Over the weekend, Worldbuilders passed $681,000 in donations.
This might seem like an odd benchmark to get excited about. But $681,000 is how much money we raised last year. Passing that is a big deal for us, especially considering that we moved our big event much earlier in the year, and cut the time of the fundraiser in half.
Honestly? I was worried we wouldn’t make it. But we did. In fact, as you can see from our thermometer, we’ve rocketed far past it. As I write this, we are just about to crest over $750,000, and we still have a full day to go. Three quarters of a million dollars.
Try saying that to yourself: “We’ve raised three quarters of a million dollars for Heifer International.” It has a nice sound, doesn’t it?
Because of this, on Sunday, I went looking for a llama to kiss….
* * *
That’s the promise I made at the beginning of the fundraiser: if we beat last year’s total, I’d kiss whatever Heifer animal people voted for. I thought “goat” was going to be a shoe-in. But I realize now I was being hopelessly naive.
It’s harder than you might think to find a llama to kiss. There are a few at nearby farms, but when we ask people if I can come kiss them, they tend to say things like: “You realize a llama will kick a hole straight through you, right?” or “Yeaaaah… Our llama isn’t really into that.” or “Son, what the hell is wrong with you?”
Then we found a place up in the north woods of Wisconsin. A Bed & Breakfast that specializes in Llama Kisses. When I heard the name of it, I knew we’d found the right place: Storybook Farm.
So I did what I normally do in these situations: I screwed things up. I was so busy trying to spread the word about the fundraiser that I didn’t call them until Sunday around 1:00 in the afternoon. That’s when I found out that they like people to make appointments *before* coming out to their place, y’know, like everyone does in civilized society.
“I’m so sorry,” I said. “This is completely my fault. But this is for a fundraiser. And its ending tomorrow. And I promised people. Is there any way I could make it worth your while to fit this in today?”
They said it was okay, but I felt like an ass.
So I get in my car and start to drive the 120+ miles farther up into the northern woods of Wisconsin. The temperature was at that perfect temperature where it’s warm enough for fog, but still cold enough for water to freeze on the roads.
It was a long drive.
When I got there, Jim and Bonnie came out to meet me. They were kind and gracious despite the fact that I’d rudely intruded on their Sunday. They didn’t understand why I was there, so I explained about Heifer International and what we were doing with Worldbuilders.
Then I got to meet some animals. I knew I was among friends when they introduced me to Tumnus the Goat.
And there were Llamas there too. Of course.
I think the Llama on the right is Congo. We got to be good friends.
I don’t want to get a reputation as a player, but I will say that several of the llamas were all up ons. I think it might have been the beard.
Here’s the thing. The video is fun. I had fun kissing the llamas, which I have to say are actually really, really pretty creatures. (Don’t make this weird.)
But that isn’t the point of this story. That’s just the plot of the story. The point is what happened next.
The owners of the place, Jim and Bonnie, spent an hour out in the muddy field with me, helping me out. Introducing me to the llamas. Bonnie got the Santa hat for me to wear. Jim engaged in llama distraction when it was needed and gave me the grain I used to tempt them into kissing me. (Don’t judge.) Bonnie worked the camera.
They spent an hour out in the freezing drizzle on their Sunday, helping me out. A Sunday I had rudely interrupted.
At the end of it. I tried to pay them. But they wouldn’t take my money. I explained that I knew their time was valuable, and that they had helped me keep a promise, and that’s really important to me. But they wouldn’t take my money. By that point I’d chatted with them for a while and learned that their house had burned down a while back and they were still recovering from that. I said I knew that they were running a business, and I was more than happy to…
But no. They just wouldn’t. “Take that money and buy a goat for someone,” Bonnie said.
That’s the point of the story, folks. People are good.
* * *
A couple days ago, Sarah made the questionable choice of reading an entire toy catalog to Oot. He showed it to me when I came home, all excited. He had circled about twenty things in it with a red pen, and explained each of them to me. There were two marble mazes. A laser game. A skeleton with removable organs. A fossil kit….
Score one for rampant consumerism.
Later on, he came into my office, clutching the magazine. He started to explain the items to me again, focusing especially on the little terrarium that is supposed to grow plants that look like brains and eyeballs, as well as carnivorous plants (A pitcher plant, I’m guessing from the illustration) and a plant that moves (A sensitive fern.)
“I remember these,” I said, interrupting him gently. “You showed this to me last night.”
“Oh yeah,” he said. “But I was just thinking that you could order all of these on your computer. Not all at once,” he said quickly. “You could do some e-mail. Then order one. Then do some more e-mail. And then order one.”
It breaks my heart that he knows how busy I am. That he feels like he has to fit himself in between my e-mails. I’ve been neglecting him during the fundraiser. today I kissed a llama more than I kissed him. That’s wrong. I’m going to start making that up to him starting tomorrow.
“Those are pretty cool,” I said to him, then added. “Did you know that some families don’t have very much money? There are some families that are so poor that the parents can’t afford to buy any toys at all for their children for Christmas?”
I was going to lead him down the garden path. Explain the concept of something like “Toys for Tots” to him. Make a plan with him about how we could go out together and buy toys for other families.
But he didn’t even give me the chance. He started chattering on almost as soon as I’d finished. “Oh,” he said. “Well if you could buy this one thing for me,” he pointed to the terrarium. “Then we could give all of those other toys to other kids.”
That was it. There was no hesitation. He didn’t have to think it through. I could see his face when I explained that some kids didn’t have toys. It was confusing to him. His is expression said the five-year-old equivalent of “Some kids have no toys? Seriously? What the Actual Fuck?”
So they should get all these other things. He was fine with just one present.
He’s my sweet boy. He’s good. That’s the moral of the story here. He gets it. It’s just sharing. It’s simple.
* * *
I’ve been seeing this happen all over the place during the fundraiser. I’m guessing you’ve seen a lot of it too….
For example, since Worldbuilders started early this year, some people were unable to participate. But regular blog commenters dorwinrin, Kthaeh, and Karissima got in contact with us, and set up a donation in honor of a commenter they saw who said they couldn’t kick anything in this year.
Here’s a comment someone made on the blog early on in the fundraiser:
“I’m pretty poor, but my wife and I have decided to refrain from ordering any takeout this month and put the resultant savings into Worldbuilders. I always forgot to donate in past years, but not this time!”
But probably my favorite success story of the fundraiser is this one:
Those of you who have been following the blog closely should recognize Charlotte. Last week on the blog I mentioned that she’d shot a video and started her own donation page as part of our Worldbuilders fundraiser. She wanted to raise $500 for a Heifer, and so far people have chipped in enough money that she’s up in the top 5 supporting fundraisers now:
It looks like she’s going to overtake the NaNoWriMo page soon….
On her page, folks have left comments like this:
One of my favorite new things about Heifer’s new donation platform is the ability of people to make their own pages in support of our team. That means groups can get together and fundraise for Worldbuidlers while letting their particular geek flags fly. For example, the Wayward Backers is a group of people who banded together on facebook after they got to know each other during my first kickstarter campaign.
And there are warm fuzzies galore in the comments, like this one from the WriMos page:
“I recently got a scholarship out of nowhere, and I wanted to pay it forward somehow. I have been reading Pat’s blog for years, so this was perfect.”
Or these, from the Sci-Fi and Fantasy Book Club:
“I’ve wanted to donate for several years but haven’t been able to. This year we stumbled on a little unexpected income and decided this was the best use for it.”
“My grandmother passed away this week. She was a very charitable person. In her honor, I’d love to offer what little support I can muster at the moment to give to this wonderful organization.”
“This is my fourth year donating. The first year, a goat. Every subsequent year, $250-300. I’m truly happy that, despite everything, I’m able to scrape together a decent amount of money to donate to the wonderful cause that is Heifer. Thanks Pat (and Amanda, and all the other helpers, donators, etc.) for publicizing and pushing this. I probably wouldn’t have started giving to charities if not for Worldbuilders. Thank you so much for encouraging me to be a positive force in the world.”
* * *
I could go on and on. But I’ll stop. Suffice to say that you’ve all impressed me yet again.
Let me leave you with a picture.
A couple days ago we took a picture of all the prizes we’re giving away for this year’s fundraiser. We had to do it as a panoramic, because… well… you can see why.
Note that this picture doesn’t even include the 1000+ Mayfair games we’re giving away.
Last year we gave away about 1100 prizes. This year we giving away more than 2500. And many of those prizes contain multiple books and/or games. That means your odds of winning are really ridiculously good this year.
If you donate enough for honeybees ($30) you’ve got a 12% chance of winning something. Give a family a goat ($120) you’ve got a better than 40% chance of winning. Enough for a well that provides clean water ($300) and you’re up at 72%.
Prizes include signed and rare books, all manner of games, and, of course, the three favors from me….
Today’s your last chance to jump in. Tomorrow will be too late.
Don’t miss it.