messaging, I'm also fine with it. JRS has included plugs for BRAF/BWB/BRS in various issues for years, and has also included plugs for art fundraisers too. We're approaching the end of the calendar year, which is often when people of means start looking for and making strategic tax-deductible donations. If people out there can and want to give to support what BMP's doing, awesome. That's more money for the kind of art and nonsense in the world I'm quite fond of. As for the Amazon Smile thing, I'm glad they finally mentioned it. My girlfriend and I discovered that Burning Man Project was an eligible 501(c)3 organization in that program months and months ago. I mentioned it to HQ with the suggestion that maybe something about it could be said to the community, since it's a site a lot of people already use and participating in that program doesn't cost the buyer anything. It's a miniscule amount, something like one half of one percent of the purchase price on qualifying items, but it can add up. If it helps arts or civic initiatives, good.

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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by theCryptofishist » Sun Dec 14, 2014 1:40 pm

lucky420 wrote:
Roundabout wrote:What exactly is the burning man non-profit raising $ to do? I was unable to discern any clearly cast vision that would motivate me to be involved. It seemed like some amorphous, take over the world, ego driven project to get bigger just for the sake of getting bigger. It also seemed likely that this effort would put the org in direct competition with artists who are raising $ for the projects they are bringing to the playa. Burning Man participants themselves are the best means for spreading the values of Burning Man around the world. There was no articulated reason why some giant money driven organization is needed to assist what is already happening in a very organic and natural way.

Yep
YEah, add me to that yep. At least they haven't sent you any mailing labels.
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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by trilobyte » Sun Dec 14, 2014 1:55 pm

Actually, there's a fair amount of info on the web site about what Burning Man Project is trying to do. Looking at the menu under The Culture, these two pages stood out - Burning Man Arts and civic initiatives.

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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by shroom » Sun Dec 14, 2014 2:05 pm

Leo wrote:When I read the latest issue of "Jack Rabbit Speaks" my first reaction: You have got to be kidding!
After sherpagate, commodification camps, the lack of transparency, the minimal response to repeated questions, you guys have the balls to ask us for money?
If you have to ask for it, it isn't a gift.
This was my exact reaction.
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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by Roundabout » Sun Dec 14, 2014 2:46 pm

Trilobite,
I have no problem with the Burning Man Project occasionally using JRS to raise funds. As you say, other burning man related entities and artists have done the same. My problem is that there is no clearly cast and transparent vision as to what it is that it wants $ for. Does the Burning Man Project have a published budget and a transparent use of funds schedule?
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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by Elderberry » Sun Dec 14, 2014 3:14 pm

Do those two links Trilo posted help to answer that question for you as far as the "what" is concerned?
Roundabout wrote:Trilobite,
I have no problem with the Burning Man Project occasionally using JRS to raise funds. As you say, other burning man related entities and artists have done the same. My problem is that there is no clearly cast and transparent vision as to what it is that it wants $ for. Does the Burning Man Project have a published budget and a transparent use of funds schedule?
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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by trilobyte » Sun Dec 14, 2014 3:16 pm

The email I received had plenty of info and links to pages that covered those things in greater detail. I wouldn't expect that annual reports would be posted until sometime after the start of the new year, but if you've got questions you could probably just ask using the link at the bottom of the email to contact them and ask.

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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by GreyCoyote » Sun Dec 14, 2014 3:29 pm

The only transparency you are going to get about the Burning Man Project is here:

http://guidestar.com/organizations/45-2 ... oject.aspx#

And here:

http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.c ... =452638273

Here is the last 990 filed with the IRS (2012!) and its a doozy. I read it and wondered what the hell they did with the rest of the $592,000?

http://guidestar.com/FinDocuments/2012/ ... 9faa-9.pdf

Oh wait: they spent 47k on "researching Sites in Northern Nevada for a rural, artist and ecological center" and $36k on Burners Without Borders, meaning they carried more than $330k over into the next (unreported) year 2013.

Personally, I will wait to see what they did with that money before sending them any more. Based on their own filings, this creature looks more like a slush fund than a charity to me.
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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by some seeing eye » Sun Dec 14, 2014 5:23 pm

The entire reason for setting up the nonprofit was to ask people and corporations for tax exempt donations. I would doubt the people that are irritated are the intended targets for the ask. It is the nonprofit board that decides what to do with the donations. By the way, many nonprofit boards require the board members to tithe proportional to their ability.

I think it is likely that the Fly Ranch was bought by donors and would ultimately reside in the nonprofit as the retreat center and retirement home. It would be possible to spend 10's of thousands just on development legal and permit research for the ranch.

[media]


http://www.willroger.org/willroger.org/ ... posal.html

The BM foundation is not a cult :wink:
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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by Token » Sun Dec 14, 2014 5:37 pm

GreyCoyote wrote:
Oh wait: they spent 47k on "researching Sites in Northern Nevada for a rural, artist and ecological center".
Somehow that idea sounds a touch Jim Jones-ish.

I suppose the glitterati need a resort.

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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by Roundabout » Sun Dec 14, 2014 6:06 pm

Elderberry wrote:Do those two links Trilo posted help to answer that question for you as far as the "what" is concerned?
Sadly no. There is no indication that the Org spent even a dime on any of those art installations or civic projects. I looked at most of them, and they were mostly temporary installations of post-playa art in city owned public places. For all we know, the org's only contribution may have actually been to get paid a license fee by the respective cities in order to have permission to display the playa art. Good non-profits are transparent and are very specific about why they need $. As far as I can tell, the "Burning Man Project" is completely opaque. It's not enough to imply, simply trust us, we are burning man and we have "principles". Sorry to be so doubting, but I am still grieving the breach of trust that gave rise to the commodification camp situation. The Org needs to earn this trust back.
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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by alt12 » Sun Dec 14, 2014 6:19 pm

With SherpaGate winding down, we now have a new outrage to rally around.... GIft-Gate! How outrageous that they ask for money. How dare they!?!

Aren't we all getting just a bit too sensitive? Non-profits ask for money. Its just what they do. I'm not giving them any but I'm not offended that they asked. Personally, I'd rather they ask directly then offer unlimited quantities of "donation" tickets.

Rant on...

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Post by Simon of the Playa » Sun Dec 14, 2014 6:34 pm

i'm cool with it as long as they keep Mr. Rogers on, and send me a mug...




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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by GreyCoyote » Sun Dec 14, 2014 7:15 pm

alt12 wrote:With SherpaGate winding down, we now have a new outrage to rally around.... GIft-Gate! How outrageous that they ask for money. How dare they!?!

Aren't we all getting just a bit too sensitive? Non-profits ask for money. Its just what they do. I'm not giving them any but I'm not offended that they asked. Personally, I'd rather they ask directly then offer unlimited quantities of "donation" tickets.

Rant on...
I don't think I'm being unreasonable or "too sensitive" here.

When someone asks me for money, I want to know what they spend it on. It's a natural reaction by anyone with a business background. This reaction isn't an emotional one and it isn't driven by "SherpaGate" or anything else. It's about ME. It's MY MONEY. And I'm happy to send it to ethical, transparent groups who can demonstrate they do great things with it besides line their own pockets. Unfortunately, and based solely upon the federal filings (which are not current BTW), the plain facts speak for themselves. The BMORGs own accounting says they are spending very little on "spreading the word of Larry". Read the filings for yourself.

So yeah. Pardon me if I do due diligence. The 990's speak for themselves. I didn't file them. The BMORG did.

This all boils down to a personal decision. If you want to fund this "Burning Man Project", then you should feel to whip-out your checkbook and send a million bucks to LarryCo. As long as you have satisfied yourself that all is well and good, thats all that matters. Me? I'll wait a bit. I don't have similar concerns when I look at the filings for the March of Dimes or the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by pink » Sun Dec 14, 2014 7:30 pm

Although 'it's what nonprofits do', the appeal for funds just left a bad taste in my mouth.

The earlier ways of donating to BWB, BR Solar & the Arts Foundation weren't flat out pleas for cash, checks & stock, and we know what these orgs do/have done. I'm think they blew it by forming this vague entity and folded these three into it. They would have been better off having these as three separate charitable entities. See how much different this sounds:

This year Black Rock Solar has the goal of installing solar on 20 reservation homes designated by the tribe as being particularly needy. As you consider your end of year charitable contributions, consider helping us reach this goal.

Or:

This year BWB sent 20 volunteers to help with (fill in disaster here). We were able to (what they did). To make sure we are ready when the next disaster hits, we are looking to buy 2 box trucks for hauling supplies, and need to replenish our volunteer travel fund. As you consider..blah blah blah.

Also, thanks for the link to the 990. The 2013 report had to be filed by 11/15, so it should be available soon. That one should have a lot more in it, and it will be VERY interesting to see how they account for the Burning Man event income & expenses. I already find it interesting that they pay their treasurer as an independent contractor rather than an employee. Odd too is the Fly Ranch proposal; not that they are considering making it a conservation area (a fine nonprofit goal), but that there will be commercial & residential development within it. And an airstrip??? Yes, looks like the Larry & Marian retirement village to me.
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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by GreyCoyote » Sun Dec 14, 2014 7:51 pm

pink wrote: Odd too is the Fly Ranch proposal; not that they are considering making it a conservation area (a fine nonprofit goal), but that there will be commercial & residential development within it. And an airstrip??? Yes, looks like the Larry & Marian retirement village to me.
Pink, I arrived at that same conclusion, but I didn't want to say it. :mrgreen:

An interesting analysis of the various "Man" entities was posted a while back that many of you may have missed. You can quibble with some of the narrative if you want, but the underlying data is impeccable.

http://(nameofacertainrabblerousingwebsite).me/2014/11/24/2013-charity-results-released/

I'll reserve judgment until I see the 2013 filings. :lol:
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Re: Burning Man® forgot what a gift is.

Post by Elderberry » Sun Dec 14, 2014 8:28 pm

Well they meet the requirements Amazon requires to be in their program.
http://www.guidestar.org/organizations/ ... oject.aspx
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