“I Want My Nerd HQ 2014” is a crowdfunding campaign that Zachary Levi and his company, The Nerd Machine, launched with the goal of collecting $1,000,000 to finance this year’s Nerd HQ, which has run in San Diego at the same time as San Diego Comic Con since 2011. Since 2011, it has served as a more “intimate” space for fans, offering smaller panels with the ticket money going to Operation Smile, as well as a relaxing space to test out new video games and charge phones. A FAQ has been provided by The Nerd Machine to try to clear up some of the misconceptions and questions fans may have about the IndieGoGo campaign.
I watched Zachary Levi’s latest UStream for the Nerd HQ crowdfunding campaign and I continue to be uncomfortable with it. Many of the reasons have already been spoken of by other blogs (The Geekiary has a great piece about transparency and lack of perks). Watching the livestream has brought another issue to light – one that I’m sure Zac isn’t aware he’s sending, but this is how it appears to me.
The amount of love and support that has flooded in already is overwhelming. I can’t express how much I love and appreciate you all. Truly.
— Zachary Levi (@ZacharyLevi) March 11, 2014
It’s obvious that he sees Nerd HQ as part of his mission in life to “make people happy” (which he admitted was his favorite thing), alluding multiple times to making sure the fans feel appreciated and acknowledged. He also wants to send the message to everyone that “you are the power of the world.” In the context of giving $1,000,000 to a celebrity to host an event where, in all likelihood, 99% of the donators will not be able to participate in said event, where is the “power of the world” in that message? When that same event will, in all likelihood, not raise another $1,000,000 for the charity it is throwing the event for, what is the “power of the world” in that message? On his Facebook page, and used in a clipped fashion as an IndieGoGo update, Zac posted a plea (that I absolutely encourage you to read in full and then return to this article) for $5 from everyone who likes his page. In this plea, he included some troubling and confusing quotes:
So I appeal to you, each and every one of you, to please find it in your heart, your mind, your soul to fight this fight with me.
What “fight” are we fighting? Is it the same fight Operation Smile fights? If that’s the case, it comes down to the money once again. $1,000,000? Is that really how much you need to put on Nerd HQ? Especially considering, according to The Hollywood Reporter, “That doesn’t mean Nerd HQ will be solely financed by the fans; Levi insists sponsorships will still be on the docket — he’s just guaranteeing that last year won’t happen again.” He is still going to be going after sponsorship money, but remember it says right on the IndieGoGo funding page that, “Again, we want to make it very clear that the money you are contributing for Nerd HQ is not going to charity.” Not even if Nerd HQ raises $1,000,000 plus sponsorship money?
Your support is amazing. 4 those of you that believe in what we are doing,we offer heartfelt gratitude.The rest need us 2 show them love 😉 — Nerd Machine (@thenerdmachine) March 24, 2014
This tweet actually really, really offends me in its implication. I haven’t supported Nerd HQ, therefore I don’t know what love is? I have to be shown what love is by giving money to earn The Nerd Machine’s gratitude? No, thank you, I’ll pass on your condescending attempt at trying to convince me that my donation is tied to the love I deserve in life.
I genuinely want to keep this going because I genuinely believe that you, the fans, are not being offered this kind of care and attention anywhere else in the world. No where else in the world gets the level of celebrities that we get to spend an hour answering only fan questions, all the while raising money for charity. No where. Which means if NerdHQ ceases to exist, your ability to connect with artists like this will cease to exist too.
Personally, I find these comments pretentious and a little bit manipulative. Nowhere else in the world am I going to experience this kind of care and attention from celebrities? Damn, my loss. My ability to connect with artists “like this” will also cease to exist? Maybe in that exact form, but there are plenty of celebrities that do charity work. Nathan Fillion, for example, is asking for donations in celebration of his birthday. He’s raised only $5,000 less than Nerd HQ and offers a chance at having a meal with him. Saying that you lose all ability to interact with artists this way is insulting to celebrities who do charity work and to the fans.
But I believe with all my heart that if I can’t get you to support this vision of NerdHQ, I won’t be making a “Chuck” movie. If I can’t rally you all to help me now, I don’t think I have what it takes to rally you later for far more money. That’s the truth.
Another quote that is manipulating Chuck fans into donating to Nerd HQ, regardless of their interest in it – if Nerd HQ doesn’t get funded, he won’t even bother with a Chuck movie. He also promises that if he doesn’t get $1,000,000 now, he won’t be able to ask for far more money later. Does that not ring any alarm bells for anyone else? Especially if he insists on the same set-up he did this time, with no perks for supporting him (but getting to pay again to see the Chuck movie, if we’re going with that hypothetical).
You need to believe that together, we can absolutely move the biggest mountains and change the world. A collected and unified people are more powerful than any president, any ruler, any business, any thing. You need to believe that your voice, your vote, your help, your donation actually means something.
This is inspiring – and would be more so if it were in relation to Operation Smile – but it’s in the context of donating to the “I Want My Nerd HQ 2014” IndieGoGo campaign. What is my donation going to “mean”? With a donation to the campaign, I am essentially saying “I like the opportunity to rub elbows with celebrities,” there’s no real deeper message here. If I want to support Operation Smile, I could freely donate my money any day of the year and I don’t need to be at a $1,000,000 hang-out to do so.
So NERDHQ has an indiegogo, all the tiers are the same & NOT A SINGLE DONOR gets into their exclusive nightly parties?! Not cool. #SDCC2014
— elmayimbe (@elmayimbe) March 11, 2014
If Operation Smile and making people happy is truly his aim, I would love to hear Zac talk more about how important the Nerd HQ event is to raising funds for Operation Smile and how the $1,000,000 is going to break down and contribute to that cause. Why should we be donating our money to him instead of to the charity itself?
He’s not shy about making it known that donations to Operation Smile are a “bonus” at Nerd HQ, with the event itself not being a charity event. In a week where there are already more activities offered than any one person could participate in, do the fans need to pitch in on top of sponsorship dollars?
He’s said that Nerd HQ will happen this year regardless of how the crowdfunding campaign turns out, but in the years to follow, I hope Zachary Levi takes a hard look at the event his company puts on and compromises a little bit more on asking for money for the “free” event he puts on – whether that be scaling back the event, charging a service fee for Conversations for a Cause tickets, or something else entirely.