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Soliciting donations (that potentially divert from food bank donations) vs scaling back to the core

While I appreciate Little Jack's announcement soliciting donations based upon the meeting he attended, it seems a bit inconsistent with the message that Marian sent out.

Her message certainly didn't reflect a dire situation, stating that the Org intended to continue with what some us might perceive as less than core activities such as launching a cultural magazine, publishing a  book, continuing to spend on the philosophy center, Fly Ranch (which has a budget over over $650K based upon their website), continuing with Burners without Borders, etc.

Before stepping up its requests for donations, the Org might consider actually polling the community (using a mailing list of attendees from the last X years) who actually funds all of this. It could potentially point folks to a website where the key spends are listed (the Playa event, regional events, Fly Ranch, etc) with their associated budgeted and planned reduced (Covid19) direct spends and an estimated allocation from corporate overhead (staff, etc). Folks could then vote on which should be funded vs temporarily suspended and what they might be willing to donate if the Org actually made the necessary cuts.  Ideally the Org would finally reveal the true finances of the org versus the minimum required to meet the legal requirements of a non-profit.

With the resulting data the Org could then publish a new reduced budget, showing the gap that needs to be filled via fundraising and provide a mechanism for folks to either contribute to the overall budget or a specific spend area (similar to what universities do). It should then publish fundraising progress similar to what Kickstarter does (without the overhead of Kickstarter).

If Marian and her management team aren't up to this level of financial rigor maybe its time to address that issue before asking for donations.




The org Form 990 is available at for anyone wanting more detail on the finances.

I prepare tax returns for a living including Form 990s, though I have not prepared one for an organization the size of the Burning Man Project's. I can tell you that preparing such a form is not an insignificant project even for the smaller non-profits I work with.  I've not looked at the most recent one in depth, but I did review the first one that came out and I think they do provide a lot of detailed information about the organization's finances. I'd be curious to know if any other non-profits of the size of Burning Man Project give out the level of detail that you are asking.

While not perfect, I feel quite comfortable that org is not misspending our money.

For full disclosure I'm a volunteer at Gate and do receive a free ticket and vehicle pass for the event, though given the hours I work I can't really call it free. Through my time as a volunteer (10 years now) I can say the org is far from perfect, but misspending is not one of their problems.

El Leon (Leon Taylor, CPA off playa)