Where to find charities with a sense of humor?
March 28, 2011 5:26 PM   Subscribe

We are planning a publicity stunt that is likely to get national media attention. The catch is that we need the cooperation of a charitable organization with a sense of humor. We've had no luck finding one. Any ideas where to look?

We are looking for a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a sense of humor, who will benefit by receiving all the funds we raise with our publicity stunt (which could be as high as $82,000 in the first year, with residual income to last for years afterward).

The stunt involves the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The stunt is funny, and is not harmful, unethical, or mean. We're surprised we haven't found a partner organization yet -- since the publicity, as well as the potential fundraising, is sizable.

Are there any resources to find nonprofits who are a little outside-the-box with their thinking, or willing to take a chance on a funny but untested idea?
posted by phonepimpster to Work & Money (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
FSM disparages the world's popular monotheistic religions. What charity wants to alienate so many?
posted by phrontist at 5:36 PM on March 28, 2011 [8 favorites]

If your stunt involves the FSM you're probably going to limit yourself to only athiests and heathen groups. Not because the charities lack a sense of humor, but because they're afraid some of their faithful donors lack a sense of humor.

Try these guys.
posted by birdherder at 5:36 PM on March 28, 2011

I imagine that most charities wouldn't be interested because offending religious people doesn't tend to work out well when it comes to maintaining their relationships with donors and the community. I'm not saying that you're planning something offensive, just that anything that likens a deity to FSM will upset some people, and most charities don't like doing things that might upset people.

Can you tell us what industry you're in or what general topic area is involved? "Any charity" is a bit of a large search space.
posted by zachlipton at 5:38 PM on March 28, 2011

What about an arts/music program in you area?

Also, maybe non-profits that aren't as popular that may get less donations than others. Smaller organizations or NPOs that focus on things like mens homeless shelters, addiction services, organizations in rural areas like the Appalachians.
posted by KogeLiz at 5:38 PM on March 28, 2011

Might part of the problem involve not a lack of humor from nonprofit groups, but your use of the word "stunt"? I would expect that "stunt" has pretty negative PR connotations in a way that's totally irrelevant to how funny someone at a nonprofit might personally find whatever it is you're proposing.

So I don't know that the problem is that organizations "don't have a sense of humor" but that you might be pitching your idea in a way that seems possibly harmful in a way that would outstrip the benefit of potentially raising $82,000. Or you may not be pitching it in a way that's actually all that funny to begin with.
posted by scody at 5:41 PM on March 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Oh, maybe an LGBT organization
posted by KogeLiz at 5:41 PM on March 28, 2011

The ACLU works for religious freedoms.
posted by salvia at 5:44 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

The stunt involves the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The stunt is funny, and is not harmful, unethical, or mean.

Here's the thing. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster really is sort of mean, in the sense that it's an intentional mockery of things that a lot of people hold dear. Yes, yes, I understand that actual religions are also mean an, arguably, more harmful, unethical, etc. But that's irrelevant, really. The C of the FSM pretty much exists to mock people. And that's, frankly, not something that most charities are down with.
posted by The World Famous at 6:07 PM on March 28, 2011 [13 favorites]

There are a lot of local charities that hold pasta dinners for good causes. Couched that way, it seems less offensive than thematic.
posted by rileyray3000 at 6:11 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'm on the board of a NFP, and our ED is one of the most kneejerk anti-religious people I've ever met. She'd probably think your idea was hilarious. And then she'd vote against being a part of it, because making fun of religion in no way supports our mission.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:11 PM on March 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Remember the Groupon Super Bowl ads and the attending kerfuffle? We even had a thread about it.

Humor is incredibly subjective, and finding a charity to partner with you in this is going to take time - this might be a one-off publicity stunt for you, but it could cost them members who would give faithfully every year for decades. They don't know you and they have no reason to trust you.
posted by rtha at 6:15 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I work in PR for a nonprofit. I realize it would be counterproductive for you to divulge the details of your event, but my guess is that no one has taken you seriously because (a) the event does not reflect their brand, (b) the Flying Spaghetti Monster does not reflect their brand, (c) they already have their calendar and budgets made for the year, and (d) you have not adequately or convincingly communicated the fundraising potential of your event. (How do you know it's going to make that much money?)

Philanthropy is way, way down these days, thanks to the recession, and for a nonprofit, that is a reason to be more conservative in how they raise funds, not less. More than ever, any national nonprofit is going to stick to proven methods.

What is the nature of the cooperation you require? If you need someone to front the money, forget it. If you just need it to lend legitimacy to your event... I don't know. I agree that the FSM concept is funny, but mean. You might look into The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry or the James Randi Foundation, but you might do just as well to look into founding your own nonprofit instead. I don't think it's that difficult to do.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:20 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was going to suggest the Randi Foundation as has been suggested above.
posted by elpea at 6:22 PM on March 28, 2011

What about the Freedom From Religion Foundation?
posted by Slinga at 7:14 PM on March 28, 2011

Child's Play, I'm sure they would have a sense of humor, and it's a great charity.
posted by darkgroove at 7:16 PM on March 28, 2011

Campus atheist groups might be on board with this - look for the national leadership of some such group. Secular Students Alliance is one. Here's a listing of some other campus atheist groups.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:23 PM on March 28, 2011

What thinkingwoman said. Your approach is also really unorthodox. It's not often that a NFP gets a phone call or email saying "we want to do a stunt to raise $80,000 for you." On the face of it, it seems either like a joke or a scam. You'll need to be very professional and clear in your approach and indicate to the charity exactly why you think they're a good fit for your gift, without giving the impression that you're shopping this around in any way. Customize the approach to the charitable organization. I'm sure you can find someone but the basic sketch you lay out here - "um, this group I've never heard of wants to use our organization's hard-won good name and legitimate reputation to put on some stunt, and is hoping the money raised will be tempting enough for us to take the risk?" just sets off all the wrong reactions.

Might I also ask, why do you need the charity to be involved? I'm not sure what the structure of your stunt is, but if you take in revenue, you can still donate to whatever group you'd like as an outright gift. It sounds as though you need someone who will act as fiscal agent, in other words someone who will accept checks written to them for your project as tax-deductible donations. That's a big thing to ask as it impacts the organization's IRS reporting, and they have to be able to understand and explain it, and it would have to meet certain regulations. If you can do this thing without relying on a charity to bankroll or marquee it for you, you can still give the money away to whoever you'd like to support. If you need them to be part of it, do recognize it's a big thing to ask.
posted by Miko at 7:40 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

You probably have no real basis for your fundraising predictions. Your really high prediction could be making you seem like inexperienced unreliable jokesters.

For most charities, their public image/brand is their currency, its what keeps funds rolling in. They aren't going to risk their brand for a stunt pulled by unknown (and therefore unreliable) people.
posted by Kololo at 8:28 PM on March 28, 2011

I hope I'm not out of line, but who is the "we" and why are you doing this publicity stunt?
I work for a nonprofit and we would be very wary of anyone coming out of the blue to pull a "stunt" connected with our name.
It might be that you just need to leave the fundraising aspect out of it for your inaugural stunt.
posted by calgirl at 8:49 PM on March 28, 2011

Keeping with fake religion, how about The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence?
posted by hwyengr at 10:42 PM on March 28, 2011

I used to be the executive director of a nonprofit comedy theater group, and I'm an atheist. It would take a lot more details than you've given for me to consider risking my group's reputation on this, because our reputation is what gets us audience, students, donors, board members, and funding grants. But I would gladly accept an $82,000 donation.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 11:09 PM on March 28, 2011

One thing puzzles me: You apparently want the 501(c)(3) organization to have a public, transparent connection with your group. And to that extent you are asking the 501(c)(3) organization to lend its prestige to your effort. But on the other hand, you seem indiscriminate as to what 501(c)(3) group you work with. It's odd to be raising such a substantial amount of money, yet your attitude seems to be "we're just looking for a charity group --- ANY charity group --- to come take this money off our hands." It suggests to me that you haven't really thought this through, that the charity aspect is an afterthought, and maybe the groups you are approaching find that off-putting.

Also, the whole "Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster" thing is a not-very-funny, trendy bit of cultural ephemera. You say this effort will generate funds for years. It seems to me that there's a real disconnect between the missions of legitimate charities, and the laff-of-the-moment like the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It's not that successful charities don't have a "sense of humor," any more than hospitals or orphanages don't have a sense of humor --- it's more that organizations don't have senses of humor because that's not what they're about. If you look at the fund-raising arms of charities, it's serious stuff, and for good reason. Even if your "stunt" is "harmless," the cost of being associated with something silly and lulzy like the CFSM could call into question the seriousness of the charity's mission.

I think a serious charity would be concerned that this stunt (if it's as successful and "national" as you expect) could haunt them, in the sense that when they go out to meet with donors, they are told, "We think you do good work, but honestly we're not comfortable with the whole Flying Spaghetti Monster connection. Try us next year."
posted by jayder at 6:12 AM on March 29, 2011

$80,000 isn't enough to put up with the hassles that could come along with something of this magnitude. It is very likely that as a minimum there will be a huge amount of negative phone calls, demonstrations, and possibly death threats. There are many people that take attacks on their belief systems very seriously.
posted by JJ86 at 7:55 AM on March 29, 2011

A local business pledges to give 10% of profits to Kids' and environmental charities, but they don't name the charities. Can you make a generic non-profit statement, then give the money to the Red Cross, United Way, or other non-profit?
posted by theora55 at 8:06 AM on March 29, 2011

These guys might be down.
posted by furnace.heart at 2:52 PM on March 29, 2011

There's an obvious one that might be predisposed to any FSM related stunt.
posted by benzenedream at 11:31 PM on October 6, 2011

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