Hey there everybody,
As I sit down to write this, it’s 12:47 AM here in Wisconsin. It’s officially December 14th, the last day of our yearly fundraiser.
I had an easy blog planned today. A blog full of touching stories. A feel-good blog. A simple blog.
But something has happened. Now I have to change my plans and share some information about the fundraiser. The information is good. But this is no longer and easy blog to write. I am in disarray.
I really wish I could write a beautiful blog for you, all elegant and interwoven. Something smart and clean and quick that would clue you in and maybe give you a chuckle along the way.
But I don’t think I have a blog like that in me right now. I’m writing so slowly that five short paragraphs later, it is already 1:27 AM. I am low on sleep and I cannot fall back on caffeine to help me through, as I have a blood draw tomorrow, and I have to fast for it.
So please forgive me if this comes across as clunky. I can’t think of a better place to start than the strange tradition Worldbuilders has developed over the years. We tend to add a little time to our big yearly fundraiser right at the end.
* * *
It’s probably not surprising to anyone that a charity I started tends to run longer than originally expected. I write long books, after all. I miss deadlines. I tend to pursue things with methodical obsession, and that frequently leads to unexpected delays.
In the early years of Worldbuilders, the fundraiser tended to run long because I was doing most of it myself, and while I possess many good qualities, organization is not one of them.
Later on, after I’d decided to bring people in to help, I didn’t bring *enough* people on board. Making it worse was the fact that I didn’t know the first thing about actually managing people or working as a team. So chaos was rampant and the tradition continued.
Still later, we extended the fundraiser because sponsors kept jumping in left and right, we were growing so quickly we couldn’t process the donations people sent us fast enough.
(Nowadays, we get even *more* stuff, but we’re better at handling it.)
The reasons for our extensions were always different, but the results were always good. Using those extra days, Worldbuilders would include a new sponsor, give out more prizes, get better attention in the media, and bring in more donations.
The fact remains that for the last seven years, Worldbuilders has announced an end date, then *always* extended it. Sometimes just a few days. Often more than that. On one notable occasion we pushed it back three weeks.
But every year we got better. Every year the Worldbuilders team got smarter, and stronger, and bigger. And every year we were a marvelous success. So really, what’s wrong with tacking on an extra couple days? Why would I worry about something like that?
* * *
Every year as the fundraiser winds down, I struggle with a mash of conflicting emotions.
The most obvious of these is exhaustion. The fundraiser takes a lot out of me both physically and emotionally. I do a interviews. I write blogs. I stay up late writing blogs (It is now 2:39 am.) And work social media as hard as I can. I ask for favors and pull strings in an attempt to make every year a success.
But the end of the fundraiser is an electric time, too. It’s thrilling in a way. Everything accelerates. People are finishing stretch goals. Auctions are ending. The number on our donation page keeps going up and up….
The fact that I end up excited and bone-weary at the end of Worldbuilders won’t surprise most of you. Especially those of you who have watched me livestream recently, or seen the video of me, hollow-eyed and disheveled, driving into the north woods of Wisconsin looking for a Llama to kiss.
But there’s another piece to this that I work hard to keep out of the public eye. Every year, I’m terrified Worldbuilders will fail. Every year, I worry I’m going to pour my heart and energy into this thing and nobody will care. Every year, I fear that if we change things, people will be disappointed. I worry if we stay the same, people will get bored.
The fear is usually the worst at the beginning and the end. When we start, I’m afraid that I’ll announce this year’s festivities and we’ll be met with nothing but indifference and empty echoes. And at the end, I worry that if I don’t keep working at a fever pitch, the fundraiser won’t finish strong enough, and it will leave everyone feeling dissatisfied.
But this year has been different.
You see, this has been Worldbuilder’s Best Year Ever.
A lot of this has to do with Giving Tuesday. When we found out Worldbuilders could take advantage of some matching donations Heifer International had available, I let you all know in a blog about my mom. And we raised $300,000. Three times more than our previous best day ever. (And that’s not even counting the matching donations given to Heifer.)
Just to give you a little more perspective, Worldbuilders was the second most successful charity on Stay Classy that day.
On Stay Classy is the website used by organizations like the American Red Cross, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and Invisible Children. Despite that, Worldbuilders was the #2 fundraiser on one of the biggest fundraising days of the year.
I hope you’ll forgive me a little pride here. But those other organizations have been around for a while. They have teams of people in multiple offices the around the world. And not to be confrontational or crass, but we kinda kicked their charity asses.
Gech. I shouldn’t say that sort of thing. But again: Tired. It’s 3:35.
But this year’s greatness wasn’t just the result of a single awesome day. This year Worldbuilders has had more sponsors. More prizes to give away. More people participating. More people doing Stretch Goals.
What’s more, we didn’t just beat last year’s total ($886,000). We CRUSHED it, then kept on going until we cracked a million dollars. And we did it on Saturday. Three days before the end of the fundraiser.
(I love it when our donation thermometer explodes into ducks.)
Best of all. We’ve really had our act together. We managed to fit all our announcements and prizes into our original timeframe. This was going to be the first year where we finished the fundraiser on time.
Then, late on Friday, we got an e-mail from Heifer International.
* * *
It turns out that Heifer International had been offered $200,000 of matching donation money. And, after seeing what we did on Giving Tuesday, they’ve decided to offer it to Worldbuilders, with the hope that we can find folks to match it.
This is great news in every way. It’s a wonderful opportunity for the fundraiser. It’s a huge gesture of trust from Heifer International. It’s a great way for Worldbuilders to give people who have been on the fence about donating a little extra nudge.
Now. Here’s my confession. It’s something I’m not proud of.
When I heard this news. I wasn’t excited.
Don’t get me wrong. I was interested. I was flattered. Intellectually, I knew it was an incredible thing for Worldbuilders. And lord knows we’ve extended the fundraiser in the past for reasons that weren’t nearly this impressive.
But emotionally, all I felt was dread and exhaustion. This was going to be the year we finished on time.
What’s more, I’d already done everything I could think of to spread the word about the fundraiser. We’d already launched our new items in the store. We’d already announced all our prizes for the lottery. I didn’t have any more tricks to pull out of my hat.
And I’ll be honest, folks. I was tired. I was really looking forward to laying the fundraiser down today. I shouldn’t admit that. But it’s the truth, and while I might not always be the person I’d like to be, at least I’m always honest with you.
The truth is, I was looking forward to having this next week off. Catching up on my e-mail. Hanging out with my kids, who I’ve been short-changing in terms of quality time lately. I was going to do some Christmas shopping. Maybe even get a tree…
So when I got the news of Heifer’s offer, I didn’t say yes. I told the Worldbuilders team I neede to think about it. I gave them a weak excuse about not wanting people to think we were stringing them along with a fake end date. I said I was worried our donors might feel ill-used. Besides, we couldn’t make the announcement until Monday anyway….
And while those are genuine concerns I have. They’re not big concerns. I know you guys are better than that. I knew you’d be excited if we announced something like this.
No. My real reason was that I wanted an excuse to end the fundraiser and go back to my life.
But at some point over the weekend, someone on twitter used the phrase, “Bilbo It Up” and linked to the blog I wrote a couple years ago. They said they were kicking in some money to Worldbuilders even though times were tough for them.
I dimly remembered the blog, but I have a bad memory for stuff like that. So I followed the link. I read the blog. And I was ashamed.
Here’s part of what I wrote:
That’s why I run Worldbuilders. […] Because there are kids out there that are hungry all the time. There are kids out there with no books at all to read. There are kids out there with no beds to sleep in. No homes to come home to. No safe places. No sweet dreams.
That’s why I do all the charity work. Because the world isn’t as good as I want it to be.
We all feel this way sometimes. Because honestly, the world is a fucking mess. It’s full of dragons, and none of us are as powerful or cool as we’d like to be. And that sucks.
But when you’re confronted with that fact, you can either crawl into a hole and quit, or you can get out there, take off your shoes, and Bilbo it up.
It’s 4:58 AM here in Wisconsin. It’s 42 °F and raining. And right now my neighbors are probably calling the cops because of a crazy guy standing in the middle of the road taking pictures of his feet.
But you know what? I’m all the way awake now. Like, super awake. And as I was just walking back to my house my feet all tingly and numb, I remembered that a lot of people don’t have shoes. I remembered a lot of people don’t have nice insulated houses with central heating to retreat into when they’re wet and cold.
My kids are well-fed. They’re healthy. They have access to medicine and books. I read to them every night and never have to worry about clean drinking water or where their next meal will come from.
Some other people’s kids out there have none of these things. That’s wrong.
Right. I’m ready. Let’s Bilbo It Up.
I’m taking Heifer International up on their offer. I’m extending the fundraiser through Friday the 18th at midnight. Amanda will change the official countdown clocks when she wakes up and reads this.
I feel good about this. I can actually feel the excitement in my chest again. It wasn’t there when I started this blog, but it’s back now. Amazing how doing something really stupid can help you regain your perspective.
I know many of you have already donated. If you’re tapped out, I understand. But if you’re not sure. Or if you haven’t chipped in yet, here’s what I’d like you to do. Take off your shoes. Go outside. Think hard about the world you want to live in.
And if you want to make it better, come back in and donate. Spread the word about Worldbuilders. Take a picture of yourself Bilboing It Up and share it with the world. When I wake up, I expect to see your feet on Facebook, people. By the time I wake up, I want #BilboItUp to be trending. I want a billion mentions on twitter.
I can’t promise new blogs filled with fabulous prizes every day this week. But I’ll dig through my shelves and pull some treasures to put into the donation lottery to sweeten the deal. I’ll see if I can think of another couple stretch goals, too.
Here’s a link to the donation page. You know what to do.