Just shy of a month ago, BadassDigest.com published the article “Zachary Levi’s NERD HQ Raising $1 Million To Throw Comic Con Parties” authored by a Devin Faraci.
The article reminded me of an important truth which is, as a creator of anything, we simply won’t connect with everyone. Furthermore, I don’t know that that’s really on us.
I value the freedom to express my opinions, and equally support the freedom of others in expressing their opinions. I view most writing as an author expressing an opinion, and so typically I don’t feel led to comment here.
I guess this isn’t a typical day.
I’ve heard Zachary Levi speak about Nerd HQ and his crowdfunding campaign on multiple occasions, across various social media channels.
I’ve also met with him in-person to discuss Nerd HQ.
Aside from the fact that he’s one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met, there is so much information available to those with questions about Nerd HQ I guess I’m a little shocked that this snarky little piece by D. Faraci was published. As there’s nothing “badass” about making baseless claims which you pass off as truths.
Let’s debunk a few myths, and cut down a few tall tales about Nerd HQ.
Nerd HQ is not affiliated with San Diego Comic Con
At least our friend Faraci understands that Nerd HQ is not affiliated with San Diego Comic Con.
And I’d add, with no disrespect whatsoever to San Diego Comic Con, Nerd HQ should be given credit for its own content.
Although Nerd HQ and San Diego Comic Con share many of the same celebrities, Nerd HQ is hosted by Zac and his company the Nerd Machine at a separate venue where they can focus on more intimate interactions between celebrities and fans.
It’s not clear from the IndieGoGo page why Nerd HQ can’t find sponsorship (Faraci).
The IndieGoGo page touches on “venue deadlines and the commitments required by the Nerd Machine to properly plan the event” as reasons for the change in the event’s funding strategy, but Faraci makes this claim and even goes so far as to claim the reason for the change is “bad planning.”
As Zachary Levi explains it, the change in funding strategy was less about finding sponsors and more about the way sponsored dollars work.
We go to sponsors literally the day after San Diego Comic Con, (the) day after Nerd HQ, every single year. We start planning and start going after sponsors for the next year.
We have a lot of sponsors that are very interested, and by the way that have given us a lot of money over the years, and I’m really really grateful to them. But they have money that is committed to so many events along the calendar year.
With sponsorship dollars, we don’t get those dollars in until very very near to the event…sometimes not even until after the event (Zachary Levi).
The problem is, an event of this size requires a lot of moving pieces and people, and months and months of planning.
Which means until sponsors’ dollars come in, Zac and his company the Nerd Machine are covering the costs leading up to the event — reserving the venue, paying production teams, and designing and building out the event —
Believing and hoping that all of these conversations that we’re having with sponsors and deals that we’re brokering all end up paying off and I’m able to reimburse myself for all the money I put out (Zachary Levi).
After the rug was pulled out from under them at the last minute before Nerd HQ 2013, Zac and the Nerd Machine turned to their fans and crowdfunding for Nerd HQ 2014.
A $1 Million budget
It’s true that $1 million is a lot of money. But all too quickly we assume Nerd HQ could or should “scale it back.” At least Faraci admits “I really don’t know much about the cost of putting on an event.”
Zachary Levi explains:
This is an incredibly expensive thing to do. We could do super bare bones and make it a little bit cheaper but…it would not be done in the way that it needs to be done…(Zachary Levi)
As the creator of the event, and the one who works to produce Nerd HQ with his Nerd Machine team Zac would know.
I’m not sure I understand why Faraci calls out the amount of money Nerd HQ is hoping to raise — especially when it’s a FREE event to the public. If Nerd HQ 2014 had been 100% sponsored, would anyone have cared? Zac has only ever asked crowdfunders to donate what they feel led to donate.
Nerd HQ and Operation Smile
Surely that million dollar goal includes money that goes to charity, right? (Faraci)
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 (Nerd HQ IndieGoGo page).
A little homework may have clarified for Faraci the relationship between Operation Smile and Nerd HQ.
While Nerd HQ has raised $415,000 for Operation Smile,
I have never claimed that Nerd HQ or the Nerd Machine are non-profit companies or that Nerd HQ is a non-profit event. We are a company. We’re trying to do well for ourselves in the world. That being said, we’ve lost money on Nerd HQ every year that we’ve done it. Do we hope that we actually make money one day? Absolutely. But I would never, ever ask you guys to help me fund an event and take your money to pay me. I would never, ever, ever think of doing that.
The main priority is to give you guys an event that you love.
If I was in this for the money, I would have stopped doing it after the first year – when I didn’t make any money. But that’s not why I do it. I do it because I really believe that it means something in the world, and I do believe that it has an impact, and I do believe in bridging the gap between celebrities and fans. I believe that we as entertainers are only as good as the fans and supporters that support us and believe in us and continue to watch our television shows, and continue to go to our movies, and buy our video games…that’s why I’m trying to do Nerd HQ (Zachary Levi).
Then how does Nerd HQ raise money for Operation Smile?
100% of the money raised by “Conversations for a Cause,” auction items, photos, and signings are donated to Operation Smile (IndieGoGo).
I want every dollar that you spend, particularly where there’s interaction between fans and celebrities, I want that to all be for a greater purpose. That is where Operation Smile comes in. I wanted there to be something different about what we do at HQ, where when a celebrity comes and gives their time and you decide to spend money on that time, that nobody’s making any money on that other than people who need it in the world (Zachary Levi).
Surely if they’re spending a million dollars on this event, they plan to raise an insane amount of money for cleft palates, right? (Faraci)
In 4 days the celebrities and fans of Nerd HQ 2013 raised $215,000 for Operation Smile. Faraci may be quick to dismiss $215,000 as “only a quarter of what they’re raising for production,” but that’s 895 smiles fixed for life.
Crowdfunding and Nerd HQ
There is no level of donation that gets you into Nerd HQ. Or any of the parties…(Faraci)
Wait what? Is that because it’s totally FREE? In fact, no donation at all will get you into Nerd HQ AND the epic dance parties. He must have missed that part.
How is there no (donation) level that gives you an all-access badge? (Faraci)
I can’t fault Faraci for wanting to cut any long lines and to be in the room with Nathan Fillion “when Nathan Fillion has his impromptu auctions — like a boss — ‘cuz that’s what he wants to do (Zachary Levi).”
Or, with Tom Hiddleston when he impersonates a Velociraptor in a “Conversations for a Cause” panel.
But, in fact, there is a “donation level” that gives you access to any Nerd HQ opportunity — it’s simply cost of getting yourself to Nerd HQ in San Diego + the cost of the charitable activities you participate in + the cost of food|drinks|souvenirs.
To say “there’s no donation level that gets you…anything” is blatantly untrue.
» Over 25 hours of “Conversations for a Cause” live-streamed content: FREE
» Entrance into the physical event in San Diego: FREE
» Epic Nerd HQ dance parties: FREE
» Each contributor’s name placed on the “Nerd HQ Wall of Honor” at the event and on the contributor page at TheNerdMachine.com: FREE
Something seems broken here (Faraci).
I agree, but it has nothing to do with Nerd HQ.
In my opinion, it has everything to do with our sense of entitlement — the expectation that if we can afford to make a huge donation we deserve free access to anything we want.
To preserve the unique intimacy of Nerd HQ’s “Conversation for a Cause” panels, there are a limited number of seats.
Purchasing a ticket to attend a panel (around $20) shows you have a little ‘skin in the game.’ But that’s the price for anyone who wants to attend, and I love that.
Why should a select few with an “all-access” pass be able to fill seats in a panel they could take or leave, and push out passionate fans?
This seems like a huge misuse of crowdfunding to me, the kind of situation that sours people on the very concept (Faraci).
I fail to understand Faraci’s claim that this is “a huge misuse of crowdfunding” when crowdfunding by definition is “the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet (Prive).” I don’t know that crowdfunding is about catering to those who make the largest donations.
In crowdfunding, I love that we can search for and contribute to campaigns we connect with.
If you connect with Operation Smile and not with Nerd HQ, of course you can donate directly to Operation Smile.
As an event inspired by and produced for fans, I’m sad that Nerd HQ has been the focus of such harsh criticism.
I believe in Nerd HQ.
I’ll leave you with a few reasons to consider donating $5 to Nerd HQ:
Faraci, Devin. “Zachary Levi’s Nerd HQ Raising $1 Million To Throw Comic Con Parties.” BadassDigest.com, 19 March 2014.
IndieGoGo “I Want My Nerd HQ 2014” campaign. IndieGoGo.com, 11 March 2014.
Levi, Zachary. Twitter Party with Ustream video. IWantMyNerdHQ.com, 23 March 2014.
Prive, Tanya. “What Is Crowdfunding and How Does It Benefit the Economy?” Forbes.com, 27 November 2012.