Zachary Levi's Nerd HQ is a popular thing at San Diego Comic-Con. It's not affiliated with Con, it just pops up in San Diego at the same time, an off-site venue where the same people who are on stage in Hall H and signing autographs in the atrium show up and do Q&As, and they have charity auctions and at night there are (guest listed) parties where the famous nerd people drink and dance. I hear it's fun and cool, and while it's the same faces you can see in the convention center it's a more intimate location. You're not six thousand people deep, as you are in Hall H.
This year Nerd HQ is turning to crowdfunding for reasons. It's not clear from the IndieGogo page why Nerd HQ can't find sponsorship - many of the guests they have are in San Diego promoting movies with enormous marketing budgets, and every studio and company is looking for partners - but they're turning to the fans. That's kind of cool. And they're asking the fans to donate...
ONE MILLION DOLLARS.
No, this isn't an Austin Powers gag. It's the budget required to throw Nerd HQ - rental, lighting, all that stuff. That seems pricey to me, but I don't really know much about the cost of putting on an event. Maybe that's totally reasonable. And surely that million dollar goal includes money that goes to charity, right? Because Nerd HQ is thrown partially to support Operation Smile, a group that fixes cleft palates, so when you donate to Nerd HQ some portion of your donation must go to kids. Right?
We want to make it very clear that the money you are contributing for Nerd HQ is not going to charity. The funds raised here will pay for the production of Nerd HQ in San Diego this July.
That's fourth paragraph on the fundraising page. At least they let you know. And surely if they're spending a million dollars on this event, they plan to raise an insane amount of money for cleft palates, right?
In 2013, Nerd HQ raised $215,000 for the charity.
Hmm. That's only a quarter of what they're raising for production.
OK, but at least when I donate money I get access to Nerd HQ. I get to cut the long lines and be in the room when Tom Hiddleston or Nathan Fillion appear to discuss their careers and make jokes, right?
Actually, no. There is no level of donation that gets you into Nerd HQ. Or any of the parties that have made the venue so popular with the talent. There's no donation level that gets you... anything. Every donation level is the same, where you get placed on their email spam list and also receive their gratitude. Remember that when you've given one thousand dollars and stand in line for three hours only to get shut out of the panel you wanted to see.
Something seems broken here. Asking people for money to put on an event they may not even be able to participate in? How is there no level that gives you an all-access badge? How does throwing a million dollar party to raise a quarter of a million dollars for charity make sense? I'm not begrudging people the good times they have at Nerd HQ, and more power to everyone who felt included and part of a fun event. But this seems like a huge misuse of crowdfunding to me, the kind of situation that sours people on the very concept. Zach Levi wants to throw a party and for you to pay for it... and maybe you can get in, if you wait around long enough in line.
I understand it's tough to throw an event at Comic-Con, and that it gets pricey. Yes, Tom Hiddleston is there to promote something, but the studios are cautious about pissing off SDCC by supporting off-site events. But this is the biggest off-site event, and it seems like bad planning that Nerd HQ wasn't able to get SOME funding for their venue. And if the cost of throwing a multi-day event is too big... maybe they should scale it back. Not ask the fans to foot the bill and get zilch in return.
If you want to help Operation Smile, click here to donate. This WILL be a donation to charity, not a party.