Pagan Infrastructure: Fundraising Challenges We Face

4502486_xlIt’s probably pretty obvious that I’m in support of Pagan infrastructure, whether that’s seminary/clergy training, leadership training, physical sacred land, or other Pagan organizations.

My own 5-10-year plan is to have land of my own outside of Chicago; a seminary/monastery/temple/farm/cooperative living space. I want to help offer leadership training to Pagans who are looking for that, as well as have self-sustaining land.

But there’s a few challenges to building that infrastructure, and to fundraising for that. Some challenges are easier to overcome than others.

I’ve been thinking a lot about sustainability in the past years as I’ve worked to create an organization focused on offering Pagan leadership training to bring forward what I learned at Diana’s Grove and other places.

As I post this, I’m in the final hours of my fundraiser on Indiegogo. I’ve become aware in the past months that I can’t keep going traveling and teaching the way that I have. It’s not financially sustainable for me. And yet, I feel strongly that Pagans need the infrastructure of more leadership training, Pagans need access to it, but therein lies one of the conundrums. There are many infrastructures that I think Pagans really want–and that our communities really need as we move forward–but there’s a few things in our way.

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First–a quick plea for assistance. I’m in the final days of my Indiegogo campaign to raise funds so I can continue traveling and teaching leadership and writing articles like this. I’m offering cool perks from $1 and up, including leadership resources. Every dollar helps. If my writing is useful to you, please consider contributing so I can keep doing this work.  http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/leadership-education-and-writing-for-pagan-community/

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I’ve worked to observe the Pagan community and try to deconstruct some of the less-useful statements like “All Pagans are broke” and look at what’s going on beneath the surface. Here are some of the challenges in the way of building infrastructures for the Pagan community, and thus, challenges to fundraising.

  1. Pagans are often anti-establishment and resistant to donating money, especially Pagans who converted from one of the dominant religions. (Though, Pagans are just as susceptible to capitalism as anyone else and will pay for “shiny” things/events.)
  2. Pagans are often counterculture and creative types  which seems to result in less Pagans having higher-paying jobs, or, Pagans who are more adversely affected by the crappy economy. We have a lot of artists, creatives, and dreamers, and typically folks like this take lower-paying jobs or are more adversely affected by an economic downturn.
  3. A lot of Pagan leaders and groups out there have screwed up with money in the past, making it difficult for Pagans to want to donate to them, or to other groups. A group in Michigan dissolved after decades of work raising 25K for land which was embezzled by a board member with catastrophic medical expenses.
  4. Many Pagan leaders don’t have the business/not-for-profit management skills to manage an organization and make it financially sound. In fact those skills take money to gain, so it’s a catch-22. I’ll tell you this–if I had the money to go back to school, I’d finish up my bachelors and get a certificate in NFP management.
  5. Numbers. We’re perhap 1/2 of 1% of the population or less. So the population size that many of the dominant religions pull get tithes/donations from for tithes isn’t feasible for a Pagan group just because of numbers.
  6. Diverse traditions. Just because there are maybe a few thousand Pagans in all of Chicagoland, doesn’t mean all of them follow my tradition or your tradition or any of the traditions represented by a local group. In fact, there are dozens and dozens if not hundreds of specific traditions–someone might be the only Hellenic or Celtic Reconstructionist in a hundred miles.

All of these factors–and more–add up to why it’s difficult to build Pagan infrastructure. Not impossible, just an uphill struggle.

We can do it by solving problems on both ends of the spectrum–the problematic leadership issues, and, the Pagans who feel they shouldn’t have to pay for anything. I think there are a number of factors that could shift the balance in fundraising:

  1. Strong, healthy organizations that are vocal–we need some organizations that don’t have a back history of disgruntlement to step forward and do great work and have clear, clean books. And, perhaps as well, longer-term orgs who may have made mistakes but who have worked to correct those, and there’s a few orgs that could fall into that category. Basically, we need some “poster” organizations, some flagships, to say, “See, an ethically-run NFP can do a good job with your money, and here’s how they did it.”
  2. Continue developing Pagan interest in philanthropy. This one’s harder, and requires Pagans to see the value in donating to the orgs out there doing work. But, #1 helps with this. Focusing on the needs of Pagans is another way–ie, making a strong connection between, this is your money, and this is what your money buys in terms of Pagan services.

What does the future look like?
There are some really amazing possibilities and resources out there. There are some Pagans doing things that are already providing resources for our communities, like Circle Sanctuary, that does a lot of Pagan advocacy. Cherry Hill, that is a non-tradition-specific Pagan seminary providing tools and skills including pastoral counseling, among other things. There’s the new organization, the Pantheon Foundation, that launched at PantheaCon this year, that will offer fiscal sponsorship to smaller Pagan groups that don’t have the resources to get a 501C3 designation on their own, among other things. There’s The Wild Hunt blog, which is a news outlet for Pagans about news within the community, as well as an aggregator about Pagans in the news.

There are a lot of other resources out there. There are success stories and there are failures. There are many Pagans who have tried to create a local Pagan community center, or who have bought Pagan land. Some have been successful, some have not. Any group out there that organized a Pagan Pride event or other small festival probably had to raise money somehow to make that happen, or at least marshall volunteer forces.

The one thing that is consistent in all of this, however, is that these organizations need money to do the work they do. And that’s for various reasons and doesn’t at all have to do with largesse and mismanagement of resources. It takes money to build infrastructure. It takes volunteers to build infrastructure. It takes professionals to build infrastructure. 

We can have some amazing resources as a community if we work together. Some of the problems we face don’t have easy solutions, but if there is one strength to the Pagan community, it’s that we’ve always done a lot with a little. We know how to stretch our resources. We know how to be creative.

I’m an optimist. I’m excited for what we can do together. On Wednesday, I’ll be announcing a call for writing submissions on an anthology for Pagan leadership through Immanion Press, and I’d love to hear of some of the success stories out there. I’d love to be able to talk about the things we’ve done, and what we can do together if we put our collective brilliance to it.

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2 thoughts on “Pagan Infrastructure: Fundraising Challenges We Face

  1. Sign me up to contribute to the anthology. Canadian law is different that the ‘States and our Pagan culture is somewhat different, but my group has been pretty successful.

  2. Our Order is working on creating a Druid seminary. At first we were going to pursue accreditation, but if we went through that long and expensive process, we’d have become a part of the system we’re fighting to change. And of course we’d have to charge students more to cover the costs of all that accreditation. So instead we’re keeping the costs low by having teachers work for next to nothing, and we’re trying to offer courses that give some value to the community.

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