Category Archives: Worldbuilders 2015

Worldbuilders 2015: The Wrap Up

As some of you can guess by the fact that I’m posting blogs again, I’m mostly recovered from our big end-of-year fundraiser, followed by the holidays. What’s more, the Worldbuilders team has recently finished shipping out the last of this year’s prizes.

One of the things we do when we’re wrapping up the yearly fundraiser, is look back over the previous year. We look at our numbers, sift through data, we assess our current projects and think about where we’re going to focus our attentions in the future. (More about this later.)

This is oddly dangerous ground for me. Because, the truth is, every year before we launch our big End of Year fundraiser, I worry about Worldbuilders.

You see, I always want Worldbuilders to be better than the year before. I want us to be bigger, raising more money, working with more people, doing new and exciting things. I want us to continue growing and being a force for good in the world.

But on the other hand, I know the key to happiness is reasonable expectations. 2014 was our first million-dollar year. It’ a level of success that would’ve seemed unattainable to me a couple years ago. So for me to demand we do even *better* than that… it seems somehow arrogant, if not just downright silly.

The problem is my brain. For me, it’s a short step from this:

Two Million Dollars sketch1

To this:

Two Million Dollars sketch2

This is a constant dance I do mentally, I want the charity to be awesome, but I also want to be emotionally healthy. What’s more, I want to be a good boss, and reasonable expectations are a huge part of that. How awful would it be if we ran a fundraiser, made a million dollars, and felt like we’d failed?

The truth is, Worldbuilders raised a million dollars in 2014. And if we never, ever got bigger than that, we would still be an awesome charity.

That said, in 2015 we *did* raise more than two million dollars.

worldbuilder(1)(Which is kinda awesome.)

This is counting the our mid-season Geeks Doing Good campaign on Indiegogo. And our completely-impromptu fundraiser for the Syrian Refugees. We had a huge outpouring of support from the community that caused both of those to be delightful successes.

So, let’s look at some graphs. Because as much as I love the words, sometimes it’s easier to grok this stuff graphically.

WorldbuildersPlusMatching

 

That’s almost a mind-numbing amount of money. Because of it, villages will get clean and reliable water for the first time. There will be a ton of fruit trees planted, to increase air quality and provide healthy food. Parents will be able to feed their kids milk and eggs. Families will be able to generate income that will give them control over their own lives, letting them have better homes, education for their children, and a brighter future.

This also shows very visibly that y’all are willing to come along with us to support other worthwhile causes like helping with the Syrian refugees.

But that’s not the only cool thing going on. Check this out.

PieChart_DonorPercentage

This is a really cool piece of data for me. It means people who donated $60 or less made up 22% of our total for our big End of Year fundraiser.

Every year I hear people say, “I was only able to give $20….” as if they felt guilty about it. As if they weren’t *really* helping.

So check out that graph. That proves what I say every year. There really aren’t any small donations. And it’s by working together that we are mighty. If you’re one of the folks who helped out with 20 or 30 bucks, I want you to know that together with your brethren and sistren, it added up to a huge piece of money.

Individual-Donors_Final

There were 3,824 new donors this year who have never participated in Worldbuilders before. Considering we had 7100 unique donors, that’s a RIDICULOUS number of new donors. More than half of you stepped up and participated even though you’d never done so before.

Unique Donors_Final

Across all fundraisers, we had almost 14,000 unique donors. We are growing every year thanks to you guys. This was the first year we shipped prizes in January. We also finished shipping prizes last week, which is by far the fastest we’ve gotten prizes out.

It’s almost like we’re getting better at this stuff.

*     *     *

On that note, we’re already looking toward the future. We’re constantly trying to improve the fundraiser, deciding where to devote our energies.

To do a good job at that, we need as much data as we can get. We’d like to know what you like about the fundraiser, how you’ve participated, and what you think about some ideas we have for the future.

If you’re willing to help us out, the survey is right here. It won’t take too long, and it’ll do a lot of good in terms of helping us make good plans so we can keep growing in the right direction.

Thanks everyone. You warm my bitter old heart.

pat

Also posted in Achievement Unlocked! | By Pat21 Responses

The Final Day: Stories

As I write this, Worldbuilders has raised more than $1,200,000. Making this far-and-away our most successful fundraiser ever.

Simply said, it’s been an amazing year. Together we’ve raised enough money to change tens of thousands of lives forever. We are responsible for hundreds of families getting goats and sheep and pigs. We’ve raised enough money for hundreds of wells, thousands of chickens, millions of bees. We are planting forests full of trees. We are helping bring medicine and light and hope and self-reliance to people all over the world.

Because of your generosity and kindness, children will grow up healthy. Parents will go to sleep knowing their children had enough to eat that day. More importantly, those parents will sleep well, because they’ll have tools and resources to control their own lives and make sure their children will have food tomorrow, too.

We could not do this without you.

*     *     *

I have a fondness for stories in the same way that I have a fondness for drinking water and breathing air. Stories are how we learn the shape of the world. And, in certain circumstances, they help us shape the world into what we want it to be.

Given this, it’s not particularly surprising that during the fundraiser we’ve told stories about how Heifer International changes lives. We’ve told you about Fred, Florence, and their children, who lived the majority of their lives as refugees but who now run a successful farm thanks to the gift of a cow. We told you about the city of Bhairav, where yearly floods made it impossible for children to attend school until Heifer International helped the village to establish and maintain its own school.

But there are other stories in our fundraiser. Hundreds of tiny stories of people stepping up and chipping in to make Worldbuilders a success. Stories that have made me proud of you. Stories that, sometimes, have broken my heart a little.

There’s too many to share them all, but today we’re going to bring you a few. I hope you like them.

*     *     *

If you’ve been following us on twitter or facebook this last week, I’m guessing you’ve seen more than a few #BilboItUp pictures brought on by my recent blog.

Like this one from Riley:

Bilbo

“37 degrees with snow from last night. No paychecks while I wait for my new job to start. Scraping by during the month of Christmas. Sounds like a good time to donate!”

Or this one from Kelly:

12339533_1176113509068688_2281805078509519377_o

“Digging a bit deeper so I can donate again.”

A lot of people have cashing in their change jars, like Adrienne:

“I’ve wanted to donate for years, but haven’t been able to.  This year I saved my change all year and have been able to save $20, which I am thrilled to donate to such a worthy cause,  I only wish it were more.”

Or Humberto, who took some things into perspective:

“A worthy cause I am glad to support. I could never solve my own problems with $10. At best I’d get a single lunch at Subway or Taco Bell. The idea that $10 can do so much for someone else has made me reach into my pocket several times. I’ll gladly pack lunch from home to give when I can. Keep up the awesome work.”

Some folks got their families involved, like Christopher and his kids:

“My 5 and 6 year old kids were so excited about donating to Heifer that they were willing to sell us their Halloween candy. The biggest dilemma was pig, goat or sheep. They took so long to decide that Worldbuilders started up and I’ve been waiting for a day like today. [With matching donations.] I’ll get to share with them that because of the generosity of others, their sheep just turned into a sheep and a pig and two goats. Thank you!”

John’s daughter had a similar process, and made sure he sent us pictures.

“I told my 7 year old daughter, Julia, about Worldbuilders, and she’s matching my $1000 contribution with $5 of her own.  She dug into her bank to do this… see attached photo.”

untitled2

(This is a pretty awesome bank.)

In the comments of my blog, Swiltam explained how she brought her kids in:

“Talked to my kids about it, they each have a small savings account (as a single mom of 5, so you can imagine how small, and at the same time, how big that might be). They’ve each decided to donate, and some of them have decided to forego what gifts they would have received so we can donate more. Thanks for the honesty and inspiration.”

Or Gary and his two little ones, who gave all of their money to help out after he explained it to them.

“I usually give $30 to Worldbuilders during the annual fund raising.  Today Dec. 1st I read the Blog entry Pat wrote about his Mom.  Then Pat wrote about matching and the Heifer matching as well even though he thought he was all done donating this year.  I shared the Blog entry to my 6 year old and my 9 year old and asked them if they wanted to give to the fundraiser from their own money.  They have a savings jar and a spending jar each.  They both wanted to donate and my 6yr old said he would give $20 and my 9yr old said he would give $10.  They are great kids and just amaze me at times like this.  So here is $30 from me and $30 from the boys.  Thank you for giving me this moment with my boys and what you do for all the other kids out there through Worldbuilders.”

Some people are donating Christmas gifts, like Gavin and his family:

“We’re skipping (almost) all Christmas presents this year as a family. We want to make sure 2 girls get the chance to go to school. All of our needs are met, it’s time we help others.”

Or like Lauren and her brother.

“My brother and I are both pretty bad at Christmas presents.  Our wants are either pathetically simple (I would like some warm socks) or wildly unattainable (a $2000 gaming laptop).  But neither of us actually need anything*, and Christmas should be about warm fuzzies and making the world better, not knicknacks that sit on a shelf.  So we’ve decided that the best way to say “I love you” sounds a lot like “I bought someone else a goat”.  So here we are.  Personally I hate goats, after some bad experiences at a camp petting zoo, but I wish this goat many happy years of providing healthy food and maybe some income to its family, on behalf of Dan Bradford and his lovely new wife Lisa.  Merry goatmas, everyone.”

*not quite true, I really do need socks.

We had surprises too. People who went an extra mile, even after they’d already contributed something fabulous.

Authors Bishop O’Connell and Brenda Cooper matched the funds raised from their tuckerization auctions. BeLinda, the winner of the True Dungeon game auction, also matched what she paid for that auction with a donation.

There are some stories, though, that just floored us. Like this #BilboItUp.

Here’s one from the fundraiser page:

“In Hebrew the word for life is the same as the word for the number 18. It has become tradition to give gifts/donations in multiples of 18. It is my hope that my gift of $100 x 18 (life) touches 100 lives.”

$1800 is enough for 12 irrigation pumps.

mcupload_525c65db35b75

That doesn’t just install a pump (though that by itself is already pretty great). It gives farmers training in water conservation and irrigation techniques. 12 irrigation pumps help improve the yield of 12 different community farms. Which means those farmers will produce food more efficiently, and that makes it something they can sell for less. Which means the other people in their community can afford more food.

I think it’s safe to say that your donation will effect 100 x 18 people.

Of course, not everyone has 1800 dollars to give. Luckily people like Victoria understand that in Heifer’s hands, $20 bucks can change someone’s life, too.

“As a starving college student, I don’t have a lot of money, free time, or sleep. But I do have a roof over my head, food, and an education. Even though I can’t give a lot, I owe it to those with less than I do to give something. I hope the flock of ducks are cute as well as helpful!”

And Jeremy really hit it on the head:

“I often feel like I don’t have much (renting an apartment, used car, trouble saving for my own house) then I slap myself for being a spoiled idiot and think about people who have to plan ahead to drink water. This charity seems the best to me since it focuses on a sustainable environment. Fruit trees instead of canned peaches and the like.”

Honestly, there are so many of these little stories. If we included half of them, this blog would be ten thousand words long.

Okay. Just one more from Jacob:

“I’ve been farming for five years now, and have been lucky enough to help a small school in Tanzania start a farm so the children at the school can eat a simple lunch. Heifer International consistently renews my faith in humanity with the amazing work you do. Words cannot describe what a gift to the world you people are. Thank you.”

As I’ve said. Today is the final day for the fundraiser. We have until midnight UTC-8 to hit our final goal of $1,225,000, make use of all of the matching offered to us, and hit our final stretch goal.

TunesFromTemerant_AuriVariation_NoArtitst

(Details over here, if you like.)

Okay fine. Just one more. From Ariella:

“My 8yo daughter heard me discussing WorldBuilders at the dinner table, and asked if she could donate. $2 may not be much, but it’s 15% of her savings. I think we’re doing something right with this one :)”

Thank you all so much, everyone. Thanks for caring. Thanks for helping out. And thanks for proving to me yet again that people are inherently good.

Here’s the link to the donation page. Just in case you might find a use for such a thing….

pat

Also posted in being awesome, Geeks Doing Good | By Pat29 Responses

Tunes From Temerant and Books From Pat’s Treasure Hoard

In the last two days, Worldbuilders has raised more than $100,000. Bringing this year’s fundraiser total to over $1,163,000.

This is delightful news, and as we currently have someone matching all donations, it means a net gain of over $200,000 for Heifer International.

Even better, we still have around $100,000 dollars of matching money available to us, but fair warning, there’s only a few days left to take advantage of it.

To celebrate our continued success, I’m putting some books from my personal collection into our prize lottery. What’s more, I’m making a bit of an announcement about our final stretch goal.

Actually, that’s me engaging in Midwestern understatement. Let me re-phrase. I’m going to make a really big announcement. This is something I’ve been dreaming about for years. If Worldbuilders manages to hit $1,225,000 by Friday the 18th, using up *all* the matching donations we’ve been offered, I’m going to pull the trigger and bring this dream to life.

It’s a musical anthology based on my books. It will feature songs *about* my world, and *from* my world.

TunesFromTemerant_LuteHeroVariation_NoArtists

(Art for this CD mockup courtesy of Melarune.)

I’ve been thinking of calling it Tunes from Temerant.

I’ll talk about that more in just a moment. First let me show you the books I’m adding to the prize lottery.

*     *     *

  • Pat’s Books:

all teh bookses

(Click to Embiggen)

I could go on at some length about what I’ve pulled out of my bookish treasure horde here. Some of these are limited editions. Some of them are out of print. There’s a bunch of authors I’m sure you all know: George Martin, Neil Gaiman, Jenny Lawson… (And you can see for yourselves that I’ve thrown a full set of Buffy and Angel into the mix, as well as a bunch of Firefly. Because if you don’t own those, you really should.)

Bur rather than go into obsessive detail, I’m just going to mention that all the books on the top two shelves are signed and leave it at that. If you’re really curious, you can click on the picture, embiggen it, and peruse the spines to your heart’s content.

This shelf full of books brings the total prizes in the fundraiser lottery up to 2751, with a combined worth of over $102,000.

Since every 10 dollars you donate on our team page gets you a chance to win, this is what we refer to as a Prize Rich Environment. To prove this, let me offer up our handy-dandy probability calculation widget thinger. It’s stuffed full of good math provided by the fabulous Vi Hart. (Because when it comes to probabilities, I apparently can’t be trusted to math my way out of a wet paper sack.)

Go ahead and play with that a little bit and you’ll see what I mean. $20 will buy a family a flock of chickens. $120 will buy them a goat. $250 will get an entire town clean water.

But in addition to that, you have a great chance of winning lovely books and games, too.

And since we currently have matching donations in place, the effect of your donation will be doubled.

And there’s only 2 days left in the fundraiser.

And if you donate, you’ll move us toward our final Stretch Goal…

*     *     *

  • Tunes from Temerant

I’m not saying the CD will look like this. But honestly? I wouldn’t mind if it looked like this….

TunesFromTemerant_AuriVariation_NoArtitst

(Credit for this beautiful art goes to: Michelle Tolo.)

If we hit $1,225,000 this year, Paul & Storm have agreed to help me produce an album. The album people have been asking me about for years.

You see, I love music, but have no musical talent of my own. But over these last several years, I’ve ended up making a lot of musical friends. Beyond that, I’ve come to realize that a lot of musicians out there are fans of my books.

So a couple weeks back, I sent out email and Paul and Storm did some asking around. And it seems like among our friends (and friends-of-friends) we know enough quality musicians to make this happen. I have secret lyrics and a world full of music. They have talent. It’s a match made in heaven.

Paul and Storm and Pat point at YOU - Color

(creepy, crazy-eyes heaven)

But I’ve held off so far because while a Temerant album would be cool, it would be another project. And I don’t need another project in my life right now. But if we hit this stretch goal, Paul and Storm are offering to step up and orchestrate this thing (heh). Which is about a billion times better than me doing it, as they’re the ones with all the musical production know-how and networking connections. The only thing I bring to this project is enthusiasm and beard. (Which, in the name of my Jethro Tull cover band, by the way.)

So. If this is something you’d like to see happen, be aware that the fundraiser ends on Friday night. So you might want to donate sooner rather than later

And since we’re getting down to our final hours, if you could help us spread the word, it would be an amazing help.

Later Space Cowboys….

pat

P.S. Also, if you’re a music-doer who might be interested in participating in the project. You could drop us an e-mail with your bona-fides over here: album@worldbuilders.org

P.P.S. If you’re just here because of the news about Tunes from Temerant news, and don’t know anything about Worldbuilders, you can get all the details on our website here.

Also posted in Acts of Whimsy | By Pat58 Responses

A Great Many Stretch Goals

Hey everyone, Worldbuilders Team here! With the surprise extension to the fundraiser, we thought we’d throw our metaphorical hats in to help out with blogs for the week, so Pat can catch up on some rest.

One of the things we really want to be sure you’ve seen is all of the amazing stretch goals we’ve had this year.

Of course, you can click around and see all of them in our cool Stretch Goal Slider.

We had a lot of people step up this year. We had people attempt to read Fox in Socks without messing up (including all of us on the Worldbuilders Team).

Karen Hallion drew Pat as The Doctor, and we were all excited when the graphic came in.

Pat Doctor

It’s pretty badass. There are a lot of small details on there you might miss if you don’t click to embiggen, and we put the whole process into a video, sped up so you can watch it in all its glory.

William Alexander stepped up with a seriously good St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V… with his Grover doll and voice.

Not to mention the overwhelming amount of cute we have to show off. First, little Cutie Snoo showed off his incredible reading skills for y’all.

Have we mentioned that Pat’s baby is adorable? Because Pat’s baby is ADORABLE.

There’s a video from Heifer International that we mentioned in a blog recently. We’ve passed stretch goals from Hank Green, John Green, Django Wexler, and a collaborative effort for one-star reviews from John Scalzi, Ann Leckie, Sabaa Tahir, and Pat.

We also got a music video from Peter Orullian, this time doing a cover of Bohemian Rhapsody.

Be aware: it is full of spoilers for Game of Thrones, and some Brandon Sanderson books as well.

We always look forward to videos from Peter, and this year’s did not disappoint, that’s for damn sure…

Just a couple of days ago, the Worldbuilders Team, including Pat, played a game of Secret Hitler, which we’re realizing now might have serious, long-term consequences on our ability to trust one another ever again.

And yesterday, we got a video from Neil Gaiman.

And then there are the stretch goals we don’t have yet, because we just hit them yesterday.

Now that we’ve hit $1 million, Wil Wheaton, Chris Kluwe, a few more friends, and Pat will get together to play a drunk game of Dungeons and Dragons. Drunkens and Dragons, if you will. It’s going to be amazing, but probably won’t be filmed for a little while yet. But thanks to everyone here kicking butt, we’re going to see it in the world soon enough.

As of last night we hit $1.1 million, so Max Temkin of Cards Against Humanity is going to show up here to clean Pat’s home office. This seems like a thing Pat doesn’t want very much, so we’re incredibly excited.

* * *

That’s all of the stretch goals we’ve got ready for you, but all of us are talking to people, getting cool things ready to show off. Hopefully we’ll have more to announce soon.

If you have an idea, share it in the comments. Or, heck, just do it yourself. Make a video of your own, and share it around.

Or, you can Bilbo it up, then send us a picture. We got hundreds yesterday, and sharing them around is a great way to spread the word.


We got Bilbo photos from tons of people from the community. The Worldbuilders Team made one. Even Pierre, the CEO of Heifer International, made one.

 

So show us your feet. In a totally not-weird kind of way. For charity.

We haven’t hit our matching total of $1.2 million yet, so if you want to take advantage of having your money matched, you should  donate sooner than later

Posted in Worldbuilders 2015 | By Amanda15 Responses

Worldbuilders: Traditions, Opportunities, and Bilboing Up.

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.

donationswall3

(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.

Stay Classy number 2

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.

Million2

(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.

So.

20151214_045242

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.

Also posted in My Mom Would Like This Blog, the longest fucking blog ever | By Pat60 Responses

Many Cool Books from Dreamhaven

One of the great things about Heifer International is that they work hard to partner with groups local to the areas they’re working in. For example, in Guatemala they partnered with Green Mountain Coffee to help support families who were building sustainable, self-reliant coffee farms.

And the best way to do that was to provide honey bees to pollinate the coffee, as well as to produce delicious, sellable honey.

Improving Food Security and Nutrition of Coffee Farm Workers' Fa

There are a fair number of small-scale coffee farmers in Guatemala, but the harvest season is only 4 months, so they often have no income for the remainder of the year. This was Feliciana Martin’s biggest concern before Heifer gifted her some beehives, but she doesn’t have that worry any longer.

She collected 60 pounds of honey in the first six months and doubled the number of hives she owns. In addition to a sizeable increase in the yield of her coffee farm, which was struggling to support her and her daughter, she now has income from the honey to help pay for food, school, and medicine for her family.

Then she trained some neighbors on the proper care of bees and gave them hives to start them on their own road to increased independence. This is called “Passing on the Gift.” All Heifer recipients take part it, and it’s a big piece of what makes Heifer’s work so successful.

Martin dreams of a better life for her daughter. Now she can make that happen.

And only $30 gets a family the gift of honey bees

* * *

As an added bonus to helping a family make a better life, $30 also gets you 3 chances to win one of the fabulous books or games in our lottery.

We’ve amassed a staggering number of both via private donations, author donations, and donations from our lovely sponsors. This time around, we have a few things from DreamHaven Books in Minneapolis.

DreamHaven is a wonderful bookstore, and a small press as well. We’ve got a cool mix of books produced and published by DreamHaven, as well as some of the rare or limited books they’ve come across over the years.

  • 28 first edition copies of  The Night We Buried Road Dog by Jack Cady.

roaddog

“There’s not a bad story here. It’s easy to see why they were award winners and it’s a great volume filled with Glenn Chadbourne illustrations and a cover by Alan M. Clark. Don’t let this one get past you.” – Barry Hunter

This is a collection of short stories by the Nebula and World Fantasy Award winning author Jack Cady, who passed away back in 2004.

Greg, the owner of Dreamhaven, discovered a box full of first edition copies, and sent them all along to us.

  • 28 first edition copies of The Creature from the Black Lagoon by Vargo Statten.

creature

“This is a must-have for Creature fans and is highly recommended for horror fans who want to broaden their knowledge of this fascinating progenitor of many subsequent man-in-the-suit horrors, Dan O’Bannon’s titular Alien being the most obvious and arguably the most frightening in the cinema.” -Cinemaretro

This is the novelization of the creepy classic movie, and it features a lot of stills from the film in addition to the novel itself.

sick

“A Delightful anthology of gruesome rhyme” -The Dark Side

Anything Neil Gaiman works on is good – that’s an empirical fact. He helped edit this collection of poems that are both funny and gruesome, so there’s no way you won’t love it. Every $10 donation gets you a chance to make this book part of your collection.

  • 48 copies of Don’t Panic: The Official Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Companion by Neil Gaiman.

panic

“Certainly the most outstandingly brilliant book to have been written about The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy since this morning” -Douglas Adams

A lot of people don’t realize that before Gaiman did fiction, he was a journalist. And this is one of his earliest books – published in 1988, it was his second book, after, I am not joking, a Duran Duran biography.

  • 22 first edition copies of Shelf Life, Edited by Greg Ketter.

shelflife

“[Shelf Life] is laugh-out-loud funny. Bookshop owners and habitués will appreciate the palpable affection for literary havens.” -Publishers Weekly

Greg is the owner of DreamHaven, and he’s put together a collection of stories about bookstores. This is the original hardcover printing with 5 bookstore-centered stories, and an introduction by Neil Gaiman.

It’s something that’s close to all of our hearts, I’d guess, and 22 of them have been put into the lottery.

* * *

The finish line is in sight, folks. We’ve rounded the corner, and are on the straightaway.

All of our auctions are ending Sunday night, so if you’ve been waiting to snipe something, now’s the time. There won’t be any more added before the fundraiser is over.

If you want to get an entry (or 3) into the lottery, you get one for every $10 you donate on our fundraising page. $30 get you three entries in the lottery and a family gets honey bees. $60 is enough to buy a family fruit trees, plus you get six entries in the lottery. $120 gets you twelven entries and one of my favorite donations: a goat.

And there’s only a few more days you can get something from The Tinker’s Packs and be sure it’ll arrive in time for Christmas. We have books, games, t-shirts, scarves, and even a stuffed owlbear, all of which could make someone very happy as a holiday gift.

Enjoy your weekend, folks. And keep spreading the word. We can’t do this without you.

Posted in Worldbuilders 2015 | By Pat7 Responses

Over a Hundred Games from Fantasy Flight

Today we’ve got some lovely games from Fantasy Flight to add to our prize lottery. But before I show them off, I’m going to tell you a story. Because that’s what I do.

I’d like to introduce you to a family of refugees.

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If they seem pretty happy for a family of refugees, well… that’s because they’re farmers now. But that’s the end of the story. I should start closer to the beginning….

Uganda has been struggling with war for decades. The history of the area is too complicated for me to get into here, so forgive me if I say that the term “war-torn” is not an exaggeration. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the conflicts there. And ten times that number of people have been forced from their homes, or fled in an attempt to find some shred of safety.

When this sort of thing happens, many people end up living large portions of their lives in refugee camps. That’s the case with Fred and Florence (the parents pictured above). Both of them lived in a refugee camp since they were children. That’s where they grew up, got married, and started a family.

In those camps they had very little of their own, and were forced to rely on charity to survive. Aid workers provided them with beans and maize, but it was only enough to guarantee one meal a day. In addition to that, sometimes the food aid was delayed. I can’t imagine trying to raise a child in a situation like that. I honestly don’t want to think about it too much.

In 2006, Uganda entered peace talks. And Fred and Florence moved to his parent’s land to start a farm. But as I’ve said, they had been refugees since they were children. They were starting with nothing, and were forced to build from the ground up.

It wasn’t easy. The land was overgrown, and there were were leftovers from the war to deal with. Things like landmines to clear before they could even begin planting.

Then, Florence and Fred received a Frisian heifer from Heifer International.

florence fred

(Florence and Fred’s oldest daughter feeds the family cow, Flora.)

Since her arrival, the heifer has produced two bull calves, and lots of milk. “Before, my children didn’t even know what milk looked like,” said Florence. “This cow has made my family happy.”

Before participating in Heifer’s project, Fred and Florence owned no animals. Now they have over 30, including goats and chickens. They use the manure from the cows to increase yields in their crops on their farm, including mango trees that were struggling to survive without the manure.

Now the family has milk, vegetables, and eggs. For the first time they have food enough for three full meals a day.

I’m going to say that again. For the first time in their lives. These people have enough food so that they can be sure of feeding their kids three times a day.

Needless to say, the children’s health has improved dramatically.

Before participating in the project, Fred earned $1 a day working as a laborer, clearing land. In a good year, he would be lucky to make 115 dollars.

Now, the family earns $1,290 a year, just from selling milk. And that’s milk they sell *after* they’ve kept all they need for their family. They use the money to improve the farm, buy food, and pay for school fees for all of their children. Their kids are getting the education and training to have a better future.

That’s what Heifer International does. It can help a family of refugees become successful farmers. This sort of help doesn’t just let a family feed their children, it lets them give their children a whole new future.

When you give to Heifer International on our donation page, this is what you’re making happen. 500 dollars will buy a Heifer, but if you can’t swing that, 120 dollars will buy a goat that will do much the same thing for a family, though on a slightly smaller scale. A flock of chickens is only 20 bucks.

I’m going to be brutally honest here, folks. If you’re reading this on your own computer, you can spare $20 to help improve someone’s life forever. You know you can.

And if you still need a little nudge. Let me remind you that for every 10 dollars you donate on our page, you get a chance to win thousands of books and games like the one that Fantasy Flight has donated in today’s blog.

* * *

Today, we show you over a hundred games from Fantasy Flight. They’re one of the big names in board games, and when they offered to donate this year, everyone here at Worldbuilders was beside themselves with joy. To make it even better, a bunch of the Fantasy Flight employees pitched in to send us even more games than the company was already sending. They’re just good people like that.

There’s a lot of different stuff, and it’s all quality. If you donate to the lottery, you’ll have the choice of BOOKS, GAMES, or BOOKS AND GAMES for your potential prizes, and I know there’s a lot in here that would make any gamer happy.

  • 10 copies of Descent: Journeys in the Dark. 6 bundled with the Heirs of Blood Expansion.

descent

This is a game Amanda and I played together a while back. And I really enjoyed the hell out of it.

It’s a campaign game, where you develop and play with a character over many sessions. It’s a great way to play something close to an RPG if you don’t want to spend 4 hours making characters first and forcing someone to either create or learn an entire adventure ahead of time to GM it.

There are 10 copies of the base game, six of them with an expansion.

  • 6 Twilight Imperium (3rd Edition) Bundles, which include the base game, and both expansions: the Shattered Empire and the Shards of the Throne

twilightimperiumTwilight Imperium is game of galactic conquest where each player takes command of one of ten unique civilizations to compete for interstellar supremacy through warfare, trade, uncertain allegiances, and political dominance. Each civilization provides a unique game experience with different abilities and play styles, like controlling trade, building up military, or playing the politicians.

The expansions add even more races and cards, plus allow you to play with up to 8 people. It’d be the perfect thing to add to a thriving game night.

  • 12 copies of Mission: Red Planet.

mission

Steampunk technology building civilization on Mars? What more do you really need?

In this game, it’s 1888 and you’re running a mining company, setting up colonies and mining for new and rare materials on Mars. There’s fierce competition, and players win by mining the resources, and controlling various regions on the planet.

  • 6 copies of Samurai.

samurai

This game has been winning awards left and right since it was released in 1998. It’s a Eurogame, which means you play as best you can, then do one big final tally at the end to see who wins. There are a lot of different play styles that could win you the game as you lay tiles and try to curry favor with the samurai, peasants, and/or priests on the board, so it’s great for a diverse gaming group. Plus, a game that’s been around for so long and stayed popular has to be good.

  • 6 copies of Fury of Dracula.

dracula

This is an awesome game. One player assumes the role of Count Dracula as he stealthily spreads his evil influence throughout Europe, while up to four other players govern the iconic characters of Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, Dr. John Seward, Lord Arthur Godalming, and Mina Harker.

By day the hunters move around and search for clues about Dracula’s whereabouts. By night, they investigate their present locale and prepare for the upcoming day while Dracula creates new vampires, lays traps for the hunters, and stealthily moves to a new location. Should any hunters find Dracula, or should the Count find them, they will engage in a brutal fight for their lives.

  • 6 copies of Condottierre.

condottiere

This is a really intense bluffing and negotiation game. The players are all bidding to acquire provinces in Italy, and the goal is to have four of them connected by game’s end. The cards used to bid have different powers, allowing you to suddenly double your bid, or keep some of the resources you had promised.

You’ve got to pay attention to cards and multiple strategies to come out on top, and it works out great for any group of friends who have that competitive edge.

  • 3 Copies of Runebound.

runebound

Just look at this box. It’s enough for Amanda, but when she read about the game, she wanted it even more.

Players are battling to become the most renowned hero, battling monsters, navigating social encounters, and exploring ruins and forests. It has tons of replay value, and you can play as one of many traditional RPG characters and customize their skills and assets to suit your play style. But unlike a traditional RPG, you’re playing against your friends, adding another level of strategy to the whole thing…

  • Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game.

civ

This game really stays true to its video game predecessor. You start off with a single city, one army figure, and one scout, and from there you forge a great civilization. There are many paths to victory, including invading another player’s capital, developing a rich culture, and even an option to travel to space. It’s important that you plan your advancements well ahead of time, and try to keep up with your opponents while keeping your goals in mind.

  • XCOM: The Board Game.

xcom

In XCOM, the players are a part of an elite organization defending against an alien invasion. There’s a lot to keep track of, including incoming alien UFOs that need to be shot down, soldiers that need to be assigned to key missions, important research about alien technology to better defend your base, all while trying to implement your final mission to repel the invaders.

The game has a free app you download to keep it all in real time, while it also keeps track of turns, satellite communications, and much more. This game requires your full attention, and will keep you thinking for the entire time.

  • 12 copies of Battlestar Galactica.

battlestar

This is a semi-cooperative game that will make you work together to defeat the Cylons… until someone you trust betrays you to them.

Everyone is given a secret role at the beginning of the game, and the humans are working hard to keep spirits up, people fed, the ship moving, and people healthy. But there’s at least one Cylon in your midst, and they will be doing their best to counter your moves without being noticed. If you like playing a game where there is a continuous challenge and victory is always a close call, Battlestar Galactica is for you.

  • 6 copies of Star Wars: Force & Destiny Beginner Game.

star wars

This is a starter set for the Star Wars: Force & Destiny roleplaying game, and the perfect way to get yourself acquainted with the system, characters, and adventures available to you in the world of Star Wars.

This comes with four pre-built characters for your group to choose from, each with their own eight-page folio with the character’s background, as well as their connection with Hethan Romund, the Force, and the other heroes. They have quick reference guides for the core game mechanics, and recommendations for advancing your character.

  • 6 copies of Arkham Horror.

arkham horror

Arkham Horror is one of Fantasy Flight’s most popular games, and for good reason. You play as a team of investigators, trying to prevent an Ancient One from breaking into the world and wreaking havoc. You spend the game cleaning out the monsters and closing portals to other dimensions. If too many portals remain open, your last chance is to defeat the Ancient One in combat… and no one wants that to be their only hope.

  • 18 copies of Elder Sign. 12 bundled with the Gates of Arkham Expansion.

eldersign

This is a really great game, too. If you don’t want to take my word for it, you can watch the episode of TableTop where Felicia Day, Mike Morhaime, Bil Prady, and Wil Wheaton played a very intense game of it.

Six of our lovely donors are going to get copies of the base game, while twelve more will get the base game in addition to the Gates of Arkham expansion. Good luck to you keeping the Ancient Ones at bay…

* * *

We’ve only got 4 more days in this year’s fundraiser, and as of right now we’ve raised $950,000.

It’s our best year ever, but I’d really love to have a strong finish. So if you haven’t pitched in yet, this is your chance. Check out the auctions we’re currently running. Take a peek in The Tinker’s Packs. Or just donate directly on the Worldbuilders page for a chance to win in this year’s lottery.

There are plenty of families out there like Fred and Florence who just need a leg up to turn their lives around for the better.

Let’s make it happen.

Posted in Worldbuilders 2015 | By Pat15 Responses
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