After the quake in Christchurch, I started thinking about what I could do to help. I think most New Zealanders thought along the same lines. One of the first things I thought of was the OneBookShelf fundraiser bundles that had worked so well for Haiti and Pakistan.
It works like this. The tabletop role-playing game community, due to a range of factors, some years ago developed a marketplace where people pay for copies of books in PDF form. (The whole e-book revolution going on in traditional publishing? The TTRPG crowd have been there, done that and bought the ironic t-shirt.)
Due to another set of factors, the marketplace is heavily concentrated around one vendor, OneBookShelf, which has two linked storefronts, DriveThruRPG and RPGNow. This isn’t a huge commercial sphere – tabletop roleplaying is a hobby long past its cultural prominence. A side effect of this is that the RPG community does feel like a community – in some sense it is small and knowable.
Now all of those conditions mean that when the Haiti disaster arrived, the OneBookShelf team could launch a very effective fundraiser. Publishers donated books to a special bundle. About $1300 retail value of electronic books was sold as a charity bundle for just $20. The sale ran for about a week and raised $175,000 for Haiti.
It was an incredible success, and a lesson in how a marketplace of electronic products can make everyone win. The publishers got to help with a charity effort and got samples of their product into the hands of many, many people who might never have seen them otherwise. The purchasers got the genuine satisfaction of helping and also walked away with a huge stack of cool stuff. And the people of Haiti got a whole lot of money they would not have otherwise got. (I blogged about the Haiti effort a year ago, and talked a bit about what it means for electronic marketplaces.)
Walking down the Terrace I decided that it was time to check in with the NZ-linked RPG publishers I knew to see if they were keen in following the logic of the bundle to raise funds, either on our own or as part of a formal OneBookShelf bundle. I also decided to contact Gareth at Adamant, publisher of much RPG stuff with my name on, to ask for his support.
The Kiwis & expat Kiwis & Scottish honorary Kiwis were keen, with at least one of them already thinking along the same lines. Gareth, likewise, told me he was already investigating the possibility. Apart from my email conversations I saw someone online suggest a bundle fundraiser. So the idea was out there. Gregor Hutton contacted Matt McElroy at OneBookShelf, and Matt was totally on board – I don’t know, he might well have already had things in motion, but either way the bundle was launched. Publishers were invited to contribute and soon a bundle of ~$300 worth of cool stuff went on sale for $20. (A $5 donation option was also made available.) Every cent was destined for the Red Cross NZ appeal, chosen by Matt based on suggestion from me.
The sale just ended. US$46,125 was raised. That’s over $60,000 NZ. I’m astonished and delighted.
I had a role in making this fundraising happen, but just a small one. Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally taking credit for the part I played! But the vast bulk of thanks must go to Matt and team at OneBookShelf for developing this fundraising model out of nothing a year ago – I think it’s an incredibly innovative approach, one that deserves a huge amount of attention from people working in the charity sphere. And of course huge thanks are due to the publishers who contributed to the bundle, and all the people who blogged and tweeted and above all purchased it.
It’s been an emotional week. The success of this bundle gives me cause to smile.
Not least because, man, there are some cool games in that bundle, and I hope a lot of people play the heck out of ’em.