Since I got married in 2009 I’ve been volunteering with an organization called Project FEED. We get together once a month to assemble brown bag lunches and distribute them in the Tenderloin in San Francisco, which is known for it’s squalor. In the last four years I have seen the project expand from a small band of friends meeting in a small apartment, to an operation of several dozen volunteers, making sandwiches in an assembly line, with sister projects in both Sacramento and Los Angeles.
They organize primarily on Facebook, and to their their credit, the group has never asked for government permission, or applied for special status. However, this has meant friction when fundraising through legacy payment systems like Paypal, which froze their account for not having a non-profit tax ID. Paypal actually sought out their Facebook page and accused them of engaging in fundraising without a non-profit status. Now Project FEED is a cash only operation.
In 2011 Project FEED took it a step further and decided to get to know their clients better. (“Clients” is the preferred nomenclature to reflect their policy of not refusing anyone who asks for a lunch, and not stigmatizing people as poor or homeless). Rather than just passing out lunches, we spent the afternoon socializing with the regulars. I took the opportunity to do a little market research. Were our clients happy with peanut butter and jelly? Would they prefer apples or oranges? Potato chips or granola bars? What I was told has changed my view of poverty in America.
They said they didn’t need food, that there were so many groups like us serving food it was virtually impossible to go hungry. So, what did they need? Warm clothes. Clean socks. Toiletries. One of the keys to the success of free enterprise is responsiveness to consumer feedback. I would suggest this must also be a key to the success of a functioning charity. Otherwise the charitable ambitions of donors are squandered on actions of only marginal benefit.
I am not a man of great financial means, but since then I have been looking for ways to satisfy this need. The proposal is usually met with much enthusiasm, and very little follow through. In 2011 I made the proposal to both Occupy San Francisco and Occupy Oakland, since their primary stated objective was to care for the downtrodden, of pooling some money to have hoodies printed with a positive message and some sponsor’s logos and distributing them for free to people in need. This met with two objections, primarily from the Marxists and Communists in the Occupy Movement. First, why should we have to pool our money? Shouldn’t they be free to us? A pipe dream. And second, they said it’s exploitation of the poor to put advertising on the hoodies. So, people went cold that winter.
They say if you want something done right you’ve got to do it yourself. I have learned that if you want something done at all you better be prepared to either do it yourself, or pay someone to do it. Well, I’m tired of waiting, so that is what Bitcoin Not Bombs is doing, with some help from Project FEED.
The good folks at Mass Appeal Inc, the world’s first screen printer to accept Bitcoin, have made us a superb offer on 324 discontinued orange hoodies that they have in stock now, but it’s an all or nothing sort of deal. So, we’re going to keep 324 people warm this winter, and do a little guerrilla marketing for Bitcoin in a demographic that could really benefit from a little counter economics.
We’re calling on the Bitcoin community to help us, because this is a Bitcoin only project. We will do all the fundraising in Bitcoin, and we will purchase the hoodies with Bitcoin thanks to Mass Appeal Inc. No war dollars will change hands in the execution of this project, proving that we don’t need the Fed, we don’t need Paypal, and we don’t need permission.
We are using BitcoinStarter.com to kick off our donation drive, Sign up today and pledge to support this effort! If you can’t contribute today you can still help by sharing our page and this blog post with your friends and family. If you would rather not sign up for BitcoinStarter at this time, all donations made to our general fund in the next 30 days will go to this effort, find the address on our about page.