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September 12 2013

CSTS is seeking opinion on charity donation distribution percentages. The discussion on whether or not to let cities donate more of the current 25% of monies raised to a charity other than Equality Now and they are seeking opinions from the fandom. If you wish to comment on twitter, they are asking you use #cstssay as a hashtag.

There is also an active discussion on Facebook and the CSTS website itself, so pick your poison! We will have a poll at the end of Sept after everyone has had a chance to read and discuss and think about it.
Just can't see anyone having a problem with the 75/25 split.
To aid in the discussion, the following are posts from Amanda Sullivan, representing Equality Now, which were posted to the CSTS forum during the Event Organizer consultation in late August. [posted with permission]

"I just want to weigh in here that, yes, of course we are ok with whatever you all come up with. You do all the work, every year, year after year, and the results have been mind-blowing, spectacular and have helped us more than I can tell you. Equality Now is small, you know, and because of that we do not like to duplicate efforts on any given issue. Violence against women and girls is ubiquitous, a worldwide epidemic and we would like to take up so much more but we simply can't. Rather we work with our grassroots partners in the other countries to strategically support their efforts for justice for women and girls. An exception to the Action campaigns is our Levenson work (UK), also our work on pressing for a UN Committee on Discrimination against women in law put in place to monitor countries, as we believe that laws must be enacted and enforced, also our SOAWR work in Africa. These are broader issues and are just as strategically important as our campaign work. Again, we always work in collaboration with our partners and focus on pressuring governments through strategic litigation, to enact and enforce laws protecting their women and girls.

We are also always sorely in need of funding, especially now as we are going through a period of major growth that is necessitating a lot of adjustments and organizational changes. It was bound to come eventually, we are 20 years old now and growth was inevitable, and is a good sign! Obviously, we need funding in order to realize that growth (85-88% of our funds go to our programs) and I hope you ALL know how extremely and deeply grateful we are for your extraordinary support and efforts on our behalf.

Having said all that I want to also reassure you that we totally understand your desire to support your local charities, and how important doing so - in varying degrees - might be to all of you. I believe it is a tribute to who you are, every city uniquely so.

I hope, WE hope that you are all able to come to a compromise that is satisfactory to everyone. I am sure that you will be able to. All of you do this every year for FREE. The way I see it is, you do it because you love Joss, you love the crew, the series and the movie, you love getting together and pulling it together and celebrating. You love the community of CST. It truly is a unique and brilliant example of people working together for a common purpose. I have witnessed it firsthand and it is very, very SHINY.

One more thing, I hope you won’t ever hesitate to come to me with any questions about anything involving Equality Now and/or our history with Joss, with CSTS, our future, anything.

With all my warmest wishes,
Mandy"

"Just to let you know, EN was/is part of that coalition re: representation of women in the media, from the very beginning. Our London office director was quoted often in your press and had a fantastic piece in the Guardian. There is a lot that we do that we do not do Action Campaigns on, this being a prime example. Everything we do is up on the website."

"We cannot register in Canada without 'bricks and mortar'."
Personally, I'm in favour of leaving the split as it is - minimum 75% for Equality Now, maximum 25% to other charities (where groups can choose to donate 75%-100% to Equality Now, with the remaining going to charities of their choice).

The purpose of CSTS has (from it's very beginning) been about raising money and awareness for Equality Now, not just being a general charity event for Browncoats. There are many opportunities for Browncoats to raise funds for local charities, and there are no limitations that state that only CSTS events can organise screenings of Serenity or Whedonverse content or other activities for charity. While I understand that there are some groups who would prefer to raise money for local charities (particularly when there is no national Equality Now office in their country), CSTS has always been intended to be an Equality Now fundraiser. And for what it's worth, Equality Now's donor base isn't as large as you might think - like many other charities, they're sorely in need of funding.

To me, CSTS is not just about having a large dollar figure raised for a whole lot of charities. From it's beginnings, it's meant to be about using Joss Whedon's works (specifically Serenity) to raise awareness and funds for Equality Now.

I wasn't particularly keen on the reduction from 100% for Equality Now (back in 2009), but I am accepting of the desire for that change. I feel that to reduce it further would create an environment that steers CSTS away from being an Equality Now fundraiser, and instead towards being a catch-all Browncoat charity event (which could then cause groups to feel restrained from organising non-CSTS fundraising activities because they may feel like they have to organise under the CSTS banner as some kind of "that's how Browncoats fundraise" expectation, as well as cause us to lose the focus of CSTS).

Full Disclosure: I am a member of the CSTS Global Steering Committee, a past Global Team member (2009) and have also been organiser/crew of CSTS events in Melbourne, Australia (2007, 2009-2013) and Vancouver, Canada (2006).
Full Disclosure: I'm involved in one of the cities whose organizing committees has requested the review of the split.

We stared holding CSTS events in 2010 (prior to that another group organized CSTS in our area and the city had a 2 year break with no event organized) and likely would never have registered to host a CSTS event had the split been 100% for EN, 0% for local charities, so luckily the review in 2009 passed the mustard.

We are located in a country with no EN presence. In essence, we are donating to a foreign charity while ignoring similar organizations in our home country. This is one of the main reasons we'd like a different split; we'd like to become more active in our own areas without having to leave the CSTS fold. However, should we choose to leave CSTS, we will continue to donate a portion of our revenues to the charities we've always supported, which includes EN.

Outside of the US, wherein I have no familiarity with their screening rights costs, there is no discounted rate to screen "Serenity" for being part of the CSTS fold. We can purchase the same screening rights (sometimes for a lower cost) through any theatrical or non-theatrical venue.

I am aware of at least 1 other city in our country, and multiple cities in the US, which have been hosting non-CSTS registered screenings of "Serenity" for years; donating a smaller portion to EN and the bulk to local charities. Their accomplishments are virtually ignored because they aren't part of the "global" umbrella. The funds they raise for EN are never added to the CSTS totals.

Another organizer has proposed a possible solution, that of creating an additional category of events; a "partner" category. Currently, CSTS events are either screenings (includes "Serenity") and affiliate events (no "Serenity"). A "partner" category could be listed separately, perhaps under a separate logo/banner design, choose how they split their funds raised (as long as some portion is donated to EN). The EN portion of the partner's charity donations would then be added to the annual CSTS Global tally of funds raised on behalf of EN.

Organizers, global and local, work long and hard hours for free, often at great personal expense. I think it's time to allow organizers more autonomy in how and when the results of their work is distributed.

We will continued to support EN outside of CSTS if we leave due to the split decision, so EN will continue to benefit from our activities. The only thing at stake is that CSTS as an organization wouldn't be able to count any of our future support of EN towards their annual total of funds raised, not that EN can't count on us.
I have always felt strongly that the purpose of CSTS was to honor Joss and his support of Equality Now. I felt that other people, with other agendas, were trying to wedge their way in with that business of reducing the amount for Equality Now. In fact I had heard some anti-Equality Now sentiment as the reason/excuse for reducing the amount to 75% (evidently some Fundamentalist Christians find EN objectionable).

Now obviously if the local groups have other interests that they want to promote then that is fine. I don't think they should necessarily feel free to use the CSTS name to promote those interests however. I would hate to see this end up being something Joss wouldn't recognize.
I am aware of at least 1 other city in our country, and multiple cities in the US, which have been hosting non-CSTS registered screenings of "Serenity" for years
Where?
"I am aware of at least 1 other city in our country, and multiple cities in the US, which have been hosting non-CSTS registered screenings of "Serenity" for years; donating a smaller portion to EN and the bulk to local charities. Their accomplishments are virtually ignored because they aren't part of the "global" umbrella. The funds they raise for EN are never added to the CSTS totals."

Nor should they, IMO, as they were not part of the CSTS screenings. That doesn't ignore their accomplisments. It just doesn't add them to an organzied fundraising event they were not part of. It'd be like CSTS taking credit for money they didn't raise. The fact they do it with a screening of Serenity is beside the point.
The Ottawa & Austin Browncoats immediately comes to mind. I won't presume to say I know 100% of the reason why either group left; I don't. However, in Ottawa's case, they left the CSTS umbrella a few years ago to run their own event but still donate a portion of their funds raised to EN.
I wasn't particularly keen on the reduction from 100% for Equality Now (back in 2009), but I am accepting of the desire for that change.
FWIW (for anyone not around/following along back then), my recollection is that change happened because it was much easier to rope in theater venues when organizers could tell them some local charity was getting money, too.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2013-09-12 18:24 ]
"Nor should they, IMO, as they were not part of the CSTS screenings. That doesn't ignore their accomplisments. It just doesn't add them to an organzied fundraising event they were not part of. It'd be like CSTS taking credit for money they didn't raise. The fact they do it with a screening of Serenity is beside the point."

Yet they WERE CSTS cities who have left the overarching organization ... not groups that did their own thing from the beginning.
Austin didn't leave because of who funds had to go to. I'll just leave it at that because we've been through that particular thicket before here.
I didn't say any groups left because of who the funds went to. Nor did I intend to imply that. I don't know if any groups that have left would return should the split change. I apologize if I caused any confusion on that point.

What I do know is that my city (or at least, our group) doesn't have the bandwidth to host CSTS and an *other* screening event. We asked prior to the 2013 season for split to be reviewed this year so we can remain with CSTS rather than leaving in favour of hosting an *other* event.

Whatever decision the overall group makes is fine with us. But it will determine our future activities.
I'm still working my own way through the funding split issue, but I have a question: if a more flexible split were to be permitted, should there be a requirement that the other charities at least be related to the same work/interest area that EN does/has? And, if so, who decides whether or not it's related enough? If a local group wanted to organize a CSTS screening and give 51% to EN and 49% to, say, a pet rescue operation, is that consistent with CSTS' mission or should that be denied? Mostly, I don't think it's enough to just say "more flexibility". My own thought process, anyway, needs to know what kind of flexibility we're talking about here. I could see an argument for flexibility that remains within the topic areas Equality Now works in, but not so much an argument for "whatever local or regional charities we want to pick". But then that would require an arbiter of appropriateness.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2013-09-12 18:39 ]
But what is the reasoning behind insisting an event to raise money for other charities be a CSTS event? There is nothing stoping a city from doing a different event. It just won't be a CSTS one.
"I could see an argument for flexibility that remains within the topic areas Equality Now works in, but not so much an argument for "whatever local or regional charities we want to pick". But then that would require an arbiter of appropriateness."

True, and that opens a slippery slope argument. I believe that the charities supported should be related to women's/children's rights (e.g. "Because I am a girl"), equality & safety issues (including local foodbanks & homeless shelters, supports for individuals with developmental disabilities, hospitals, Red Cross, etc.), or the cast member's chosen charities (e.g. KNTR, Austism societies, etc.). I'm sure there's a bazillion more that might qualify under those conditions.

But I'm also 100% AGAINST the use of funds raised through our events being used to finance any Browncoat organization or activity above and beyond paying the initial costs (venue rental, licensing, etc.) to host the event.
Some questions:

How many current screenings would likely be lost if the math didn't change?

What are the typical kinds of local charities that currently make up the 25%?

How much is this motivated by a desire or need to include a local charity versus ideological conflicts?

[ edited by Sunfire on 2013-09-12 18:58 ]
FWIW, it was not "100% to Equality Now" prior to 2009. I am reading the old Yahoo group and some groups were donating some portions to local charities prior to 2009. I am not sure where this 100% prior to 2009 thing came from. In fact, Toronto had discussions with a local charity in 2006 but were turned down by the charity.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2013-09-12 18:59 ]
"But what is the reasoning behind insisting an event to raise money for other charities be a CSTS event? There is nothing stoping a city from doing a different event. It just won't be a CSTS one."

I can't speak to any other group or person's reasoning. Here's ours:

We're a registered not-for-profit organization, accountable to our board and membership. Our members have decided they want to increase the funds we give to our partner charities (KNTR & a local youth shelter) while still supporting EN to a lesser degree. We planned to leave the CSTS fold because the existing event split didn't mesh with those goals.

After speaking with this year's Global leader at the beginning of the year, we agreed to participate in 2013 based on Global's promise to review the split %.

If the split changes, we may be able to reach our group goals while still being involved in the Global event. If it doesn't, we part ways per the original plan.

That's it. End of story. We stayed involved in the event an extra year on the promise of this discussion. We'll respect the decision made and make our plans to move forward based on the vote results.
But that still doesn't explain why CSTS needs to alter it's percentages. If you can do events and raise money for your chosen charities I don't see an issue.
b!X, when you started it, it was 100% to Equality Now, yes? So it changed sometime after that. And some cities continue to donate 100% to EN.
Sunfire,

How many current screenings would likely be lost if the math didn't change?


I don't know the answer to that. As a member of the Global Team for the last 3 years, I have not heard anyone else say it was a problem to the extent that they would leave. We have had cities request a one time exemption because of events in their cities that made them want to donate more money to a particular cause.

What are the typical kinds of local charities that currently make up the 25%?

I'd have to go take a look but off the top of my head, a lot of women's shelters, Kids Need to Read is a popular one, and a wide variety of charities for specific diseases. There are also Animal welfare charities, Habitat for Humanity and Food Banks.

How much is this motivated by a desire or need to include a local charity versus ideological conflicts
Organizers would have to answer this one.
If a current city drops out, is there not a chance that somebody else could run the event for CSTS?
gossi, in theory sure. But I'm not sure the fan base/potential organizer base is quite large enough to result in that.

Lioness, that was my position, although as you can see upthread, according to the Yahoo group you'd asked a local charity if you could include them that first year and were turned down. So, it couldn't have been an absolute hard and fast rule.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2013-09-12 19:32 ]
"But that still doesn't explain why CSTS needs to alter it's percentages. If you can do events and raise money for your chosen charities I don't see an issue."

We can't do both CSTS AND hold a separate event to raise funds for alternate chosen charities to the level we wish to. Which is why we asked for the review. We'd like to continue with CSTS, but in it's current form, it's not feasible. CSTS Global offered to hold the discussion. They didn't promise anything would change.
No, we asked that when we were running a table at a con before Serenity came out. It was a fan table promoting the movie. We wanted to raise money for charity and yes, a local woman's group entirely missed the point about the movie so we gave the money raised to a local AIDS group instead.
Ah, that's not the impression that Yahoo group thread gives. I didn't see that context provided in the thread. But, regardless, my underlying point is the "100% to EN until 2009" thing is a myth. There's lots of references to local charities in the Yahoo group before 2009.
The 100% to EN might be a myth, but I seem to recall that at some point people were been concerned that too many charties would take focus from the events being for EN and that was why a figure of 25/75 was established. Right? It's been a while. Someone with a better memory (or better google-fu) let me know if I'm remembering correctly.

But my question I think is being misunderstood about why a CSTS event. I mean, if you can do a screening and raise money for whatever charity (or charities) that is chosen, why does it have to be a CSTS screening? What is it that a city gets from CSTS that it matter that their screening is included?
"What is it that a city gets from CSTS that it matter that their screening is included?"

Us? Nothing.

I can't speak for other cities.

Edited to add: Perhaps the better question is why did Global offer to hold the discussion, then choose to take it to public forums, rather than have us quietly fade off into memory and go about doing our own thing?

[ edited by she on 2013-09-12 19:58 ]
The philosophical issue here, I think, is whether the primary intent still is to use Joss' work to support his charity of choice, or use fandom to support fans' charities of choice. The original intent, obviously, was the former, with some adaptation over time mostly to accommodate being able to rope in venues. It seems this is a conversation about to what degree can CSTS bend before it's not CSTS anymore... or rather where the interested and involved people think that breaking point is and is not.

There was an earlier debate along the way about whether or not groups could do something other than shoe Serenity and still be a CSTS event. Those involved will remember I was pretty hard against that, arguing that an event/brand has a definition. (You could stay at home and walk a treadmill to support a cancer walk, say, but that cancer walk has no obligation to consider you a part of the walk.) But that discussion eventually led to the Affiliate event idea, which sort of straddled the line.

Also, it's unclear to me what's being asked for. 75% to other charities and 25% to Equality Now? 51/49? 49/51? Anything goes?

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2013-09-12 20:03 ]

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2013-09-12 20:03 ]
B!x - we asked for a minimum of 25% to go to EN. Others have suggested a 50/50 split and still others suggested making a separate category. It's all very up in the air as I understand it.
"Edited to add: Perhaps the better question is why did Global offer to hold the discussion, then choose to take it to public forums, rather than have us quietly fade off into memory and go about doing our own thing?"

I'm not part of the global committee but since it's the fans who attend that ultimately make the screenings a success I don't see why it wouldn't be open to the public.
"I'm not part of the global committee but since it's the fans who attend that ultimately make the screenings a success I don't see why it wouldn't be open to the public."

True. But it certainly would have been easier to say, "nope, we're not changing" to which we could have said "thanks, but no thanks", and the discussion never would have had to happen at all; public or not.
That isn't a discussion involving the fans if they decided without asking, she.
I realize that gossi. However, please see my earlier posting about why the discussion came about in the first place.
The completionist in me (or maybe it's just Round Numbers Guy) sort of wants to suggest getting CSTS, as is, through next year and then the next (its 10th), let it have a decade straight, and then morph it into something else. Something broader both within/across Joss fandoms and in terms of charities supported.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2013-09-12 20:55 ]
It'd be helpful if we could steer away from discussion about whether or not this should have been brought up for broader input and just talk about the input. I realize there are legitimate points of disagreement on that topic but I fear we'll end up in the weeds and mostly having a discussion that would be more appropriate for the CSTS board.
Being unclear about the charity goals would dilute what CSTS means, as a brand. A requirement that at least 75% goes towards pro-women charities keeps the CSTS spirit, and if some of these pro-women charities are local, it might even improve goodwill and achieve more.

(Disclaimer: European fan)

[ edited by Tobu on 2013-09-12 22:29 ]
While I don't mean to sound crass, my thoughts about this might come off sounding that way, so I apologize right now for any unintentional offence.

For me, the issue seems to stem from the basic issue of "what is my money being used for?" when it comes to money raised by CSTS screenings; whether it's everything raised excluding funds used to cover operational costs for screenings, or a specific portion of "profit" being donated to Equality Now, people wonder what the funds donated allow to happen and how much of a change it brings to fixing problems the designated charity/charities were established to target. Equality Now is a sadly necessary entity and its efforts are helping to make great strides in getting gender equality to become a norm and see practices like female genital mutilation done away with as part of their support efforts. However, EN is a fairly new charity and doesn't have the same "sex appeal" via celebrity pitchmen/pitchwomen or a single massive crisis that acts as a "face" for a bigger issue which spurs a major donation effort like the Red Cross or OxFam or Amnesty International. That is on top of the more vague nature of what EN is trying to do, since even organization execs admit they're currently doing more as a support structures for local groups striving for the same goals rather than being an independent voice trying to talk to various governments/cultures about instituting changes at the same time, spreading themselves too thin. That and the fact that EN is a "foreign" charity in a number of countries because of laws like Canada's requiring a physical presence of an charity in the country to be granted charitable organization status. I know that, personally, if I agree to give money to a charity or service organization, I want to know I have at least a middling to high level of clarity on what the money will be used for and (occasionally) a timeline for resolving an issue, even if the timeline says resolution is decades off because of how far along efforts are; I personally wonder if there's too much of the same thinking going with other people, where people want a level of certainty EN can't feasibly give at this stage, so people decide they'd prefer to contribute to entities that apparently can so they can feel assured the money isn't being pissed away or sat on.

My 2 bits of platinum re: changing the donation formula for CSTS events is that the current formula is the best solution for the moment, as the whole idea of screening Serenity for charity was to support EN due to it being Joss' top charity. In my mind, I have to agree with the talking heads who note making too big of an adjustment risks making the issue more divisive because suddenly the official mandate of raising funds for EN becomes a lot less accurate of a statement than before. Though I do happily admit that b!x's idea of letting CSTS get to age 10 under its current description before revamping its mandate seems like a solid plan as well, since opinions could change based on local and international events to come.
"She" says
"What is it that a city gets from CSTS that it matter that their screening is included?"

Us? Nothing.

This is untrue. Your city shows Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog and episodes of Felicia Day's The Guild. This is only possible because every year CSTS approaches the Powers that Be and request permission to A. Show them and B. show them without having to pay for them.
Because CSTS has been getting permission for years, it is easy to forget that this is not a given.
"This is untrue. Your city shows Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog and episodes of Felicia Day's The Guild. This is only possible because every year CSTS approaches the Powers that Be and request permission to A. Show them and B. show them without having to pay for them.Because CSTS has been getting permission for years, it is easy to forget that this is not a given."

What you say is true. However, it has not been our experience that the licenses you listed made much of a difference to our city in the short term or long run.

Over the past few years our affiliate events brought in very few people. They didn't raise the profile of EN or our other supported charities. They didn't even raise the profile of the main CSTS event. They cost more to run than we managed to raise through them. Organizers frequently donated funds out of their pockets post event so that something is turned in to CSTS out of a feeling of obligation. Not because CSTS or the affiliate events were supported by the community.

We've raised more for EN on a non-CSTS arranged screening license, our "non-affiliate" event, than we have ever managed on our affiliate events.

I can't honestly say we'd miss them once we no longer have access to them. Assuming we can't negotiate licensing on our own. What I do know is that there have been times in the past where trying to get tangible proof that Global had permission to screen some of these items was difficult. Sometimes organizer's just had to take it on faith that we'd be covered if questioned.

So, were these licenses enough to have made a difference as to whether or not we stayed on as an event in 2013? I'd have to say no.

We stayed because the split review discussion was promised.

** Please note that I'm only speaking for our own city. Other cities may have very different experiences. I stand by my original response.
To answer NYPinTA's question of "What is it that a city gets from CSTS that it matter that their screening is included?" in addition to what Lioness mentioned above (though I'm sure that Geek and Sundry would consider granting approval to screen their content to other groups too if asked), those who choose to participate in CSTS also receive:
- support from other event organisers (very helpful for new or small events)
- support from global sponsors through prize donations(may not be that significant for larger or more established events, but can be very helpful for new/small events or those who either don't have contacts themselves or who are nervous asking)
- promotional support to spread the word their event (again, possibly not necessary for larger/established events but very helpful for others)

Regarding queries about the history of the donation proportion: The proportional split was set in 2009 by the then Global Steering Committee and Global Team to settle a question that had been asked for a number of years (it makes it easier for organisers to know what they can do, rather than having a moving target all the time). The timing was simply because CSTS was getting a bit more structured (after CSTS had found it's feet and due to some lessons learned from challenges faced by past global teams). They settled on 75/25 as a reasonable proportional split (which the CSTS community at the time seemed quite happy with). Prior to this, there may have been events that were using a different split Many cities still donate 100% to Equality Now.
To JenskiJen's list I'd add that with CSTS having been around for 8 years and raised over $800,000 (all charities included), there is a respectability, especially for new events, that comes with being associated with a known group. Events that have been doing it for awhile have their own record to point to, of course.
My figurative two cents: CSTS was organized specifically to show "Serenity" to raise money for Equality Now. Equality Now still needs money. Anyone wishing to raise money for something else, or just donate money for something else, is entirely free to do so in any way *except* under the CSTS banner, because of its specific stated goals. Again, just my two cents.
As someone who stopped running events because of clashes with organizers I can understand why organizers want more flexibility. However, unless its changed, CSTS global provides a lot to organizers. They have permissions to screens, contacts in place for other screenings, they organize a logo, tshirt and poster designs and printing at much discounted rates because of sheer numbers. They also organized global sponsors who donated swag for organizers to auction or raffle off. They even were offering website space when I left for each city.

I think it's a bit rich to accept all that, which they do with the intent of it benefiting EN, and then expect to be able to give a small fraction to EN.

It would be different if they didn't supply any support or goods etc. and anyone can screen serenity for general charity, so the question is, what separates a general charity screening of serenity from a csts one?
The poll is now open for voting. You can find it here

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