In the matter of funding their endeavors, ®TMark and its
workers face a condition familiar to nearly every USA activist: there
are virtually no government grants to be had. Foundations are few, and direct
corporate grants are rare in the USA--especially for activities that have no
bearing, or, worse, have desired negative impact, on the "bottom line" of the
donating corporation or corporations in general. If you’re not interested in
promoting Absolut-brand vodka, you’re on your own.
®TMark has resolved this impasse, as have many activists
whose work depends on extensive funding (most notably documentary filmmakers), by going
directly to individuals who, for irrational human reasons, are interested in
seeing certain projects completed. By incorporating our fundraising strategies
into our image and philosophy, and gearing ourselves wholeheartedly to this
end, we have stumbled upon some concepts that we hope might be useful to other
organizations which, unlike documentary filmmakers and other individual activists, have not
yet made a complete transition from their reliance on recently eliminated government
Unlike ®TMark, some activist organizations may also be able
to rely on corporate grants, but even these are not nearly numerous enough in
the USA, and do often come with conditions involving promotion of the donating
company’s product. (When they do not, the implicit constraints are often just as repressive as explicit ones.) Individuals’ grants generally do not contain such requirements or limits,
and may therefore be preferable in some cases.
THE MUTUAL FUND MODEL
In the interest of profiting from the fundraising intelligence that has accumulated
in the corporate world, ®TMark models its fundraising strategies on those
used by publicly owned corporations which borrow enormous amounts of money from
individual citizens in the form of shares in the corporations, and which provide "limited liability," or freedom from personal responsibility, to those investors (as well as to their own managers).
®TMark’s core is its list of project ideas, most of which
require funding before they can be accomplished. Until recently, these projects
were promoted individually to donors, who could donate any sum towards the sum
needed for their accomplishment. Such donors can be seen as purchasing stock
in the projects, hoping to see a cultural dividend upon the project’s accomplishment.
It takes research, time and expertise for an individual non-professional
to successfully play the stock market. More importantly, it often takes insider
information, or information privy to only select professional brokers. For this
reason, many individuals choose not to make all their stock decisions themselves,
instead allowing fund managers and professionals in the field to invest their
capital, which is pooled together with that of many other investors to gain
more buying leverage.
Recently, it was made clear to ®TMark that there are a
great number of potential ®TMark donors who are not so taken with any given
project that they feel secure investing in its accomplishment. They may not
agree wholeheartedly with any specific project, or may not trust that in its
accomplishment, it will reflect the intent they impute to the original project
description. Or they may like a specific project very much, but may not believe
that it can ever be accomplished, and do not enjoy the prospect of their investment
sitting idle for what could be years, or even forever.
To the end of giving these would-be donors a sense of security,
of providing them with a simple "calculated risk" strategy, and of assuring
them of the relative likelihood that their funds would be used within a reasonable
length of time, it was determined to establish a system similar to the "mutual
fund" market. In this system, projects with roughly similar intent, risk, or
likelihood of accomplishment are grouped into "fund families." There are several
flavors of such families, which we have had to design for ®TMark’s particular
®TMark has not discarded the individual-stock purchasing
system, and investors with strong feelings about individual projects can still
direct their funds to those projects, exclusive of or in tandem with their contributions
to "fund families."
FIRST-COME, FIRST-SERVED FUNDS
The "first-come, first-served" variety of mutual fund is reserved for those
families all of whose individual projects (stocks) have been unanimously deemed
worthy by the ®TMark board. A donor to a first-come, first-served "fund family"
makes a contribution with the understanding that the first project accomplished
will receive it, up to the amount for which the project is funded.
One representative of this "first-come, first-served" fund
type is what we call the "high yield/high risk" family. This group includes
expensive, potentially dangerous, and relatively difficult projects, each of
which has a high likelihood of waiting years for accomplishment, but all of
which have been unanimously deemed worthy of funding, and are likely, when accomplished,
to yield very high dividends in the form of published media reports.
Investment in this type of mutual fund is advantageous to
the donor, who can expect that cultural dividends will be forthcoming in the
relatively short term. But it also benefits the workers for the funded projects.:
some grouped projects might individually have little chance of being funded,
but by being so grouped can partake of the kitty as needed. This first-come,
first-served approach effectively funds every project completely, so long as
there is always at least the maximum of all project requirements in the "mutual
fund" (i.e. if the greatest reward for a project is ten thousand dollars, and
that amount is present in the "mutual fund," every project in that group can
be assured of recuperating its full reward upon accomplishment, so long as projects
are accomplished singly and not serially in a short space of time).
Another flavor of "fund family" is the individually-allocated variety; some
of the less-risky, more stable funds fall into this category. In these families,
not all projects (sometimes no projects) have met with the unanimous approval
of the ®TMark board. Rather than attempt to distribute donations to these
families according to the original votes, ®TMark allows the families’ fund
managers to decide, based on their experience with similar projects, how to
allocate the families’ funds.
The advantage this fund has over the "first-come, first-served"
variety is that investors may be confident that the managers will select funds
entirely on merit. This can prove essential when more than several projects
within the fund are accomplished in a short space of time, so that funds are
not exhausted by possibly less worthy, but sooner accomplished, projects.
The latest elaboration of the ®TMark mutual fund system is the use of "celebrity
fund managers" to handle some of the funds. Management of these funds is based
on the judgment and personal taste of people ®TMark has judged uniquely qualified
for the task by their own staying power in returning high cultural dividends.
We have secured the cooperation of several such individuals, and are accepting
nominations for more.
Individuals without the qualifications of these cultural
producers may submit themselves for consideration. In these cases, choices are
usually made based on the candidate’s ability and willingness to contribute
financially to the upkeep of a fund, much as honorary degrees are conferred
by universities in exchange for donations, etc.
OVERVIEW OF FRONT ENDS
Falling into one or more of the above categories--"first-come, first served,"
individually allocated, and celebrity funds--are groupings of projects presented
to the investor with names intended to signal the core features of each fund.
The High-Yield Fund, described earlier, contains what
may be the cream of the crop of ®TMark projects, ones that will, upon completion,
yield the highest cultural dividends. They may take quite a while to bear fruit,
however, even when grouped in a fund.
The Safety Fund contains a variety of projects selected
by the ®TMark board because of their quality and diversity. Although they
may not yield the great cultural dividends of the High-Yield Fund, they make
up for it in stability and reliability.
Finally, Subject funds
contains projects that fall into similar areas of interest. Examples include
The Environment Fund and The Intellectual Property Fund. These
projects may also be part of the High-Yield Fund or Safety Fund.
AN EYE TO THE FUTURE
®TMark believes that investments in its projects will out-perform most other
investments in culture, because each invested dollar goes directly to project
producers, without being absorbed in high overhead costs.
®TMark has approached the task of soliciting many small
donors by incorporating the techniques of the corporate world which it attacks.
®TMark mutual funds allow the smaller investor to participate in the ®TMark
system without being the sole financier of a project. ®TMark believes that
by pooling the money of many small investors, our expert fund managers will
be able to return unparalleled cultural dividends with the increased flow of
It is hoped that these techniques may help other subversive
or activist organizations to overcome the hurdles imposed by the increasing scarcity
of government subsidies for their activities.