The non-profit sector is a tough one all around. Those who receive services could always use more help, those who work for non-profits could always use more resources and pay, and those who manage them often have one thing on their mind: how do I keep my non-profit going? The executive director of the settlement house where I work told me he not-so-jokingly tells people when they ask why he chose the job he did, that he chose it because he “wanted to think about money all day.” 

While at the end of the day we do the work to help people, money is always an issue. There’s never enough. So when a group of any kind bands together to donate any sum, large or small, to a non-profit to do with as they see fit, it is always welcome. I could go further into the structure of non-profit and the flow of money and how often money received from foundations and the government is rife with stipulations… but I won’t bore you. Instead, I want to bring up a trend that has always fascinated me and that’s the power of fandom in raising money for good causes. 

I remember back in the day when Chuck was on, getting my first exposure to the power of fans who care. The cast and crew, all very charity-minded themselves (particularly star Zachary Levi), did everything they could to use their power and influence to raise funds for good causes. Those relationships have continued, too, as Zachary Levi went on to continue to support Operation Smile and even go as far as to create his own non-profit to expand the good being done in the world. 

More recently, I have been inspired by the power of fandom through Critical Role. My love for the show is multi-layered and I have talked about it here. But my love for the show and its cast goes deeper than that. It is the first time in a long time that I find myself a part of a fan group that not only enjoys receiving (content, prizes, attention) but giving in earnest too. Critical Role‘s very heart and soul comes down to spreading love, joy, and resources to those who need them both within and outside of their immediate fans. 

The first example: their ongoing partnership with 826LA. It is a national organization with local branches. The mission? “…to support students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.” The Critical Role team and their fans have dedicated both their time and money to helping 826LA achieve its mission and grow as an organization. In fact, they just wrapped up a 50k dollar fundraising campaign that was doubled to 100k dollars thanks to a generous “critter” (the name for members of the fandom) who matched the donations. 

I don’t think I need to tell you how much it means for a non-profit to receive $100k to put into general operating costs and expanding services. It is a lot of money, raised entirely by fans and augmented with $100 donations from Critical Role’s partnership with D&D Beyond anytime cast members rolled a natural 1 during the live stream. That’s love in action, my friends. That’s walking the walk and not just talking the talk. 

It goes further, though. 

Critical Role‘s charitable heart came out of the warm reception the cast and crew had from fans when it began. During sessions referred to as “critmas” when the cast would open up gifts, they began to turn around and encourage a different kind of giving. Though they loved all the physical, tangible things they received, they also each chose a charity that they already supported and suggested to fans that in lieu of gifts they could make charitable donations instead. 

One of those partnerships comes through Travis Willingham (Sophia the First, Avengers Assemble), who supports an organization called Stack-Up whose mission is to “bring together both veterans and civilian supporters together through a shared love of video gaming.” They provide support to veterans at home, currently deployed, and even internationally.

As part of this partnership an idea was born: rally the critters together around a good cause and get some cool limited edition Critical Role gear. On Memorial Day (and they’re still accepting donations!) they aimed to pull in 10k dollars in donations, doing a two-hour live stream to talk about Critical Role and give away special edition challenge coins. 

They hit their goal without issue and are still accepting donations through the end of May to be entered to win a challenge coin and possibly a limited edition event print. 

I could go on about Critical Role and its heart for charity, but I’ll stop here for now. Instead, I’ll propose this question: what if every fandom chose to support their shows through charitable giving? Hundreds and thousands of fans donating even $10 one time could make a huge difference in the lives of those served by non-profit organizations.

What I love about Critical Role is its call to be the change, not just talk about it. The cast members and crew live by example and encourage their fans to follow suit. 

What if more casts did that? More fans jumped in line to support good causes? Think of all the amazing things nerds could do if each of us answered the call to love each other through the giving of our time, money, and resources to those in need. There’s something amazing brewing here folks and I hope it catches like wildfire and spreads. 

I’m excited about the continuing adventures of the Mighty Nein… and their fans who have the heart to make this world a little better than they found it. 

Don’t forget to love each other and in the words of Brian W. Foster: stay turnt. 

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