A case for fairy godfunding

[Image credit: Matheus Bertelli]

I have a friend in her late 30s, whose intellect, knowledge, and heart-centered wisdom I deeply respect. She has tremendous gifts to offer the world, by combining her heart and mind to serve others. She has specific visions for how she would like to do this.

And yet, on a day-to-day basis, she spends her physical and mental energy toiling in obscurity in an office, barely keeping her head above water, in order to pay her living expenses and significant student loans.

The world is a lesser place as a result, not to mention the harm to my friend herself, who could be personally thriving if she could offer her gifts in a way that would also cover her living expenses.

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I have many friends in similar situations: gifted healers, artists, and other kinds of contributors-to-society, who are nevertheless unable to sustain themselves via these gifts to the world. I place myself in this category, as I earn most of my income at an administrative day job while wishing I could be “changing the world” with a much higher percentage of my time and energy.

There are deep structural, economic, and cultural roots to this problem, and there is no quick or easy solution. Tax reform, student loan reform, and healthcare reform would all go a long way toward alleviating the financial pressure under which so many Americans struggle on a daily basis. But implementation of those reforms requires significant time and political will.

In the meantime, so many healers and creatives struggle to “market” ourselves, to “sell” our goods and services. Ask any of us and we will tell you that doing so feels icky; it feels antithetical to what we are offering to the world, because it seems base and self-serving, even though everyone agrees we need to have money to survive.

Taking this line of thought a step further: it feels icky to me that, as a society, we expect people who need healing of any kind — medical, mental-health, emotional, spiritual — to pay for this healing themselves. In an optimal society that I can envision, people who need any kind of healing should be able to receive it for free. In most industrialized countries, this is already the case, at least for medical matters. But not in the present-day United States.

I envision a society-wide decoupling of the costs of healing work from the “transaction” between healer and client or patient. Tax reform could play a key role in a long-term solution to address the enormous disparities of wealth in the USA.

But what about a more near-term approach? We need that as well.

Many Americans have no retirement savings, and sometimes struggle to pay their basic shelter, food, and medical expenses. Meanwhile, in May of last year, CNBC.com reported that there were 630 billionaires in the United States, while other sources report approximately 18.6 million millionaires nationwide.

I recently read about Chuck Feeney, an 89-year-old man who gave away more than $8 billion of his personal fortune between 1982 and 2020, leaving himself with just a “nest egg” to last him comfortably until the end of his life. He gave to schools and nonprofits, much like many other wealthy individuals such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. I admire such philanthropy.

However, I further suspect that there exist a small but significant number of people with personal wealth over, say, $1 million, who would derive meaningful pleasure from sharing some amount of their wealth that is relatively insignificant to them, but would be very meaningful to someone like many of my creative or healer peers who want to give their gifts to the world. Say, $50,000, which could serve as a reasonable “salary” to sustain someone comfortably for a year in many US cities.

I would like to identify a handful of individuals like this. “Fairy godfunders,” if you will. In fairy tales, we understand fairy godmothers as benevolent beings who give from their own abundance to help those who could benefit. They trust and know that by helping their protégés in material and/or spiritual ways, the world becomes a better place.

Of course we are also familiar with the concept of “angel investors,” who provide startup capital for risky business ventures, hoping that some of these startups will succeed and pay off financially for them. My idea is similar, but I envision funders who are motivated not by the prospect of further increasing their own wealth, but rather by the opportunity to use their own resources to make a positive change for individuals and the collective.

Chuck Feeney, the billionaire philanthropist, wrote, “I cannot think of a more personally rewarding and appropriate use of wealth than to give while one is living — to personally devote oneself to meaningful efforts to improve the human condition.”

Full disclosure: I would love to receive this sort of funding for myself, as I am currently dreaming up a year-long, solo bicycle journey around the USA and Canada, during which I plan to offer emotional and strategic support to the people with whom I connect, supporting them in bringing to fruition their dreams to improve the world for everyone’s benefit. If I had a fairy godfunder, I could stop worrying about money and simply start planning my trip, as well as immediately offering free empathy and coaching sessions to anyone who felt like a good fit for me to work with for a win-win outcome.

One possible vision is a platform that would fall conceptually somewhere between Patreon, Kiva, Kickstarter, and GoFundMe, but would be aimed less at crowdfunding and more at larger, one-on-one (or perhaps 2- or 3-on one) sponsorships, allowing healers and creatives to spend less time and energy on fundraising, and allowing more meaningful relationships between the “godfunder” and funding recipient. Startups and tech are not my forte, but it seems to me that setting up such a platform might be another great use of a chunk of money from a funder, who could be paired with someone who has the skills and desire to build such a platform.

Right now, I am seeking to identify a handful of such potential godfunders, so that I can connect them with various people I meet in the course of my journey: people who have great ideas for projects, but would need funding to get started.

There could be various kinds of accountability built into the model, of course, such as an agreement for a total annual “grant” of money, but an arrangement for monthly disbursal, based on mutually agreed-upon benchmarks of forward movement in a given project. Such accountability is one reason many funders prefer to give to established organizations such as 501(c)(3) nonprofits. However, committing the time and energy to establish such a nonprofit — or even to locate and secure an “umbrella” organization to serve as a fiscal sponsor, receiving and disbursing the funds — is yet another potentially overwhelming layer of work and bureaucracy for a healer or creative to undertake, when their optimal use of time and energy for the greater benefit would be to simply use their own skills to uplift others.

I believe that there are many such potential funders in the United States, and around the world: people who appreciate such efficient, direct, and out-of-the-box ideas for turning their “money that is wanting to be spent” into a win-win-win scenario for themselves, their funding recipients, and the greater good. My dream is to help this particular niche of win-win partnerships take root, for the benefit of all.

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