My New Philanthropy
ome folks dream of becoming wealthy to live a lavish life with little care about finances and traveling the world at the drop of a dime. I personally don't think anything is wrong with that, as I've also had such aspirations. However, I also dreamed of becoming wealthy so that I could operate a philanthropy. Do you know how awesome it is to run a philanthropy? It's something I've dreamed of for years and couldn't wait to achieve.
I first thought my philanthropy would be some sort of scholarship fund - I had wanted to start off small with awarding need-base scholarships to complete online coding courses. But that never came to fruition as I've found that there are so many alternatives to online learning without the need to purchase courses. So instead, I needed something that made sense to me in my head. Something that would make a significant impact for folks that are trying to get their foot into the tech industry door.
Since I focus less on programming language learning these days, I had to look at what I could do within the XR (extended reality) community that would make a difference. There had been a lot of talk recently around how difficult it is to be successful (or even simply start) in this industry. One issue that stood out most was the lack of access to devices.
If you don't work in this industry, device access might not mean much to you. However, it means a lot to folks who [a] create experiences with the intention of being experienced on a HMD (head mounted device), [b] are creating experiences for HMD and have never once tried a HMD, [c] want to create 360 immersive apps/experiences but don't have a camera in their possession. And honestly, the list could go on and on.
And while you may feel that the 'simple' thing to do would be to save up money to buy a device, the fact of the matter is that this is a very privileged thing to say. Sure if you have no responsibilities beyond caring for yourself and you have the financial means it may be relatively easy for you to try that out. However, for the person who's income doesn't afford them the luxury to make such significant purchases, this sounds like a slap to the face. Not to mention, device access is difficult in various parts of the world. And hello - creators literally live all over the world. The XR industry shouldn't be limited to populous cities and wealthy individuals. It's not fair and only breeds a lack of diversity for the industry.
So, I decided to start a fund.
I want the fund to be more than new devices. There's a market for the loan of used devices as well. Why should some of us sit on 3-4 devices with very limited use of the devices? Literally, some of us are hoarding XR devices which we seldom take out of their respective carrying case. There's also those of us who have devices in which we know we aren't using but aren't sure what to do with them. It's a gut-wrenching feeling to have to part with literally thousands of dollars but wouldn't you feel better if a proper program was in place to ensure that your investment received either a temporary or permanent new home?
I've never put together a fund before, however, I feel as though I've spent most of my adolescence and college doing some level of fundraising for whatever extracurricular I got myself into. I'm literally starting from scratch here and I'm so excited for what's to come! Thus far, I've gotten far more support than I would've imagined from the XR community to ensure that this fund and loaner program is a success. There's so much to do as I don't want this be a simple 'go-fund me'. I want this to be a full-blown non-profit that lives forever beyond my time in the XR industry. I want people to know that there's a place they could go or refer people to when they're in need of a device. I want individuals, businesses and organizations to know that their monetary donations can in fact be a tax write-off. I want folks in this industry to feel that they're making an impact in the careers of other by stretching the very dollars they've earned from their XR career by giving back to those who are desperately trying to make a name for themselves. I personally would be nothing if it weren't for the devices that had either been gifted or loaned to me over the past year. And although I've made my own personal purchases, I can understand how tough it can be for someone starting out with limited funds.
This isn't a program designed to benefit the privileged. I want to put disadvantaged creators first -- they are the priority. So how will I make those distinctions? We'll have to see! I have some logistics figured out but some areas are also gray. I want to gift (for permanent ownership) a subset of devices each year and also operate a device loan program. I don't want to present any monetary gotchas for folks so my intention is to make this a full good-samaritan operation run on donations from myself and the XR community. Devices go beyond traditional HMDs as there are a variety of XR devices and accessories on the market. I'd be really interested in acquiring some of the non-mainstream devices as well.
Fortunately, I have a meeting with a lawyer this afternoon to discuss non-profit formation. I've done some research on this topic already and have also worked for and with various non-profits. Therefore, I'm fortunate to have that experience and knowledge in my back pocket.
Anywho, I'll be sharing updates along this journey here as I'm excited to build this effort from the ground up!