Cosplay Dossier
Three Surprising Risks of Cosplaying For Charity

Liana Kerzner | 8 Sep 2015 12:30
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Risk 3: Volunteer work is the most expensive kind of work

The rest of the process should be straightforward, but I've had some hilariously strange things go wrong just because people were "doing me a favor" instead of seeing it as a commitment to a cause. Photographers have refused to release pictures people paid for because they decided they weren't good enough. Key staff has just decided to not show up even though a photo backdrop was in their car. Host organizations have demanded that I get some sort of court order before they're willing to "exclude" someone I think is going to cause trouble. These crises were often exploding while the cosplayers who weren't causing issues were standing there essentially in their underwear. This is why I loathe cosplay drama - it's drama while people are uniquely exposed.

Because certain "special" people will monopolize your attention, you have to be careful to not exploit volunteers that do give a lot of themselves. For instance, don't expect your photographer to eat the costs of photo paper, printer cartridges, tape and other consumables, because they'll eventually realize how much money they're losing and stop volunteering their time. I've seen it happen more times than I can count. Don't expect cosplayers to volunteer for hours without water, food and caffeine either. I've seen so many initiatives implode because organizers demanded zero expenses, so people volunteer once, realize how much money they spent, and don't come back. You haven't lived until you've seen a convention runner have a complete meltdown over the cost of a $20 snowglobe used for a photo prop. I have lived. Oh I have lived. I've just lived away from that convention runner.

The flip side to this is that some events get "creative" with money raised for charity because they're "doing a nice thing" -- meaning they don't think it's a priority. I got burned once doing fundraising for an AIDS hospice as a convention volunteer. When a rumor started spreading that we'd run off with the money, I discovered that the convention had decided to use our fundraising to cover an operational shortfall. This is obviously... how do I put this delicately? Not best practices? But it's too tempting for some people, since money raised is sometimes handled so cavalierly that it's just tucked into costume bodices. (Or waistbands. Oh god I hope it was just the guy's waistband...)

At this point, you're probably thinking that cosplaying for a cause is surprisingly complicated... or you think my life has just been a unique wreck. I've just been doing it for over a decade, and the stories of fail add up over time. But despite the drama, I wholeheartedly recommend using your cosplay powers for good, even though there's a chance things can go bad. At the end of the day you can say you at least tried to make the world a better, happier place, and that's always worth a bit of risk.

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