June 29, 2007

Money, money, where for art thou money

Posted in animal advocacy, money, taste better, veganism, wildlife at 12:36 pm by nevavegan

Vegan Porn (never had anything to do with porn, just a silly name) has now become “Taste Better” and they have asked us to do some kind of blog roundabout where we’re supposed to give our take on certain topics. One of the topics raised was veganism and money.

Funny thing. That’s been on my mind quite a bit lately. Many vegans really do seem to have a strange, unbalanced view of money. The only comfort is, it’s not just vegans, so many human beings seem to be primarily avoidant when it comes to the topic of money.

Recently our only local wildlife rehab organization Second Chance announced that they were overwhelmed and under funded and therefore would not be accepting any new wildlife for a while. This was devastating news. There are so many wild animals in our area that need help, and now there are really no resources to help them.

I thought of taking out my checkbook, but the small amount I’d be able to scrape together seemed so inconsequential in light of the huge need. I wanted to find a way to turn my tiny seed of ready cash into a bigger donation. My next thought was auctioning my art to try to raise money, but I was struck with this vision of myself selling off all my art (and I love every single piece, not because they’re perfect but because they are like broken off bits of my soul, I put so much love and emotion into them that it’s hard to part with them) and then getting all of $50 to donate to Second Chance, and that didn’t seem ideal either. I thought about asking some local restaurant to hold a fundraiser for Second Chance, but I’m not sure I have those connections, and most local eateries seem to be pretty solidly booked, now and forever, in raising money for COK.

So, in short, my dysfunctional, denial-filled relationship with money has led me to a place where I don’t feel as able to help as I should be.

The stupid part is that I know what I love and what I value, but I have no idea how to turn those things to an actual profit. I always felt like some kind of reverse magnet that just drives money away from myself. I used to try to go around to shows and fairs to sell my art, and people would oooh and aaaah over everything, touch everything, and then just not plunk down the ridiculously low prices I was asking in hopes of just recouping my booth fee. I know what I do is good, even if not everyone gets it. I know people like it, but they don’t seem to like it enough to pay for it.

I was raised to believe it’s wrong to ask for money. Every single year my school/schools would hold fundraisers of some kind or another. We were supposed to sell things or ask friends and family to donate. And every single year my mother would march down to the school and get my brother and I exempted from participation on the grounds that fundraising was against our religion. Sure, that was embarrassing, but less embarrassing than when I was not allowed to participate in the “Fun Fair” because my class was doing a fake doctor’s office (candy as pills and fancy band aids handed out) because going to the doctor was against our religion, or when I was exempted from required reading because certain books were against our religion. Sigh. Anyway, that was a side track. I was raised to not ask for money. To show a desire for money was greed and was deeply wrong. To even speak of money was deeply wrong.

To cope with my various ambiguous feelings about money I used to give until it hurt any time a group asked me for money, while I slept on a piece of foam rubber on the floor of a broken down group house in a bad neighborhood. I had a minor crisis over this though when I began to feel I was doing serious damage to myself giving so much, and at the same time saw the groups I gave to using money in ways that didn’t seem very worthwhile, at least from my point of view. I resolved that I still wanted to give, but I wanted to give smarter. I wasn’t doing penance through my donations, after all, I was investing in the world I wanted to see. And everyone knows that to be a good investor we need to be smart, we need to be knowledgeable, and we need to have an understanding of what money can and can’t do.

But it took a close call with winding up homeless, it took months of not knowing if I could buy food, it took a huge financial crisis to bring me to that wake up call that I needed to start understanding money.

It’s still hard. The course my life has taken and all the other baggage I’ve been carrying didn’t bring me to a spot where I make a ton of money or have the qualifications to make “the big bucks.” At the same time, I look at what other people make, some of them with fewer qualifications, and I’m starting to realize that these deep feelings I have of being fundamentally undeserving are a bunch of (bad word deleted). I underestimate my worth and I underestimate the good I might do if I were able to realize that worth.

Which brings me back to my desire to help Second Chance. Can you, oh wise reader, give me suggestions? How can I face the monster of money and wrestle it down so I can do something worthwhile that desperately needs to be done?



  1. bazu said,

    Money is a tough issue. We live in a world of constant double consciousness about it (like so many things) am I poor by the standard of the U.S. or rich by the standard of the world? Why did I pursue graduate school, condemning me to a decade or more of poverty? How much more could I do if I had a “real” job and a “real” income? But isn’t that inauthentic? The broken record of my mind goes on and on. I liked your idea of a restaurant fund-raiser- that’s what we have been doing with the Syracuse Vegan Society. Get a restaurant to set aside a non-busy night (like Monday), get a commitment from 10-15 vegans to attend, then ask for a donation from all who come, or have a raffle of some sort. You’ll be surprised that the little dollars add up! You can also fund-raise through your blog, if it wouldn’t be too difficult to ask for money (just think, you’re not asking for yourself, you’re asking for the animals!). I have to think this way, because my meager bank account won’t ever help much but together with a larger group, I feel that I can make a contribution…

  2. Deb said,

    Did you read Mary’s (animalperson) post on “greed”? She talked about some of these issues, which I found really helpful.

    I’m not great at “marketing myself”, to use language that I detest, but I (with the encouragement of some friends) sought a second batchelor’s degree in a field that specifically would put me in a more comfortable earning bracket. I took out college loans and had the luxury of living with my parents while doing this. I’m not saying that the solution to everyone’s problem is the route I chose. It did work for me, though.

    But see, I can’t really demand what I’m “worth” either. I went into a field where people were automatically paid pretty nicely! I did give myself a hefty raise when I moved to this area, but I will be completely honest…I asked a friend’s husband what salary I should ask for, and I about fell over when I got it.

    So. I sort of have similar issues, except I am now happily making a comfortable salary, and am in a very odd position of being the only regular supporter of the local info shop, from a monthly donation standpoint. Anarchists don’t tend to have any money, yet the resource that is them, the community, the bookstore, the community space…it is invaluable, as far as I’m concerned. Yet to exist in the capitalist society, money is necessary.

    Oh, sometimes I feel like I talk in circles.

    What you need is to get someone who, like Mary, does not have these issues with money, and who understands money. Get them to give you an idea of what you can do, how you can position yourself to actually earn what you should. I’m not the person to ask, I’ve just been relatively lucky in the advice I’ve gotten and have taken.

    As for 2nd chance, don’t they work with Poplar Spring? Maybe there is a way to help them through the people who support PSAS. PSAS is having an event at the end of July, maybe they’d be willing to have a donation table set up for 2nd chance.

    Also, why not contact COK, and say “hey, I know you need money, but Second Chance is at emergency level. How about one of your benefit days goes to them instead?” The absolute worst they could do is say no.

    A friend has a saying that he likes to refer to: “Never take away someone’s ability to say no.” In other words, don’t be afraid to ask, because the worst thing that will come of it is that they’ll say no. You’re sort of forcing them to say no by not asking in the first place, if that makes sense!

    Also, have you contacted Red Emma’s to see if they’d be willing to do a benefit of some sort? They have access to a community center now…

  3. Neva Vegan said,

    Bazu, yeah, that’s sort of how I feel. I went to extra school, I’ve never been particularly focused on money, and now I pay the price for it.

    Part of my very difficulty though is my complete inability to ask for money.

    Thanks Deb. Yes, I did read Mary’s blog entry. She and I both picked the topic up off “Taste Better.”

    I actually don’t know if anyone else is doing or planning anything for Second Chance. I haven’t heard of anything yet. I’m not comfortable with asking COK to get involved myself, though certainly if anyone else asked them, that would be great. I’ve been fairly critical lately of some of their newer Welfare campaigns and I feel like I may have burned some bridges in that regard. It gets complicated. I don’t feel I’m wrong, and I don’t feel like I need to keep quiet when something bothers me, but I also know that they really don’t like any criticism of any kind. Yeah, I think I’m starting to sound like the person who can’t get along with anyone…

    But a lot of this just comes down to my very basic insecurities. I don’t want to turn this into some huge sob story, but the basic messages of unworthiness that go back a long time make it very difficult for me to be assertive in situations like this.

    Another obvious problem is the level of need for Second Chance. I have no inside track, but as an outsider I’m guessing that the money to get them back on an open door policy is going to be in thousands. This makes it difficult to imagine the solution from this end.

    If I could pick Mary Martin’s brain over this one I think what I’d want to ask her help on is marketing. I would feel very positive about some kind of art sale to benefit 2nd Chance. I would feel good about it because I wouldn’t just be begging money, it would be an exchange, and I’d be giving something of myself to help a worthy cause. However, at the same time, I have no idea how to promote such a thing and if it’s just selling a couple things to friends at cut-rate prices that hardly achieves anything.

  4. springsandwells said,

    Hi Neva,
    This is an interesting post.

    It definitely seems to me that you’ve got to feel you deserve money before you’ll ever get (or hold onto) any. So, you should start changing your mental messages around money now. People who have money are certainly not “more deserving” of it than you, and neither are you “less deserving” of a comfortable lifestyle with room for philanthropic gifts! You’ve gotta create a new self image, in a sense.

    That said, there are lots of things your could do for your local wildlife group. What if you got certain businesses/restaurants/health food stores to donate 1% of their profits on a certain day to that group? Or if you asked local retailers/ service providers/ artists to donate and held a big raffle (or a fun silent raffle) event to raise money.

    I will probably be doing a post about this soon on my blog, but I am in the process of organizing a big Non-Dairy Ice Cream Tasting in my community. It’s not a fundraiser, but it easily could be (maybe it should be, now that I think of it!). I call up all the main non-dairy ice cream companies, ask to speak to someone about product donations, and give them my spiel: how it’s a chance for people to learn about their non-dairy options, how much I love their products and want them to be included, how their products are already available in our area, that we will give them credit and distribute any coupons or other materials they’d like us to give out. And so on. They’ve pretty much all donated ice cream (lots!). It’s awesome.

    So, if you have a passion for this animal rescue group, you’ll be able to convince other people why it’s an important cause for them to contribute to. Be willing to graciously recognize each person/business willing to donate so that there is something in it for them (besides just a tax deduction).

    Then, you can move on to PR. Write up a press release (I KNOW you’re good at writing!), and include the who, what, where, when, why & how much. It should be no more than 1 page long. Email/send it to all your local papers, radio stations, community websites. Make up some flyers and put them up around town on bulletin boards. It really works! Make the event sound fun, worthwhile and important.

    And like Bazu said, you’re not asking for money for yourself, you’re asking for money for your friends the animals!

    You could even have a photography contest where it costs $10 to enter, but there are donated prizes. Or a veggie hot dog eating contest, or a veggie burger tasting BBQ (we did this 2 years ago and almost 200 people came!),or a cake walk (silly & fun!), a bake sale… and so on. The important thing is to keep your passion close to your heart, get the word out, make it worthwhile for donors, and fun for attendees. Then everyone will be happy!

    I think it’s super awesome that you have a cause that mobilizes you… how lucky you are!

  5. Neva Vegan said,

    Thank you Springs and Wells for all the good advice! Yes, I do need to change my internal scripts regarding money! Definitely. It’s just so much harder than I thought it would be.

    Those are great ideas for fundraisers. I’m going to have to do some serious thinking about what will be the most effective approach for me.

    So many causes mobilize and inspire me actually, but hearing that Second Chance couldn’t accept anymore wildlife was just heartbreaking. So I really need to do something.

    I know I sound like a huge wimp, but it’s so easy for me to type (I type incredibly fast and my thoughts flow out much the same), but speaking to people, in person or on the phone is so difficult for me. I stutter, and though I really don’t stutter much anymore and I find most people are very understanding about it, it does make me incredibly nervous to open up my mouth. I don’t stutter if I memorize what I’m going to say ahead of time, so that’s a thought–having a script handy to talk to people with.

  6. Deb said,

    I was thinking about this, and on the Herbivore forums Josh asked if people would be interested in an article that discussed what people should do if they found a hurt or orphaned animal, or one that they weren’t sure if it was hurt or orphaned. Animal services often just puts animals down, period. There are other options, but people don’t necessarily know those.

    So, why not pitch an article to Josh, raise awareness about places like Second Chance? I don’t know if he’d be cool with an article being a fundraiser as well, but maybe he would be. And using the ‘net, maybe an etsy group could be formed, where people can donate their work to be sold for a second chance benefit. It could turn into an ongoing fundraiser, really. There are a lot of vegan artists who are already on etsy, they might very well be willing to donate something to be sold to benefit Second Chance. I’d be willing to donate some pictures for a benefit (online or not) but of course I have no idea what that would be worth! 😀

    I’m just throwing out ideas, but doing stuff online is certainly easier in some ways than doing something in person. And you are an excellent writer, why not put that to use?

    If you wanted to keep it local, vsdc seems to be trying to get more active (based on the vegan meetup announcements) and they’re doing a lot of social things. Picnics, bbqs, etc. Maybe they’d get on board with helping to plan something, or start a giving bucket for their events to go to Second Chance.

    I’m so bad at organizing anything, I’m always looking for more passive ways to get things done! But I’d be on board helping you do whatever. I’m not that far away, I don’t think. I don’t know how much help I could be, but the offer is there for you, you just have to take me up on it if you’re interested!

  7. Rachael said,

    I understand how you feel but yeah, I don’t think I can offer much advice. After 2 years working in a job that basically sucked my soul dry, only to end up in more debt and with lots of disabled and “problem” animals to boot, I told myself that no amount of $$ was worth torturing myself and destroying my family. And yet, moral viewpoints and ideal aside, to live in this society, one still needs money, whether as an individual or an organization. I am just now getting to the point with “doing what I love” that I can afford to pay my bills and that is really only because I have a loving partner who was willing to support me for over a year. I’d like to eventually get to the point where any of the money I make can go to worthy causes, but i’m not there yet. So I just make a point to try to spend my money wisely, save the little bit that I can, and try a support the causes I care about by buying what I need from ethical, local sources whenever possible.
    And asking for $$? The worst thing that can happen is someone will say no. and, while it doesn’t help, it doesn’t hurt either. And some people will say yes. Every little bit helps.

  8. Neva Vegan said,

    Thanks Rachel. I’m brainstorming some ideas at the moment, so I’ll definitely let everyone know what my plan is soon.

  9. Jason @ TasteBetter said,

    Wow, great discussion!

    Neva, I’m probably very similar to you with hangups about asking individuals for money, but I put a twist on it recently when working with a local deer reserve that needed funds – I set things up so they could ask for money themselves. I made the webpage and wrote the copy and wired up the PayPal, but the money went straight to them and somehow when I posted the call for funds over on VP, it wasn’t me asking for the money anymore.

    I’m not saying you need to know how to make a website for this trick to work, but setting things up in your mind so that you’re thinking that the beneficiary is the one asking for the money and you’re just passing on the word might help you go further – it’s worked for me, anyway…

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