Fundraising: It’s Not a Competition
Posted by Tony & Cheri on September 4, 2007
There’s an old sarcastic saying that “no good deed goes unpunished.” We’ve recently learned how true that is. When we started working with the other volunteers in Playa del Carmen to help the people of Mahahual after Hurricane Dean, members of our group, as far as we knew, were the only ones raising money and driving supplies to the area. In the days that followed, we discovered other people and private organizations were soliciting funds for help in Mahahual. We applauded everybody’s efforts and welcomed any and all volunteers, donations, or efforts to get the word out and the supplies in.
One of those organizations that began to solicit funds was a travel site based out of Akumal, Mexico called locogringo.com. They set up a fundraising campaign. One of their members even created a website, helpafterdean.org, which took people to their fundraising webpage.
Our thought was: the more the merrier, or at least the better. So, when we were posting on TripAdvisor we made sure to mention locogringo’s efforts. The link was also publicized on playa.info, which had already become home base for the Playa Pals to raise money. Again, nobody (at least in our little group) saw any issues of competition or conflict. We thought the more people raising money and helping, the better it would be for Mahahual.
That’s why we’re pretty surprised to find ourselves under attack on the locogringo forum. It started out simply enough from our point of view. We learned that locogringo had deleted a posting by one of its members which told about the Playa Pals’ efforts. We were confused by this. We were directing people to their website. Why were they not allowing reference to ours? After all, it’s all about Mahahual, right? The more money raised, regardless of the source or the site, the better. So we posted what we thought was a pretty reasonable comment. We explained who we were, who the Playa Pals were, and the work that we were doing for Mahahual. And we asked a simple question: why was the previous post deleted? In our comments, we praised locogringo and its forum members for their efforts on behalf of Mahahual and said that they should keep up the good work. And we meant it.
One of the moderators of that forum responded in a way that we thought was pretty unsatisfactory. There was no apology, no reaching out. References to our effort had been deleted, he said, because they had a policy of no solicitations. The reason for the policy, we were told, was to protect their members from con artists and unscrupulous people. We were a little taken back by that. We have never been perfect, and over the years we might have been called a name or two, some of them maybe even deserved. 🙂 But to be lumped in with con men and “unscrupulous people” not only took us by surprise but frankly insulted us.
When we wrote again explaining how the legitimacy of Playa Pals was a simple matter to confirm, all hell seemed to break loose. Some members of the locogringo forum then began to post that we were jealous, ugly, seeking publicity, and trying to denigrate their great efforts. They said we were trying to demean and attack the owners of the forum (who we have never met and whose names we didn’t even know). And the best one of all: we were attempting to stop their fundraising!
We were pretty shocked. For trying to spread the word about the problems in Mahahual and give people an additional place to contribute or offer help, we were personally attacked and condemned. Not by everybody. Some people on that website offered their opinion that what we were doing was good and that we were not bad people. But they appeared to be in the minority. Some members of that website wrote us privately, asking us to just wait, that when the owners of the website returned from a visit to Mahahual, they would reach out to us and explain to their members who we were and what we were doing. However, that didn’t happen. Instead, when the owners returned, they praised the forum members for defending them against personal attacks!
We have not posted on that forum since, and we will never post on it again. However, our name continues to be abused—unmoderated—in forum postings there. This whole episode has saddened us deeply. To be called names, even by strangers, is never pleasant. To have the efforts of the Playa Pal volunteers (Claudia, Heather, Kevin, Alex, Jessica, Willem, Soraya, Michael, Jimmy, Doug, Luis, the other Luis, Laura of the Hotel La Tortuga, Andrea of the Bomberos, the Il Barreto restaurant, the people and owners of playa.info, and many many more, not to mention all the people who have donated money and material) demeaned by people living comfortably thousands of miles away is unfair and undeserved. And to turn fundraising into a competition is the worse offense of all, because it turns people’s focus away from the real issue, which is the need for help in Mahahual.
We’re also concerned that this same website is talking about how there is now a relief program in effect for the area. This is simply not true for Mahahual. The state government of Quintana Roo–to whom locogringo gave the majority of its funds–has been trying to help as many people as it can, but there is damage and people in need everywhere in the southern Yucatan. Their resources are stretched thin. They’re doing all they can. In Mahahual, the government restored power in an unbelievable three or four days. They sent in the Army for a few days to try and stabilize the area and clear roads so people like Playa Pals can get in. They have sent in Fonatur with heavy earth-moving equipment and trucks to remove debris. They have set up chemical toilets and brought in potable water in some areas. They are doing what they can and doing it well. However, Mahahual has not yet received food, water, medical supplies or assistance for rebuilding from any official, corporate or humanitarian entity. It is still relying upon private donations and private volunteers.
We raise these issues because we don’t want people who have been directed to locogringo to walk away with either a doubt about the continued need for donations, volunteers and work in the Mahahual area or a question as to the validity of the Playa Pals and the work they are doing.
The locogringo website has collected a lot of money, and we are sure they have spent it in the way they feel is most effective. We applaud the generosity and effort of their members. However, fundraising efforts should not be handled in such a way that other legitimate efforts are demeaned.
Thanks to our blog readers for letting us get this off our chest.
Note: Subsequent to the posting of this blog entry, and the posting of blogs by others who were treated similarly on the same website, the owners of the locogringo forum have decided to “delete any negative comments” related to this topic. Seems that since the most negative commentary came from a single poster who apparently cannot be reined in because of her volunteer work for the board, the entire thread in question was deleted, avoiding the need to admonish her or others. At least with the written evidence of this horrible exchange now gone, the only people who will remain affected are those who were involved and who read the thread, and that’s probably best for everyone, although the damage has been done to our feelings and to our reputation. We’ll take away our own lessons from this experience.