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Starting a Magic Charity Tournament


I wrote about philanthropy a few years ago in “Magic, Philanthropy, and You.” I work in the nonprofit field and am an ardent supporter of all things that aren’t for profit or government work. (Generally, most nonprofit stuff is what government work should do, such as a state arts board being a ministry of culture.) I’ve found in my years playing this game that, on the whole, Magic players are quite charitable and will give more often than not. Though, to be fair, most humans will give when the hit is inconsequential or the incentive is even marginally helpful.

I didn’t add a charity tournament to my list of things to accomplish in 2014, assuming I wouldn’t be able to pull it off in time, but with a set coming out of the blue in Magic: The Gathering–Conspiracy, I can easily see a very quick “turn-key” event being possible not only in my home city of Minneapolis, but in a variety of other places, too.

I should comment that any charity event in non-USA countries is radically, utterly different. Germans pay exorbitant taxes, so donations make very little sense to them. “Doesn’t the government take care of this stuff?” is a very common response when I tell people I work for fundraising in the arts—they thinking I’m a lobbyist of sorts. (Which, technically, we kind of are.) It’s more than passing around a jar asking for quarters. It turns out nonprofits are often a signifier of vitality in a city and a huge economic indicator. If you don’t have an orchestra, for example, you’re not a city, or if you have nothing to store or show in a museum, it’s not worth moving there.

Before I put forth a decent timeline template for damn near anyone to hold a tournament, we need a couple of things explained. I plan on having a charity event this year, and while our local players may choose different routes, it’s wise for players trying to convince a tournament organizer or storeowner some foundations on what players want. I have inklings on all of these things, but let’s put it to a poll and then discuss briefly in a side note next week.

To start things off:

1. What’s the Charity?

This could take months to figure out, but I’m curious about a gut-check reaction. Do players really care about Finkel and his colleagues’ charity Gamers Helping Gamers? Is Child’s Play known? Do people love animals or technology access the best? How about bald kids with cancer—is that the default choice?

[poll id="306"]

* Minnesota Computers for Schools

** Child’s Play

*** Gamers Helping Gamers

2. Tournament Format

Consider the tradeoff between being inclusive, meaning more people, and more prize payout to cost of entry. It’s hard to raise money when the cost to enter is $50 and most of that is in covering Time Spiral packs.

[poll id="307"]

3. +EV Additions to the Tournament

Would there need to be other added benefits by attending? If so, what below is the most enticing?

Choose your favorite two.

[poll id="308"]

Successful Hunt speed-painting by Mark Molnar

4. Play Mats

Play mats went from a rare Grand Prix item to being a fully expected at any large tournament. I like them, but I can definitely see how people wouldn’t want $10 to $30 added onto their entry fees just for swag.

[poll id="309"]

4a. Play Mat Art

Commission rates for play mats are a bit variable, but the more established the artist, the larger the tournament needs to be for it to be even remotely profitable. I have contacts from right out of art school to . . . well, I guess I kind of know Donato. So, think logistically about whom gets the art and what that means.

[poll id="310"]

Play mat by Steve Argyle

5. Prize

While the monetary entry fees would all be to charity, yes, there needs to be something in store for a winner. These aren’t mutually exclusive. Straight cash as a prize isn’t promoted, as that should be for the charity.

[poll id="311"]

6. Raffle or Silent Auction

I’m a huge proponent of silent auctions. An organizer asks all the local businesses that profit enormously from having huge prereleases and such for gifts in an auction. You don’t think the nearby pizza shop doesn’t love Magic players? With them donating, it appears all bad for them, but it actually brings the shops closer together, encouraging them to find cross-promotions and work on their placement of advertising. Raffles allow for an event to receive donations from everyone, as the prize would be silly to not win. For example, raffle off a play set of Tarmogoyfs for $1 to $5 per chance. How many do you buy as a player? Nonzero is the answer. If you add a need-not-be-present-to-win clause, like, for something crazy-huge, you open to massive donations across Twitter simply from an Evan Erwin–excited retweet.

[poll id="312"]

7. Artist

Should an artist need to be present? Keep in mind that artists have costs associated with them. I would argue taking my artist list, finding a local one to come to your charity event for below his or her normal rate to do artist stuff, and then start a relationship in which you pay for him or her to come to a lot of local events. If you brought Lars Grant-West to every prerelease and Game Day in a year, your store would be the coolest place in Rhode Island, and people would count on you having a decent crowd with an artist there.

[poll id="313"]

8. Art Show

I finally have basically enough contacts to set up a popup Magic art show anywhere in the country. Seeing how small an Alpha artwork is or basically how large a panorama is painted is rather thrilling for some people. If nothing else, you are able to see something behind the Wizards curtain. Art changes from canvas to card, and this is a cheap way to add value to an event. Would that be cool to see at a charity event?

[poll id="314"]

Thanks for taking part. More information will be coming soon. But vote! I look forward to your responses.

- Mike

Alpha Original Art Project – Who knows of one on his or her uncle’s wall? Rat him out to help get Magic into an art exhibition, and let me know about it.

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