Guest Post: Fundraising and Building Community

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  March 6, 2011 — 21 Comments

[The following is guest post from Brendan Myers. Brendan Myers, Ph.D., is a Canadian philosophy professor, a winner of OBOD’s Mount Haemus award for research in Druidry, and the author of “The Other Side of Virtue”, “Loneliness and Revelation”, and other titles. Find him (and his books) on the web at brendanmyers.net.]

The recent interruption to Jason’s blog service, and the generosity of the movement which raised for him the money to pay his increased costs within a single day, got me thinking about volunteerism and community building in the pagan movement.

What does it mean to ‘build’ community? Probably the simplest and broadest answer is this: to build a community is to create and sustain relationships between people. Some are the relations of teachers to students, doctors and nurses to patients, and parents to children. Some are the relations of storytellers (that includes journalists!) and their audiences. Human relationships inform the way that food lands on our table, the way books are published and distributed, the way musicians and poets and artists create things of beauty for everyone to share. The basic relationship, perhaps underlying all others, is the relation between friends: and in ancient European pagan culture, friendship seems to have been at least as important as tribal solidarity, and sometimes more so. Indeed I will argue that the sacred itself, whatever else it may be, is a function of our human relationships. But I would like to make a different point today.

All our relationships are person-to-person. They involve people seeing, hearing, touching, and speaking to each other; they involve sharing goods; and they involve moral values like generosity and compassion.

But they are also mediated and assisted by the material infrastructure: town squares, telephone networks, internet servers, farmer’s markets, schools, libraries, concert halls, and private homes. Relationships do not happen in abstraction. They need a place; they need a centre, even a home.

And infrastructure, as you know, costs money. That’s probably why there are donation drives on the Wild Hunt from time to time. A local community wants to rent a hall for regular public rituals, or rent a campground for an annual outdoor festival. An organization wants to publish a newsletter. An elderly teachers wants to talk to her geographically-distant students on the phone, or drive to visit them once in a while. These things do not come free.

I have decided, therefore, that I will donate 50% of all my book royalties, from January to June 2011, to pagan community infrastructure projects. I also invite other pagan writers to do the same.

Most people can do more than they think they can. Indeed most people can do more than they are already doing. As for myself, I volunteer my labour and sometimes donate money for various local causes, and I also write books which (I hope!) contribute usefully to the movement’s intellectual life. But it occurred to me that, like most people, I can probably do much more than I’m already doing. I would like to encourage more volunteerism. But at least some of the volunteerism has to be in the form of cash donations, for the sake of maintaining the infrastructure. This is, I think, an indirect but very important way to support the human relationships in our community, and the values which animate them.

This may not be much money. In the last six months of last year, my royalty income was less than one month of my rent. Other pagan writers are in a similar position: we write for a niche market, after all. But if people are willing to support me as a writer by purchasing my books, then I will be very willing to support the movement in return by sharing some of my royalties with projects that will benefit many others.

Some such projects are internet-based, such as the Pagan Newswire Collective. Some are pagan owned and operated campgrounds that operate year-round, such as Raven’s Knoll. Some are annual conferences that have rental costs to pay, such as the Gaia Gathering. I invite comments and suggestions from everyone about where people think I should donate the money. I wouldn’t want people to believe that by buying one of my books, they might support a project they don’t believe in. But I do hope that my position in the movement as a writer, small though it may be, can benefit more than just myself.

Communities simply cannot be built unless its members see beyond their own immediate wants and needs, and start to take care of each other in an organized way. I can do that with my book royalties. Communities simply don’t survive unless people are ready to do something selfless for others, which will benefit everyone (and yes, including themselves) in the long run. I can donate some of my money. What more, and what else, can you do? I’m curious to find out.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • http://www.hecatedemetersdatter.blogspot.com Hecate

    What a lovely thing to do!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Selina-Rifkin/100000182889846 Selina Rifkin

    Building community happens both on a local level and at a national level. Blogs like the Wild Hunt and websites like Witchvox keep us aware of what is going on in the wider Pagan world. Locally, building community means showing up for rituals, but even more, it means making food, babysitting, gardening, car pooling and generally doing things to help each other out. This is often very hard in our fragmented culture, where FB may be expected to stand in for a phone call. I would be interested in other's experiences of community.

  • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat_C_B

    What a great gesture, Brendan!

    Interestingly enough, I'll be spending much of today–a rainy Sunday–at some Pagan friends'. Their yurt–home to a community of midwifery students, a home-schooling coop, and countless Pagan seasonal celebrations in the area–collapsed under the weight of the record snows we had last month. There must be dozens of us who have chipped in to help with this piece of physical infrastructure building: from helping dig out the ruined structure under 4' of snow, to salvaging the roof canvas, skylight, and woodstove; helping rebuild the flooring, support beams, and the lattice walls; and today, we're going to raise it from the ruins once again.

    (I keep hearing the lyrics to the Wiccan chant, "Corn and grain, corn and grain, all that falls shall rise again.")

    Building infrastructure builds community, too. It's not just the cameraderie of physical labor or joining our dollars toward a common purpose, but actually a rethinking of our relationships to one another. For instance, I commented in passing that being at the yurt raising was going to cause me to miss my chance to pick up a locally-raised, pasture-fed chicken, and I'm low on meat. One of the other volunteers has some chicken in her freezer she's bringing to the yurt-raising to share with me–and I'm going to give her a couple of jars of my home-made quince butter and strawberry jelly in thanks.

    This showing up for one another–it becomes habit forming. And the next thing you know, everyone feels richer, and has warmer, stronger ties to friends both near and far. Huzzah!

  • http://www.thehighwayhermit.com highway_hermit

    Is it okay to add suggestions here regarding how we think our donations should be used? I think a great way to help the community would be to use the collected donations to support Cherry Hill Seminary. I think perhaps the single greatest obstacle to the growth and maturation of the Pagan movement is a lack of professionally trained and educated clergy. Goodness knows there many very gifted and wonderful teachers and elders in the world, but I think that as the bar rises and a higher degree of professionalism and scholarship emerges we'll gain more notice and influence.

  • http://www.facebook.com/phaedra.bonewits Phaedra Bonewits

    Thank you for a thoughtful, inspiring post.

    I know what happens when the community decides something is worth supporting. Isaac and I could not have made it through his final years without help, and I'm still getting help as I rebuild my life. The money is important, but knowing people care is priceless.

    What strikes me too, is that infrastructure is also a function of the dreaded word, institutionalization. The yurt described by an earlier commentator is a local institution. However, if it remains in private, personal hands, when they are gone, it is gone. Institutions help preserve and protect what is important to our communities, but even more so, create the means to hand things down to the next generation.

    And finally, community. Over the decades, I've watched "solitary" evolve from a description of a state to a Path. But without each other, what do we have? Community is, I would say, necessary to religion, but more importantly perhaps necessary for our human selves. As Neopagans, we have chosen to build (some of, all of, part of) our communities with our fellow spiritual travelers. Remember when it was books and newsletters that held us together? I had those before I met any "real" Pagans. Now we have the Internet, where one can chat with self-proclaimed Pagans within minutes of a Google search. It's important, I think, to remember that it is real people with real lives who write the books, produce the newsletters, create the Internet fora, and write the blogs that bring us together, real people who almost inevitably have more passion than cash. We owe it *to ourselves* to keep them going.

    Thank you all who have reached out to help Isaac, me, the Wild Hunt and so many others. You are my community.

    • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat_C_B

      I think we have need of both kinds of community structures, Phaedra: the institutions and the organic ones of community that, on the one hand, die with each generation… but, on the other hand, are always being reborn, like the ties between community members themselves.

      I am surprised again and again how lasting those organic ties can prove to be, between friends, between families, between generations, as Paganism matures.

      We need to feed our institutions, but also our ordinary human connections, between those real people with lives.

      Blessings to you–and thank you for all you have done on our behalf over the years.

      • http://www.facebook.com/phaedra.bonewits Phaedra Bonewits

        Cat, I certainly agree with you. Institutions do not arise from a vacuum, they arise from needs in the lives of real people and how they relate to one another.

        I have come to believe that often (not always) when an organization fails, or fails to become an institution (if we use "institution" to mean that which outlasts its founders), it is because it is an artificial construct, one that does not accurately reflect the needs of the community–the real live people–it seeks to serve. That can be generational. Perhaps it served its founders well, but not in a way that could be sustained through the next generation. There is nothing wrong with that; on the contrary, the error would be to force its survival beyond its usefulness.

        The flip side is that organizations & institutions promote community. They create an arena in which personal connections can happen. There is a feedback loop where institutions foster organic connections which may produce their own institutions.

        As someone who has moved around a lot in my life, I treasure both the formal and Pagan communities that have arisen and that have allowed me to find fellow travelers along my way.

  • Boohousegal

    Cherry Hill's certainly worthy, .though I don't know how hurting for funds they may be. (Who isn't, right? I'm sure they could at least make use of some financial aid to apply.)

    I think this calls for one of our community's famous brainstorming sessions. (Bearing in mind we don't know how much money we're talking about here, really)

    I've been sitting here thinking along the lines of a sort of 'pay it forward' microloan web: I like the general idea of putting some of our community's talents into motion in cooperative local ventures: I think one of the real foundations of community is *doing stuff together,* and all. And I think in the economy that is and is to come, it'd be useful to start employing ourselves, which'll tend to encourage putting down roots, developing practical traditions and (as a crafter type, I think) developing our own material culture.

    Another thing I've spotted with interesting potential (Though this is far from my own expertise) is the money that goes to event insurance for all these public events, like Pagan Pride Days and who knows what else, seems to be a little chunk of community resources that maybe goes out the door when we could perhaps cooperate on at least getting a better deal. Perhaps a little investment in setting up some kind of accounting expertise on that could have a lot of positive effects down the line: as I said, I don't really have the expertise to do more than say 'Hey, what about this?'

    And there's always books, themselves. Getting quality stuff into the libraries (especially since they tend to, ah, wander off could be worth a fair bit to a lot of people. Even having quality research materials out there more…

    There's of course, the Pagan music scene which could perhaps use a little bit more marketing and access and exposure, (Jason seems to be working on this, but obviously a busy guy….. (I'd sure appreciate easier access to what's out there, and I bet the musicians might, too.)

    There seems to be some potential in like Pagan Assistance networks, and I've heard some interest in barter exchanges and other community things like that, and it seems those could use a little momentum somehow. Things that can build on themselves.

    • Catima

      I think you have the start of something wonderful in mind. There are many of us who would like to do more for the community. Possible a web site where we can offer our talents with donations going too pagan programs. I'm nether tec savvy or business minded but I'm crafty and I also have extra time. I'd be interested in a longer discussion about some kind of pagan co-op.

      • Bookhousegal

        Lots of wonderful things. ;)

        Sometimes I think when we talk, we have a tendency to inflate things to 'projects,' which sometimes lead to burnoutey situations for a few, but there's just *so* much potential here, often trying to get it together.

        I'm sure websites will be useful, but we can even start with personal connections, making sure we're coming together as people with varying skills and perhaps products and general things to do for each other. (A problem with just putting professional listings on the Web is that the Pagan market may not be as big as the whisper-campaigns from others, which may be real considerations when people have to worry about discrimination. I'm sure there'll be places for that, but we need the personal connections, too. Way too much relies on, for instance, Facebook, and perhaps the Internet in general. Of course, the more we pull together locally, the more value there'll be to getting *in on it.*

        And I'm not just thinking 'Pagan-related items and divination services,' :) I'm talking plumbers, carpentry, landscapers, lawyers, mechanics, electricians, farmers, weavers, textile-related people… All that. :)

        Donations, well, those can generally come better from vibrant communities that aren't sending it out the door every paycheck on the last time they went and paid someone to get the car fixed, etc. There's a whole wide world between 'Paying someone cash for something' and 'giving/taking charity.' And there's a lot of talent and potential (and just plain sharing) in our community that doesn't quite make it in the 'everything-mediated-through-money' economy. If we tap *that,* that could free up a lot of those money resources to do *lots* of the other things we tend to think of in terms of 'If only,' See? :)

        I do think it starts and should always be grounded interpersonally and locally. :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/mirage358 Jason White

      "Another thing I've spotted with interesting potential [...] is the money that goes to event insurance for all these public events, like Pagan Pride Days and who knows what else, seems to be a little chunk of community resources that maybe goes out the door when we could perhaps cooperate on at least getting a better deal."

      This is something that's been bugging me for at least the last two years, and is going to until either someone else in the community picks up the project, or I can step away from some of the other big projects I'm working on: a Pagan credit union.

      As Phaedra says below, we as a community tend to place money pretty low on our priority lists – and much to our detriment! There's a lot of real wealth that flows out of our community every year, simply because we don't have the tools to leverage it. A pagan credit union could help us do that – for example, by offering specialized insurance policies for pagan events. And the money paid for premiums would stay in the community, instead of rapidly leaving it. Nor is that the end – our money could be used to support our businesses, our homes, or even our infrastructure projects – and just by doing a passive action that most of us do every day: banking.

      It will/would be a bear of a project for someone to try to put together, but very much worthwhile. For instance: A "yes" vote by 500 potential members warrants a continuation of the process, but the NCUA requires that any credit union with fewer than 3,000 potential members provide more evidence of support (typically, only one-third of potential members will join). Then, credit unions require a document-able common bond of some sort, so it would have to start out with big-name support (members of COG, or ADF, or whatever large group you could get, would be eligible), and add more groups over time.

      A credit union would require a lot of work, but I think it would be an institution worth building. And hey – what better way to demonstrate that our movement is really starting to grow up?

  • Peter Dybing

    Like, Like, Like, Like, Pagans who get things done, from volunteers, to presenters, to writers, to those who give funds are the future of Paganism.

  • Robyn Erickson

    It is great that the greater pagan community wants to build upon the foundation that has been made. But, are we not a part of a bigger community called humanity?

    Here are my thoughts: A simple action can form ties for a lifetime. One does not need to donate thousands of dollars a year, to a cause(but hey if you have that type of money laying around…go for it). If a person, like myself, has extra food that I have grown from last year's garden, give that to an individual who may not be able to grow a garden. A gift box of home grown vegetables, in my opinion, is one of the best gifts that I can give. I make candles, and I give these to individuals who may need them for whatever purpose they decide to use them for.

    My point is this, I think building community goes beyond just the pagan community. I think that if a person looks at that talents that they have, and use them to build community that goes a long way. It would be great to see all religious communities come together, and work towards a greater goal, which would be to improve humanity.

  • Marcella

    Boohousegal wrote: “Cherry Hill's certainly worthy, though I don't know how hurting for funds they may be.”

    As a CHS student, I'm aware that they are looking toward becoming a federally accredited as an institution of higher learning (meaning: accredited by a CHEA-approved organization). That apparently takes a significant amount of money and my understanding is that much fund raising is still to be done over the next few years.

    How would this create Pagan infrastructure? Although infrastructure is usually defined in terms of “bricks and mortar,” such as buildings, highways, and the computers that undergird the internet, I propose that the infrastructure of a religious/spiritual system is its clergy.

    Clergy need education and those who serve their sister/brother Pagans in positions outside of covens, groves, circles, and the like, need accredited graduate degrees. Clergy with accredited graduate degrees can be available to large numbers of Pagans by working in institutions – for instance, chaplains at hospitals, hospices, prisons, colleges, and in the armed services; and pastoral counselors, who combine psychological counseling with spiritual direction, working in agencies or as independent practitioners. In most cases, to do this work, clergy must be board certified, which requires a Masters degree from an accredited institution.

    So, yes, funding the only Pagan seminary that offers graduate-level degrees is important. As CHS professor Dr Christine Hoff Kraemer pointed out in the video of this year’s CHS graduation ceremony, seminaries and other graduate-level institutions are financially supported by large endowments, from which only the interest is used (http://patheos.com/blogs/wildhunt/2011/03/quick-note-more-on-cherry-hill-seminary-graduation-ceremony.html). These endowments are created with donations from many people. Cherry Hill does not yet have such an endowment.

    (Disclaimer: I’m a hospital chaplain working on a master’s degree at Cherry Hill Seminary in the hopes that the seminary will be accredited by the time I graduate, so I can use the degree to fulfill the educational requirement for my board certification.)

    Wouldn’t you rather have a chaplain available during your next hospitalization who was educated at a Pagan seminary than at a seminary of another religion? Please consider helping to strengthen CHS’s ability to educate Pagan clergy, either as a one-time donation or in some ongoing form of financial support.

    • Bookhousegal

      Well, like I said, definitely a worthy cause, Cherry Hill: (I doubt you'd have to do much convincing around our scholarly Brendan Myers. :) )

      I suppose I tend to think along the lines of what's the relatively-smaller things we can do that can have a big impact in our local Pagan communities: the more we can help each other out there, hopefully the more we can afford to support clergy and academia (Which are obviously important., you don't have to do much convincing of me on that, either. :))

      I do think that one thing about Pagans is that we have something of a tendency to place money pretty low on our life's priority lists: as a result, perhaps many of don't end up with wads of surplus cash to hand around, compared to other religious communities. As a result, I think a ground-up approach to a lot of things could really go a long way in our daily lives, both in terms of community cohesion (By doing things together) and in terms of general prosperity, (so we're not all so individually-facing the world based on what money we have or don't: The way the economy's been going, it seems like the less-totally-dependent we are on spending money elsewhere, the less our community will be squeezed.)

      if through such things as barter/skills-for-skills networks and various community enterprises, we can keep more in the community before it goes on up and out, the better able we'll be to support those trained clergy positions and institutions. It doesn't have to be zero-sum. The trick is finding those things we could be doing, especially that might tend to build on themselves. :)

      I'm big on such local-economy activity just in general, but certainly other religious groups do for each other, first, and we should bear that in mind, as well. (And you bet that'll make trained clergy the more-desired in various places, in turn.)

      • http://www.facebook.com/phaedra.bonewits Phaedra Bonewits

        "I do think that one thing about Pagans is that we have something of a tendency to place money pretty low on our life's priority lists: as a result, perhaps many of don't end up with wads of surplus cash to hand around, compared to other religious communities. "

        While its true that lots of us live check to check, it is also true that American Pagans are a little weird about money.

        At your next Pagan camping event (and the tradition of Pagan camping events began because they were cheaper than hotel cons) take a look at all the late-model cars in the parking lot, and all the $300 tents out of which people are camping. Not to mention that the 2011 Pantheacon, a hotel event, had 2000 attendees, which makes it larger than any camping event that I know about.

        I won't even go into the silver jewelry, drums and other accouterments that so many Pagans cannot live without, while explaining how poor they are and unable to donate to community infrastructure. But hey, there's money to take the family to the Renn Faire or to put together the Steampunk or Pirate costume.

        We do have different priorities about money. Which may or may not be a good thing.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Reimers/659542888 Scott Reimers

          I've seen this. It's almost like people consider experience and wisdom something either valueless (thus not worth money) or priceless (where somehow money would be an insult). Of course, tools and toys are neutral and thus aren't limited thusly.

          Where did the whole "magic or spiritual teaching for money is wrong" come from anyway? If the persons receiving benefit from a teacher won't support them, who will? Do we expect money to magically appear from the sky?

          Of course, I notice that even though I claim to value my teachers, I've only spent a couple hundred a year supporting them, whereas I've spent a couple hundred a MONTH in restaurants supporting my rotund physique. Interestingly, I've spent 2-3 times that working on building my blog. I was thinking of that as my service… and how many of us pagans do too? We're students to our elders and teachers to our students, but money rarely passes hands…

          I was told that Ifa has an interesting response to this. Supposedly, in Ifa you support your elder… even after you become one yourself. In theory you would start having students support you and use that support to lift your elder higher. Your "young elder days" are spent balancing your spiritual duties and either poverty or a job as you continue to learn. Ideally if you effect many persons and train others to do the same, in time you will end up being entirely supported by the relationships built in your spiritual works… allowing you to focus on them full time.

          I've been thinking about it. Jason may have started something here…

          Pagans have a hard time with the concept of tithe and yet it is a very powerful thing. What if we were to rebrand and remarket it. Maybe use an image of a tree with people at the top giving food down to people at the bottom who are giving books up and a logo "feeding those who nourish us."

          Instead of a 10% tythe to our church we could setup a whole campaign where we guide people to use a portion of their income to "literally feed those who nourish us." Instead of using guilt (which is what so many of us detest) perhaps we could focus on the angle that the better the branches feed the roots the deeper they can reach to send back nourishment.

          We could make Jewelery, T-Shirts, Posters, Digital Art and Bumper Stickers that movement participants can wear as marks of pride. Leaders in the Community can publically redeclare a commitment to feed those who've nourished them and begin wearing and sharing these marks. If we had a central "wholesaler" willing to dropship these products for leaders at cost, the leaders could send out these materials as a mixture of thanks and additional advertising of the movement. The could also start Blogging about who they're choosing to support and why while at the same time celebrating those who support them.

          *returns to contemplating*

      • caraschulz

        Although this is within the Hellenic Pagan (which include Hellenic Wiccans) community – this survey result was released in the book Kharis by Kate Winter. The question was about how much yearly income you make.

        less than 10K: 22%
        10K – 20K: 10%
        20K-40K: 27%
        40K-60K: 19%
        60K-100K: 13%
        above 100K: 9%

        So…32% are poor
        59% are middle class
        9% are rich

        That's pretty close to the break down in the general population.

    • Ainslie

      I just love the image of a pagan hospital chaplain. I was recently overnight in the hospital with a broken ankle, and during my stay, a nice lady came and invited me to the Catholic service the coming Sunday. (I do live in a small-city Catholic kind of place abroad.) I was in a lot of pain at that moment, and the idea that somebody was offering me something spiritual was a solid comfort, but it was such a fragmented one. The idea of one day not having to go through that compromise as a Pagan delights my heart.

  • Tami Gaylord

    this is just lovely does any1 know where some1 could apply for financial aid for pagan clergy ???? to save time this is my business idea
    talking with some1 else about it
    ok well my daughter went to arts in the alley festival and went into a pagan store and bought a belly ring
    her and the owner got to talking and the owner is looking for an ordained hps to perform weddings baptisms and passings
    so i have done a lot of research and there is quite a demand for it here
    weddings alone go for between 200-500$ depending on services
    and there is a large population of pagans here
    there are 15 pagan events this month here in the columbus area
    so there are networking possibilities
    not to mention the different pagan shops that would advertise free for it
    i have some great ideas for services except for passing ceremonies which i will have to do more research on
    my trouble is i need the start up cost
    my plan would be to give 20% of revenue back to the backer until paid off and then 10% after that
    i just don’t have anyway to borrow the money to get it started
    i am already ordained
    i would have to register with the county clerk to make it legal
    so i am in a dilemma
    i would need supplies proper attarier and stamped certificates
    so what i need isn’t a lot for starting a business but its a lot in todays economy
    i have my certification yes, i owuld need however to purchase the other certificates
    i am talking about certificates of marriage baptism affirmation of love baby naming ….
    i have looked at it every way possible and i need about 1500$ but could start with as little as 500$ i can be reached at tami.gaylord@yahoo.com if any1 has any ideas thank you and many blessings

  • Tami Gaylord

    this is just lovely does any1 know where some1 could apply for financial aid for pagan clergy ???? to save time this is my business idea
    talking with some1 else about it
    ok well my daughter went to arts in the alley festival and went into a pagan store and bought a belly ring
    her and the owner got to talking and the owner is looking for an ordained hps to perform weddings baptisms and passings
    so i have done a lot of research and there is quite a demand for it here
    weddings alone go for between 200-500$ depending on services
    and there is a large population of pagans here
    there are 15 pagan events this month here in the columbus area
    so there are networking possibilities
    not to mention the different pagan shops that would advertise free for it
    i have some great ideas for services except for passing ceremonies which i will have to do more research on
    my trouble is i need the start up cost
    my plan would be to give 20% of revenue back to the backer until paid off and then 10% after that
    i just don’t have anyway to borrow the money to get it started
    i am already ordained
    i would have to register with the county clerk to make it legal
    so i am in a dilemma
    i would need supplies proper attarier and stamped certificates
    so what i need isn’t a lot for starting a business but its a lot in todays economy
    i have my certification yes, i owuld need however to purchase the other certificates
    i am talking about certificates of marriage baptism affirmation of love baby naming ….
    i have looked at it every way possible and i need about 1500$ but could start with as little as 500$ i can be reached at tami.gaylord@yahoo.com if any1 has any ideas thank you and many blessings