Friday, December 14, 2012

Butt Kicking For Goodness - Trying to Peek Behind the Curtain of the Gygax Memorial Fund

An email I received earlier reminds me that I need to bring 2000Coppers.com live as a blog people can use pseudonyms to post on, because asking questions and holding the feet of those that need to be held to the fire isn't just my responsibility - it belongs to all of us that have an interest in the RPG hobby.

In any case, I've been asked to step away from Kickstarters with this post. Kickstarters are a fundraiser for projects in which we can actually see how much money is raised, the number of backers and the like. It isn't so with all fundraisers.

Probably the most well known fundraiser in our hobby is the Gygax Memorial Fund. The fund has some viable and noteworthy goals which are as follows:

The specific objectives and tax exempt purpose of this 501(C)(3) organization shall be:

-To commission and place a memorial in a public park of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, to honor Gary Gygax by commemoration of literary achievement in the creation of Dungeons & Dragons and other published works 
-To maintain this memorial in perpetuity 
-To sponsor informational events open to the public which focus on his work 
-To engage in other activities related to educating the public about his achievement 
-And to establish a scholarship program in his name for students with a demonstrated need for assistance to study at an accredited college or university 
This organization has received approval from the municipality to place the memorial in a public park and is receiving contributions from the public for the creation and placement of the memorial, which is expected to be completed within a three (3) year period.
But my anonymous source has the following observations and questions:

I'd bet that the Gygax Memorial Fund has taken more money than any other project in OSR land, to no visible result (that's probably a sure bet) . If you wanted to go outside your usual beat a little (and appreciate how much transparency is already built into Kickstarter as opposed to other ways to raise funds), here are some of the questions you might ask:

1) When will Cheers, Gary be reissued?
This I had to research. It was a book composed of some of EGG's best posts from ENWorld. Reissuing would be awesome, and I'd grab this in a heartbeat. Wouldn't have to be signed either.

2) How much money has been raised (from donations from fans, from the sales of Cheers Gary, from the AD&D reprints, from other companies)? I'd be interested in not just the sum total, but a breakdown by source. Did we ever find out from WotC what percentage of the price of the AD&D 1e reprints was going to the fund?

3) What is the funding goal? From what I can see, it is open ended. There should be a specific goal for the amount needed for the memorial, but I couldn't find that info on the Memorial site.

4) What is the budget for the statue; how will the money be spent? Damn good question. No info on the  Memorial site

5) What is the expected date of completion for the statue? Well, it says within a 3 year period, but a 3 year period from when? Actually, when is the actual founding date of the Gygax Memorial Fund? First reference on the site seems to indicate around summer 2011 / GenCon. The Lake Geneva Town Council minutes referenced below are from March 28, 2011. 

6) Has a design for the statue been chosen? If it was, I suspect it would be shown on the Memorial website. It isn't. 

7) The minutes from the Lake Geneva Town Council make it clear that the location granted to the GMF for the statue is on a wetland. Building there would require approval from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Has it been obtained? No indication on the Memorial website. Actually, the Memorial website is pretty light on any true information regarding progress on the goals stated above.

Tough questions. I wish they were mine.

Few if any answers, which sucks.

How much has been raised by the Gygax Memorial Fund is a pretty interesting question.

How about these:

What are the expenses of the fund?

Are the board members drawing a salary?

What size award and how many are the planned scholarships?

Are there examples of the types of informational events planned?

This post probably isn't going to win me many friends as I suspect it is kicking up some dirt where many would rather it not get kicked.

I respected Gary, and interacted with him on ENWorld on more than one occasion. He was a gentleman. He is the father of this hobby. Our patron Saint, our St. Cuthbert if you will.

I'd like to honor the man, but I'd like some actual details from the memorial fund that bears his name before I give any more money than I already have (I bought the AD&D 1e reprints. What can I say? I still don't know how much went to the memorial fund).


  1. Interesting and good stuff, I really appreciate your scrutiny on both the Kickstarters and now the Gygax Memorial Fund, something my own group locally was discussing (especially the lack of info on just how much money from the AD&D reprints went to the fund). When you say you were "asked to step away from Kickstarters with this post" I hope that was only to focus on this, and not a veiled threat from KS goons with pillow-cases full of soap bars, though! I really have been enjoying your KS analysis.

  2. I think these are all reasonable questions to ask of an outfit looking for donations. As a 503(c), what sort of information are they obligated to disclose?

    1. A 501(c)(3) organization has to make available its exemption application and its annual tax return such as Form 990/990-EZ/990-PF/990-T and Form 1065.

      Requests can be made in writing (fax/email/etc) or in person to the principal office or any regional/district offices with three or more employees. If requested in writing, the organization has 30 days to honor the request. They are allowed to charge a fee for copying and actual postage; if they do, they must make the approximate cost and acceptable form(s) of payment known within 7 days of receiving the request.

      You can also request the information directly from the IRS via Form 4506-A.

  3. A statue might be erected sometime - but I wouldn't bet on it.

  4. 501(c)(3) organizations are required by the IRS to make their completed IRS-990 form available to the public for inspection. There are specific guidelines as to how that is to be done. However, the information is available for free online at Guidestar.com (there are some other places online where the info can be found). The IRS-990 form is completed annually in lieu of a tax return. It contains the annual revenue (by type of source, not by name), expenses, fundraising expenses, assets and investments, list of Directors/Trustees, and possibly some limited information about staff compensation. There are also some yes/no questions about policies related to the Board of Directors/Trustees and financial practices.

    501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations are not required to disclose information about individual donors (identity and amount).

    Individual U.S. states may require additional disclosures. That info is usually found on the websites of each state's Dept of State (or equivalent dept). Donors can also request more information from an organization before contributing.

    1. Unfortunately guidestar.com is woefully lacking in information. They only have a single 990 form, from 2010. It lists $11,285 in contributions, $4,055 in expenses, and $7,230 in assets. None of the officers receive any compensation, and Gail Gygax is listed as the president.

      http://www.nonprofitfacts.com//WI/Gygax-Memorial-Fund-Inc.html lists the 2011 income as $15,373 with $9,774 in assets, but I don't know how accurate that is.

  5. @seth - let me get this straight -

    they ended 2010 with $7,230 in assets

    in 2011, they took in over $15k, but ended up with only $9,774 in assets

    thats a net expenditure of of just under $13k in 2011

    either the numbers are wrong or there is a significant amount of shrinkage, and not from the cold water in the pool


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