If the 10 Principles shape the experience of Burning Man, can other events use them to extend the reach and influence of like-minded cultures? Apparently, yes! In a recent move to do more with less, the Southern California-based Desert Hearts festival is raising funds to tackle the housing epidemic starting in Los Angeles and spreading nationwide, in conjunction with the DH tour schedule. With a mission to “spread as much love and positive energy as possible,” Desert Hearts is the latest event to advance philanthropy under the Burning Man umbrella through the fiscal sponsorship program. The resulting project culminated in a visit to Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles on February 17, where members of the crew gifted “bundles of love” to the houseless.
“Desert Hearts was trying to figure how to make a civic engagement project,” explains Christopher Breedlove, Burning Man Project’s program manager for Burners Without Borders. They wanted to put about $12,000 into it but knew that it would be prohibitive to be taxed on it.” Since it requires a great deal of time and paperwork to qualify as a nonprofit, philanthropic initiatives are often financially out of reach. By becoming one of the twenty or so fiscal sponsors with Burning Man Project, Desert Hearts organizers are able to declare charitable contributions on tax filings as a 501(c)3 and bring a touch of dusty love into the defaut world with projects like the Love Ride.
What’s Fiscal Sponsorship?
If you believe in taking the ideas of Burning Man beyond the playa, fiscal sponsorship is one path to achieving that dream. Put simply, fiscal sponsorship enables Burners and their organizations to share Burning Man Project’s nonprofit status, so they can spare more of their budget for helping those in need. In this way, fiscal sponsorship is akin to voting, only instead of casting a ballot for a candidate, Burners get to leverage an organizational wallet for communal, collaborative social impact at the local level. Some may dismiss this kind of work as basic philanthropy, but in an era where FEMA and the EPA are being whittled out by politicians, programs like these may become all that keeps our infrastructure from crumbling when the next big hurricane hits.
What’s the Love Ride?
Desert Hearts was inspired by Burning Man’s 10 Principles when it was founded six years ago. Principles like “Leave No Trace” and “Radical Self-reliance” are frequently a fixture at the festival, but the Love Ride — a collaboration with the Savage Hearts collective — is a working model of the principles in action out in the world. The inaugural Love Ride was appropriately held on Valentine’s Day 2018 in Venice, California. The feeling was so gratifying, the crew headed out the following weekend to Skid Row in Downtown Los Angeles. The weekend after that, they did the same in San Francisco.
Together, Desert Hearts and Savage Hearts are known as Helping Hearts. By combining forces, the team-up expands Desert Hearts’ infamous local pop-up shows — affectionately labeled “City Hearts” — by adding the goal of funneling fundraising dollars into giving more people the gift of love (albeit in a bag). “We knew it was going to be successful because we partnered with Savage Hearts, a group who has been gifting bundles like this for more than six years in Venice,” said Persepsion, Head of Operations at Desert Hearts, who was tasked with summiting the small mountain of paperwork for the fiscal sponsorship. “We knew it was going to be successful, but that’s not the point. The point is to just get out there and do it. Get in your own neighborhood and take some patience and some presence, but then do it.”
Desert Hearts co-founder Mikey Lion says the plan is to expand the Helping Hearts program by enlisting ambassadors in major cities nationwide who can lead local efforts in their own backyards. “We really need to build the infrastructure of who’s going to organize and who’s going to run the donations,” says Lion. “We have a small team working on it here in L.A., but the next step is finding the right people that can mobilize it throughout the country.”
Next, the crew has other Helping Hearts events scheduled alongside upcoming shows in Las Vegas and San Diego before heading to Denver and New York this summer.
The Ripple We Make With Principles
Principles are important because they take the ideas of Burning Man beyond the playa. Aligning to a set of principles isn’t about finding yourself. It’s about choosing how you’re going to show up in the world. For those that would credit the Love Ride’s success to an avid base of techno and house music enthusiasts, it may come as a surprise that through the Love Ride and programs like it, the Desert Hearts festival has risen in acclaim in Southern California and abroad. You don’t need to be a titan of industry to make an impact on the culture — you can simply be an honest example of Burner values in the default world.
Top photo by Andrzej Liguz / moreimages.net