by Phil Geusz
©2007 Phil Geusz
Ive written a lot about furcons in this column over the years, covering everything from what its like to attend one to providing ideas to the organizers about how to make them better. But, somehow, Ive never even mentioned one of the most important things that many furcons do: Namely, raising boatloads of money for very deserving charities.
As near as I can tell, the very first convention to officially collect monies for charity was Anthrocon. In 1997, with roughly 300 attendees, the convention raised $2200 for an organization called Therapy Dogs/K-9 Friends. This works out to over $7 per attendee, which strikes me as a very high figure indeed. (Contrast it with the approximately $14,000 raised by Dragon*Con, the worlds largest SF convention, in 2007 for various charities. Approximately 30,000 SF fans attended this event, for an average donation of under fifty cents per head.) Thus, almost from the very beginning, we furs have been remarkably giving people.
But, the story only gets better. By as early as 1999, Further Confusion had joined Anthrocon in holding charity events, raising $3500 dollars to Anthrocons $3485. In 2000, Mephit Furmeet initiated one of the most successful and remarkable of all furdoms charity programs, adopting Tiger Haven, a home for unwanted big cats, as their official charity. That first year, 405 attendees raised $3522, or $8.69 per attendee. In 2004, 502 Mephit attendees raised an even $15,000 for Tiger Haven, netting an average donation of $29.88 per attendee. (If this is not the highest per-capita donation-rate in furcon history, Id be amazed.) In that same year of 2004, the furry fandom raised a total of $40,500 for charity. And, in 2007, furs worldwide dug deep into their pockets and gave a combined $59,591 to various charities, mostly animal related. Can the many-times-larger SF fandom match this combined figure? I cant say for sure, but judging by the fact that I couldnt even find a listing for charity on WorldCons 2007 website, I have my doubts. Certainly, Id suspect that their per capita figure is but a fraction of ours.
Why is it that furs are so giving? I can think of a few possible explanations. One is that, in both fandoms, donated artwork serves as a major fund-generator. Furry-fans, however, are notoriously voracious purchasers of visual art, where SF fans tend to be book-lovers. So, the furry art goes for a much-higher dollar figure. Another likely reason is that furry fans tend to be younger; at 46, Im one of the aged relics of the fandom. Younger people tend to be more giving in all walks of life. And, finally, furries tend to work in science and the high-technology fields, which pay very well indeed. While this is also true of the SF fandom, it is perhaps becoming less so as the SF world evolves more towards a movie-video orientation and away from printed books. Lastly, in my experience furcons make a bigger deal of their support for charities, giving them a higher profile and making them a major part of the con. At Mephit, for example, everyone is made quite aware of the fact that Tiger Haven is the official charity. Theyre not just mentioned in passing, but are given time to speak at both opening and closing ceremonies and sometimes host several panels. No one is left in any doubt of the important work they do, or of the cons historical role as one of the organizations major donors. Ill admit that Ive only been to a relative few SF cons, but Ive never seen charity made even remotely such an important part of things there. The priorities are different.
Which is sad, in a way. Furcons are in most ways direct descendants of SF cons, so much so that there is little difference in how they are organized and run. We owe more to the SF fandom than we can ever repay.
And yet, in this one thing, at least, I suspect that they could learn much from us.
Authors Note: My special thanks to the folks at Wikifur for their historical data on furcons in general and charity work in particular; this column wouldnt have been possible without their data. For other references, see the Dragon*Con and WorldCon websites.
Editors Note: I can personally attest to the generosity of the furry subculture, or at least the Anthro-reading segment thereof. In 2007, I had a severe financial crisis which threatened to leave me homeless. One of the ways I responded to this crisis was to ask my readers for donations and they provided, collectively, more than USD $1,000, with the single largest donation being USD $400.