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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.

6 Responses to “Fundraising: It’s Not a Competition”

  1. john said

    Man o man! You people sure have a huge need to be right. I read the thread over at Loco Gringo and now I’m certain to not stay at your hotel. You guys need to chill!

    Actually John when we are not running the hotel, writing this blog, hauling relief supplies to Mahahual, and raising funds for Mahahual we think of ourselves as pretty laid back people. That’s one of the reasons we live on the Caribbean coast of Mexico. When we’re not working, you can often find us at El Paraiso with a rum drink in hand and feet in the sand. You can’t get much more “chilled” than that.

    No, we don’t have a need to be right. But we did feel a need to respond to unwarranted attacks, both against us personally and against the work being done by some great people. And, we thought it appropriate to do it on our own blog, away from the attacks of people with too much time on their hands and no personal knowledge of what we are talking about.

    As for not staying at our hotel, we would hardly recommend someone base their vacation plans on unrelated comments made on an internet chat forum, but of course that’s your choice. And it’s a choice we think will work best not just for you, but for us too.

    Finally, we’d ask that you go to the blog section that tells you how to donate to funds for Mahahual relief. The people down there still need help, and we’re still offering it. Your money would be greatly appreciated and well spent.

    Tony & Cheri

  2. Pamela Thing said

    Cheri,
    I respectfully wish to disagree you.
    You did enter the LocoGringo forum armed like a Boston Lawyer
    ready to do battle. There was a great deal more in your
    posts than just an inquiry about why Rodman’s post was deleted.
    With that being said..many of us do realize that you and your group
    have been working hard and long hours to help the people of the Costa Maya.
    I can see that your heart and efforts are in the right place.
    My prayers and donations to Playa Pals, Cliff, LocoGringo
    and all who work to help the people of Costa Maya will continue.

    Thank you for your opinion. Boston lawyer, eh? As in Boston Legal? Do you think we’re more like William Shatner or James Spader? 🙂 If we sound like lawyers, maybe it’s because Tony was one for 30 years–it’s hard to write like a normal person after all those years. We disagree there was more in our threads than an inquiry about the deleted post and information about our fundraising. We think people read into those posts what they wanted to see, not what we wrote. Regardless, nothing we posted warranted the personal attacks and name calling we encountered. That’s the point we’re trying to make with this blog. The behavior of some people on the locogringo thread was vicious, even slanderous. And there’s no excuse for that. Certainly none can be found in anything we posted. And of course thank you for your assistance to the Mahahual area regardless of where your donations went. We said in our postings on LG and we say it here: regardless of personal differences, we’re all working for the same goal.

    Tony & Cheri

  3. Pamela Thing said

    In reference to John’s comment above.
    I have never heard anything but wonderful things about
    Cheri and her husband’s hotel. I have read several trip
    reports by my fellow LocoGringos who very much enjoyed
    there stay. To make such a statement about their business
    is uncalled for.

  4. We thought a comment and our response from another Huricanne Dean blog entry might also be appropriate here:

    Jean Bell Says:
    September 7th, 2007 at 3:50 pm

    Hello Playa Pals,
    Just read on LG blog where they gave a check of $10,000.00 to the mayor of Q.R. in Chetumal.
    Please, Please I beg of you not to do that with the left over money that has been donated.
    LG said they were too busy to keep going to Mahahual and trusted the mayor.I know deep in thier hearts they really “think” they have done the best thing by turning over the money to the mayor.
    LG has also worked so hard for the Mahahual people, just as you all have but ANYONE that has lived down there in Mahahual and Chetumal know how corrupt all the goverment workers are.
    The last presedent(Fox) was informed in great detail about the corruption in Q.R. and did nothing!
    The only thing that was done was to take out revenge on the people of Mahaual that complained.
    We always joked about just driving around with our wallets hanging out of the window because as soon as they saw California on our license plates they would make up some excuse to pull us over, then we’d pay them on the spot and off we’d go.
    The town officials were just as corrupt. The Harbor Master of Mahahual would not let any boat go into the water , on cruise ship day without his 10% cut along with the bribes from the cruise port he demanded.Chetumal came to check out one complaint about the demands and those officials were promptly paid off by the Harbor Master! This i have proof of.
    So I just pray in my heart that the mayor will keep the agreement with LG and BEG you Not to just hand over any money to the Mexican goverment.
    Thanks Again
    jean

    Jean,

    Please don’t worry. No money raised by the Playa Pals is being turned over to anyone. We don’t disparage what LG did in their fundraising. We think they did a great job. We understand your concerns, but the decision to make that contribution was in the hands of LG’s administrators. We are confident that they did what they thought was best to serve the region, regardless of any concerns others may have had. And frankly from what we have seen, the State Government (to whom LG actually donated) has done a lot of good work in Mahahual and the rest of the Costa Maya. Remember they are trying to help a lot of people.

    However, from the very beginning, Playa Pals have made it clear that their fundraising is solely to be spent on emergency goods to be taken directly to the people of Mahahual by the Playa Pals. We are thrilled with the possibility that governement, Red Cross, or other humanitarian aid will be coming into the area. However, it has not arrived yet, and Playa Pals continues to provide food, water and supplies. We’re going to spend every last penny. Today, individual food packages (about 200 of them) are being prepared for distribution tomorrow. Water in gallon jugs is being purchased today in as large an amount as the trucks can carry. Members of our “Dutch Army” are also out buying hundreds of mosquito nets for distribution. They have also organized and are hosting a local fundraiser for Mahahual in Playa del Carmen tonight which offers a raffle with some great prizes, including 5 nights at our hotel.

    The administration of LG actually asked if we would take their surplus money and spend it in Mahahual for them. Although we have had some problems with the way we were treated on their forum, we said yes. However, subsequently they decided to donate the money to the Red Cross. Again, that’s their decision, not ours.

    Don’t worry, every penny raised will be spent in Mahahaul.

    Tony & Cheri

  5. Julie said

    First of all, I wanted to thank you for all of your efforts and everything you have done and continue to do for us in Mahahual. Kevin and you guys deserve a medal for what you have done unselfishly for our little community. We as business owners would like to see busines come back to Mahahual. We have contributed and will continue to contribute to Mahahual and to you guys. You are Awesome.. I am so sorry for all the contraversy you have encounter, I love you guys and am so greatful for what you do for us in Mahahual. now we ask you to help us promote our benefit dive we have for the 13th of Oct to the 15th to clean the reef, and to get tourism back in Mahahual, so we can start earning our living. and get Mahahual to become alive and everyone who had to leave to be able to come back to live in our private paradise, while it is still so virgin as it is… once the Malecon is installed we will no longer have Mahahual the way it was, it may be better, but it will not be the way it was… will you help us? and join us on this weekend? We would love to see you there, Dreamtime diving and Blue Ocean Safari and the community of Mahahual are sponsering this event. Coca Cola and Superior will also be sponsering us…so will you join us??? respectfully…

    julie Minter

    Julie,

    No thanks are needed for our help. We’re pleased to do it, and we’re only two of many, many people who have been participating. Unfortunately we’ll be back in San Francisco for a week when your event is happening, but we will spread the word as much as we can. Please send an email with more details so we can get the word out with all of the info. Good luck with your event. We can’t wait to see Mahahual back on its feet.

    Tony & Cheri

  6. Julie said

    I understand, and I’m so happy you responded.. we am on whitneys website, and we are on the mahahualmexico website, we are now on the events page of DAN, and project aware, I honestly believe if this big organizations are present that these local goverment officials such as CoraMalia will do something for the community, for I know you guys can only raise so much and bring so much… it is truly a shame.. Kevin and you guys are the bomb…. and I personally will always have a place for you in Mahahual, just like everyone else… thanks Tony and Chery,,,come have a rita on me someday, or if I’m in playa I will make it a point to come bug you guys….
    still people are sending donations to your website, I’m updated on all my customers who danate thru your website….

    peace…

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