Sweet Charity

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Community
Name: Sweet Charity
Date(s): 2006-2010
Moderator: Lithium Doll
Founder: Lithium Doll
Type:
Fandom: Multiple Fandoms
URL: http://www.sweet-charity.net/
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banner advertising the auction

"Fandom as a slightly squishy whole contains some of the most talented and generous people imaginable. Which is fortunate because, otherwise, they'd be completely unsellable..." ~ Lithium Doll

Sweet Charity was an online fan run charity auction that took place mainly among the Livejournal blogging communities. The model was simple: fans would offer to write a story, edit a songvid, create art or offer baked goods, jewelry and apparel to raise funds for charities. Other people would bid on these items and the funds would go to the charity. Between 2006 and 2010, it raised over $80,000 for a wide range of charities covering sexual abuse, medical research, children and even in support of a writer's union. Both the sellers and bidders were primarily women.

The charity went on a brief hiatus in 2009 partially due to the overwhelming number of participants. It ran a scaled down charity auction in 2010 that raised $6,000.

Auctions were run twice each year in March and September - the first charity to be supported each year was RAINN (Rape and Abuse Incest National Network) with the second charity being chosen by a poll.

Stats

2009 thank you letter from RAINN. The charity auction raised almost $15,000 that year which was matched, bringing in $29,000 of funding. Click to read

From 2006 to 2009, 848 volunteers auctioned off their goods and services and 942 fans placed bids and won. 2,242 items were created that raised a total of $83,402.29. In 2010, a "mini-auction" raised an additional $6,000 bringing the total funds raised for charity to $89,000.

Charities supported

  • RAINN (every year, twice in 2007 when the second charity did not respond to the offer to raise funds)
  • National Marfans Foundation (2006)
  • Writers Guild Foundation Industry Support Fund (2008)
  • Invisible Children (2009)

In June 2006, approximately 50 fans offered their services or crafts. By March 2007, bidding opened with over 140 participants (and the number climbed higher by the end of the charity auction). By September 2007, the number opened at 204 and by 2009 as many as 281 fans were offering their services up for auction.

The Tech Behind The Mirror

Perhaps even more impressive than the number of participants and the funds raised was the fact that lithium doll designed the Sweet Charity auction platform code from scratch. Over the years her code tweaks also added features such as the ability to place multiple bids, track and be notified of competing bids, a tags masterlist, multiple donations payable to Paypal in one go, and personalized advertising buttons.

In 2009, as the charity began winding down, lithium doll offered the code for free to anyone who wanted to host a similar online charity.[1] It was later used to run the help haiti charity auction.

Sample Projects

Fan Fic

When putting their skills up for bid, fan writers would often write short blurbs describing what fandoms they would be willing to write it, the story length they were offering, and any other features.

A sample offering:

"I'm offering two fics over 1,000 words each in the fandoms I'm currently active in - SG-1, SGA, Gilmore Girls or Supernatural. Gen stories a preference but I'm willing to negotiate on pairing-centric fics. Crossover requests are welcome. My only 'no' is [I will not write fiction in] any [of my] current WIPs or verses."[2]

Other fans offered a even more detailed lists of what they'd be willing to write. An example can be found here from a fan who was offering fan fic, vids and fan art.[3]

Vids

In addition to listing their fandoms, vidders would also offer links to their existing vids so that buyers could preview their work:
Buyer input: Name your fandom and give me a song and leave me to it or provide me with a prompt or more fleshed out theme.

Song choice: I would prefer 2 or 3 song options from different genres. The only genre I will exclude is Emo and its sub genres.

I am happy to vid any pairing including slash/femslash, character studies, ensemble pieces, multifandom. I will vid humour, angst and anything in between.

Please note that if you choose Buffy, Spike is off the menu.

Fandoms: Battlestar Galactica (2003), Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Doctor Who (new), Firefly, Harry Potter, Jericho, Life, Merlin, Movies (Miscellaneous), Supernatural, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, True Blood, United States of Tara.

To see examples of my previous works please visit...."[4]

While the charity never kept a list of all the vids made by Sweet Charity vidders over the years, Morgan Dawn did create two Sweet Charity Compilation DVDs.

Art

Fan artists' offerings were often less restrictive: "I will make a batch of 20 icons, 2 headers/banners of any size, and 1 wallpaper. You can request any fandom, pairing, person, place, and/or thing. You can also request from multiple fandoms. If it's not a fandom I normally do, then it would be much appreciated if you could point me to pictures or screencaps, but it's not a requirement[5]

However other fans could get very specific: "I won't use images of the actors outside of character and I won't mix in any NC-17 images from outside sources."[6]

Handmade Items

Clothing items

Food

  • Cookies: "I will make you a batch of my uncle Raoul's chocolate meringue cookies in addition to your fic. With or without walnuts(though trust me when I say, the walnuts make it better ^-~). They keep really well so I can probably get them to you even if you live in Europe, South America, but definitely for bidders in the US or Canada. If you're in Australia or Asia and you're concerned about freshness, I'll send you the family recipe. These cookies are dairy free and the nuts can be removed if you are allergic"[11]
  • Chai Tea Basket: "I have made several of these Chai Baskets for past Sweet Charity fannish auctions, and have been reliably informed by many that my homemade sweet chai is the best on the planet. Let me prove it to you, with a nice basket, containing a pint-sized jar for my chai starter mix (along with all the individual ingredients and instructions for its compilation and usage), as well as various tea-related accoutrements and yummies (large mug, silverware, cloth napkins, candies, chocolates, cookies, biscuits, et al.). I have also created several mouthwatering, family tested recipes with this chai starter mix ~ my recipes (printed on seven pages of heavy duty stock paper and bound in a folder), let me show you them. \o/"[12]

Jewelry

  • "...a replica of Mary Winchester's charm bracelet and/or for a Supernaturalism mousepad." (Supernatural)[13]
  • "I will make a necklace with natural stones or glass beads of your favorite colors with silver or gold link wire. The necklace will be approximately 20 inches long, sized to fit you. Samples are here."[14]

Other Items

Fanmixes

  • "I have offered up a music mix/fanmix of any topic for the top TWO bidders. Fandoms are open to anything listed in my profile interests, or if you think I know something that I didn't list. Any pairing, character, or subject (doesn't have to be fandom). Included: at a minimum, 10 songs; cover art; back art."[15]
  • Fanmix: Destiny Rising: A Dean Winchester Retrospective (Supernatural)[16]

Tarot card readings: "Tarot reading, using DaVinci Enigma Tarot, in live chat or via email. Live chat usually takes an hour to an hour and a half for a full reading (Celtic cross is my preferred spread, others available at your request)."[17]

Podfic:"I'll podfic a fanfic of your choice, up to 10,000 words. I'm happy with any fandom, pairing and rating [I've previously recorded Harry Potter, SGA, BSG, Death Note and Honeydew Syndrome], but would prefer not to deal with positive depictions of rape, paedophilia and extreme kinks. Due to pronunciation of names it might be good to check with me in advance if I have some familiarity with the fandom, however, eg. for manga. I would definitely need permission of the original author, if that's not you, before recording can begin.[18]

General audio recordings/translations: "I will record any text/fic/poem etc reading in french (or in english with a french accent, that's your call ;)). Number of records will depends on the length of the texts to read but overall, we're talking around the 3000 words radius. This is my first time offering this so you should be warned I may not be the best reader out there ;) I can do a translation too, french-english or english french, but a way smaller length in that case as this is way much work."[19]

Fandom Reactions

The charity received broad support across a wide range of fandoms and remained remarkably conflict free. While both the producers and participants in the auctions were primarily women, in 2009 a few participants pointed out that the often adult subject matter of some of the auction items may not be appropriate for a charity that supports abuse victims or a medical research charity or a children's charity.

The debate narrowed down to those who felt that the charity items brought in a great deal of donations for people and, as a result, they made real lives better. And, as others explained: The charity stories and art and vids are "fictional. It's not real. Sometimes it's even therapeutic."

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Those who expressed concern over the auction items' subject matter were quick to point out that adult themed topics, such as those dealing with abuse and sexual assault were inappropriate themes and should not be allowed to be included in a charity fund-raiser. And, since some of the participants themselves were survivors of abuse, allowing fiction, art and vids with these themes "may be triggery for them."

After debate in the community and a poll, it was concluded "that the pros of the certain genres do outweigh the cons, and not just on a purely fiscal or freedom-of-speech level: they help people. That's all they need to do. Ever. The rest is noise. There will be things put in place that will help people find or avoid certain content as they choose. If you are uncomfortable taking part in an auction - for whatever reason - that is entirely respected and understood."[20]

Some fans also dislike the prostitution terminology Sweet Charity used, e.g.the use of "ho" in their slogans (at least they did in 2008 with "I want to be a Charity Ho!" on their website, and it was on promo icons and banners everywhere).[21] Additional themed banners and icons were offered (see image to the right and the first few images in the gallery below).

In Their Own Words

  • "So Sweet Charity was such awesome fun! And I managed to snag a few fannish fun things without breaking the bank. I was really worried that I wouldn't be able to offer anything more than my services due to lack of fundage, but it all worked out in the end. I'm very excited about it. Maddest props to lithium_doll for organizing and running the whole thing. A whole lot of money was raised for RAINN and good fannish times are ahead. It's seriously times like this that I love fandom. It reminds me that overall people are generous and kind."[22]
  • "I love the fun of bidding," [one fan said] said, "and the friendly competition. I love making a friend's day by bidding on her. It's exciting to get bid on myself. (I went for almost $80 with my two items combined this year! Not bad!) But absolutely my favorite part was when the auction organizer heard back from RAINN, and they were so incredibly excited to find out how much we'd raised for them. RAINN is a great organization that does a really tough job. I've donated to them before, but it's hard to see how your few dollars here and there really helps. Dropping $10,000+ on them in one shot, though -- it has a visible impact, and it makes me feel like I really did something to help."[23]
  • "This whole Sweet Charity venture is a good idea from start to finish, so I definitely plan on participating again in the future."[24]
  • "It's also very cool that people already knew what to do to raise money. Sweet Charity kind of taught people the ropes!"[25]
  • "Sweet Charity was a little different... there was anonymous bidding and a whole website for it, all coded and crazy with many different fandoms.There was a last minute bidding war. Some people got SO much for their fics though, way more than me. I don't think this will be quite that intense."[26]

The auction (and the organizer) even inspired one fan to write a limerick in their honor

There once was a doll named lithium
who liked to roll around on balls.
But then she shifted to halcyon
and dominated the charity mafia.
Paypal trembled at the sight of her,
Rainin loved her,
and the things she could do with php script
were a real trip.
So don't be hating the don doll halcyon
who used to be lithium
After all, Sweet Charity always rides again.[27]

References

  1. this is SC's final auction" dated January 7, 2009; [http://www.webcitation.org/66AcGtQKy WebCite.
  2. Sweet Charity Ho! dated March 19, 2008.
  3. "Pay special attention to the fandoms and restrictions. Please think of this as a commission. It's my job to get you the fic you want and I want to do that to the best of my ability." WebCite.
  4. The Final Sweet Charity Auction, dated Mar. 28th, 2009 .
  5. Sweet Charity art offering, dated Sept 8, 2007; WebCite.
  6. Sweet Charity offering; WebCite.
  7. WebCite, dated Jan. 15th, 2008.
  8. Charity auction, dated April 15, 2010; WebCite.
  9. WebCite for "What rocks my socks? My socks! dated Jul. 16th, 2008.
  10. offering listed on the Sweet Charity Auction page dated March 2009.
  11. Sweet Charity Cookies, dated Jan. 19th, 2008; WebCite.
  12. deejay posting in the 2012 Fandom Helps charity auction.
  13. Sweet charity auction list, dated March 21st, 2009.
  14. offering listed on the Sweet Charity Auction page dated March 2009.
  15. Sweet Charity Auction dated April 7, 2010.
  16. Fanmix WebCite, dated April 22nd, 2010.
  17. offering listed on the Sweet Charity Auction page dated March 2009.
  18. offering listed on the Sweet Charity Auction page dated March 2009.
  19. offering listed on the Sweet Charity Auction page dated March 2009.
  20. Sweet Charity FAQ, March 14, 2010, accessed 23 Jul 2010; WebCite.
  21. ratcreature. not quite a rant..., posted 16 Jan 2008, accessed 23 Jul 2010.
  22. again, where did my sunday go?, dated Mar. 25th, 2007.
  23. Giving Back, Fandom-Style, dated October 4, 2007, article by Merlin Missy.
  24. fans discussing their participation in the Sweet Charity auctions, dated January 31st, 2008.
  25. fan referring to other charity events.
  26. fan referring to other fan run charity auctions.
  27. jebbypal's Hear Ye, Hear Ye, dated Sep. 24th, 2007. The reference to Paypal trembled is the fact that Paypal took a transaction fee from all donations going through it. So that none of the bidder donations are touched, volunteers covered the cut so that the charities would receive 100% of the funding.