Tis the season for end of the year fundraising letters. Now that I run a museum, I read this mail with particular interest. I'm always curious how organizations represent themselves, what they ask of me, and what they assume.
This is also the season for grappling with where to make donations and how to rationalize those choices. I loved this article by Talia Gibas about effective altruism and the relative value of giving to cultural organizations versus other causes. It is sparking conversation in the arts blogosphere and my own kitchen. Rather than retread the issue, I recommend you just read Talia's post.
I thought about "effective altruism" in a new light today when I received a fundraising email from Machine Project, an amazing experimental art space in LA, entitled "Another Year, Another (Even Larger) Hole in the Floor."
Here is the body of that email:
Mark Allen here, Machine Project founder. As you probably saw, we just did this absurd project where we turned the gallery into a 99 cent store, which led to a disgusting bathroom, which led to a cave, which led to a secret door in the wall, which led to stairs in the middle of the floor, which led to a secret underground theatre. I raised the money to cut the giant hole in our floor and that was great, but I kind of forgot I also needed to fundraise to pay our rent. That wasn't so great!
So, I'm taking this moment to hypnotize you into becoming a member, or renewing your membership, or making a donation of any amount of money, gold, yachts, or airplanes. Stare deeply into the eyes of the below image...1...2...3....
Excellent. You are completely under the power of this email. Now, without hesitation go directly here and join us for whatever wonders 2014 shall hold.
Mark and the rest of the elves at Machine Project
This email reminds me that in addition to all the serious work we do to demonstrate the value of the arts to society, it's worth acknowledging the value in providing pleasure, provocation, and joy. This email is a mini-art experience that I felt inspired to pay for. Was that a philanthropic or a discretionary spending choice? Does it matter?
You don't have to argue your way into being apples if you can celebrate being oranges. And if you can do so with a letter as idiosyncratic as your organization, even better.