Burning Man Project Now Selling Merchandise

…well, kind of. Being Burning Man, of course, it can’t be straightforward; they have to invent some cockamamie scheme and pretend that they’re not selling merchandise. Technically if you make a donation of $150, the not-for-profit subsidiary entitled the Burning Man Project will “gift” you a scarf. How they came up with the $150 price tag is anyone’s guess – it sounds a little on the high side to me, and beyond the reach of most of the hipsters who would want to wear it. Their description of the “donate for merchandise” process seems to pave the way for more  merchandise sales gifting in the future…

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Burning Man Project is offering an awesome grey cotton scarf to thank $150 donors to its end-of-year fundraising campaign. It’s a really soft, cuddly, stretchy, organic cotton fabric lovingly screened with the BMP skyline logo.

It’s versatile, unisex, machine washable. Its heathered, dark grey color navigates the line between goth/fashion editor/Gate, Perimeter and Exodus basic black and smoky/sultry/ashes-of-the-Man-at-Sunday-sunrise charcoal. You can wear it as a turban, a dust mask, a shawl, a sarong, a belt, or wrap it around your neck. As scarves go, it’s pretty great. But it’s mostly great because it’s a thank you GIFT for a crucial $150 donation. The scarf is 18 x 80 inches.

Burning Man Project’s purpose is to bring the lessons and values of the playa to the larger world. Through events, discussions, demonstration projects, and a growing platform of online learning, we are gearing up to share the Burner ethos with the broadest possible audience. All of this takes funding beyond the price of tickets to Black Rock City. So we are embarking on a new era, asking the Burner community to join us on this year-round adventure. We are inviting your involvement in making Burning Man Project into a worldwide force for participation, inclusion, and expression. And yes, we are asking for your donation.

So what does all of that have to do with a scarf? This is the first time we have used a gift as part of a donation campaign. We are treading lightly, understanding that the topic of money has special significance for the Burner community. But we need to function as a nonprofit to do this work in the world. And we want to show you our appreciation, so you can show the world you want this venture — and adventure — to succeed.

So accept our invitation, make a donation of $150, and let us gift you a scarf (or 2014 calendar, if you prefer.) Make a donation of any size, and receive our tremendous thanks and enthusiasm.Here’s the link.  

donate cartoonWhat does your $150 donation do to make the world a better place? So far it seems like you’re providing travel for the Burning Man founders, helping them host a panel discussion in their offices, and shipping an art car  around. “Worldwide force” indeed. 2013 ticket sales were $25.9 million (assuming that the mysteriously missing 7,000 tickets from their official page went for $380). Ice sales were at least $1 million on top of that – not to mention calendars, coffees, fine art, photo shoots, movie and soundtrack royalties, and the additional money donated to Black Rock Arts Foundation with our ticket purchases. It seems that just isn’t enough funding for them to deliver on their mission of global inclusion, hence the expansion into other forms of merchandise as an incentive for us to hand over even more cash to them.

What’s the point of all this pretending? BMOrg sells merchandise. Big deal. It’s a highly commodified money-making machine, we all know it, and their protestations to the contrary aren’t fooling anyone. Now can we buy t-shirts, please? Or, even better, can fashion designers make licensed merchandise and pay BMOrg royalties?

On another note, Robot Heart goggles are going for $100 on the aftermarket.

54 comments on “Burning Man Project Now Selling Merchandise

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  31. Using the LLC business model is an interesting decision. It allows you to have passive investors who can profit from the sale of shares, or collect dividends, without having legal liability for actions of LLC management. Also, voting is not based on the shares or percentage of ownership, but on the LLC contract. It allows you to take on investors, or grant partial ownership, without being bothered by those new members of the LLC having any voice in the LLC operations. You could, for example, grant ownership to another entity, such as a non-profit, without their having any say in the way the LLC is run. (It is the most often used form of business for real estate, replacing the “partnership” model.)

    • the specific complication of this LLC, is a clause in their charter that the members can only exit for a payout of $20k. I call this the “submarine model” – you’d better be real happy with the competence and scaleability of this crew, because you’re stuck with who you began the voyage with!

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  34. Maybe Burning Man can get past the quasi hippie socialism mirage that it’s mired in and promote the freedom of true free market capitalism. The smoke and mirrors of Burning Man LLC is the true problem, not the free exchange of goods and services using money. Just like the capitalism of Wall Street isn’t the problem, it’s the fascism.

    • Well said, Jim. If you take to the Wall Street Journal to announce your altruistic transformation to a charity, you should follow through on that; if you want to raise donations to promote your principles around the world, you should live by them (or come up with less ambiguous principles)

  35. As Black Rock City LLC is a non-profit, we can or should be able to see all expenditures and compensations in the 990 Forms from the IRS. Does anyone know the name of the actual organization that files the taxes? I tried searching on guidestar.org for the info but am not sure which one is the correct company. Radical inclusion and radical transparency…no?
    It is a nice scarf and a great size. Not something I would wear on the playa, but out in default, sure.

  36. I don’t understand the confusion. As the writer notes, the scarf isn’t worth $150.
    I don’t think the video I got from a PBS station was “worth” $250, but that is what I donated to the station. I do not consider this as the PBS station selling me a DVD for $250, so I don’t understand why the author feels giving away a scarf for a $150 donation is the same as selling the scarf. After all, I am sure BM would accept a $150 donation and let you decline the scarf.

    • I’ve got nothing against them selling merchandise – read the second to last paragraph. You think a scarf covered with their logo that can be yours for $150 is not selling merchandise, OK. Donate away! It seems kind of ironic to me though that we are all supposed to donate to help them spread the Sacred Ten Principles around the world – and yet “Gifting” is not supposed to be “bartering”, and “Decommodification” is not supposed to mean Burning Man logos going on all kinds of items being traded for money. Here’s what their own web site says about that:

      “Gifting
      Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.

      Decommodification
      In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.”

      • And this site sells drama. Nothing against you doing that but when you post things like BM had a million in ice sales to make it appear they profit from this, and that is not true, one can see your slant is not for truth but drama.

      • WRT Boring’s comment. We don’t sell ANYTHING here, or profit from Burning Man in any way. We’re not the ones commodifying this culture, you’re attacking the messenger – presumably in order to defend BMorg. And we’re discussing revenues, the event is supposed to be a subsidiary of this new NON profit.
        Arctica made a statement that they sold 2.14 million pounds of ice this year. If you don’t believe our Maths, show us your competing calculation . Here’s their statement from Facebook : “From Jennifer Spitfyre:
        “Factoid for the day.. We at Arctica sold 2.14 million pounds of ice at Burning Man this year! Every single pound of that was hand carried by BRC volunteers from ice truck to BRC citizen’s hands! Big increase from last year where we sold 1.68 million pounds of ice!”…that’s 1070 tons of ice.”

      • Here’s more financial data and analysis. We have to do some guesswork, because this is NOT a transparent organization and there are two sets of books: the published “financial reports” are not the actual financial statements, are confusing, and leave a lot of stuff out. But it’s educated guesswork, we show our workings…and we always invite others to provide more data or their own calculations. http://burners.me/2013/10/26/2012-financials/

      • There is your spin again. I did not say they did not sell ice. I wrote it what you did in a manner so that it was easy for a reader to assume they profited off those sales. Just as you state the donation is the ‘selling’ of a scarf. I am not defending anything/anyone but accuracy. Those who tend to avoid that to make an issue bigger than it is, are selling drama.

      • Boring, who do you think got the money from the ice sales if not BMOrg? Read the link I posted to their financials, the cost of ice and coffee was only $300k or so.

      • That profits from ice and coffee sales go to local charities has always been the case and for BurnersXXX to not know this shows the lack of facts in the financials he totes. Same as Vogue paying to take photos on the plays, a statement never corrected by Scribe. I’m not saying all the points are wrong that are presented by this site, but accuracy is not something to expected from it.

      • To the Borg shills: Either a) you don;t understand basic business terms; or, b) you bet that the reader does not. The ice sales is mentioned with the ticket “sales.” These are both gross revenue numbers. No profit is implied. Either bone up on your basic business, or stop betting that the reader will buy your obfuscation. Try the truth sometime.

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