Desert Hearts Gets a Money Boost for Civic Projects With Fiscal Sponsorship

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.

(Photo by Tani Caudillo)

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.”

(Photo by Andrzej Liguz /

What’s Next?

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.

(Photo by Tani Caudillo)

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 /

About the author: Graham Berry

Graham Berry

Where vibes are high, you can bet Graham Berry won’t be far. When he’s not volunteering to build big art or eating fire, he’s usually chronicling the experiences created at events that were inspired by the community and ethos in Black Rock City. With his trusty Masters of Communications from the University of Southern California and his Instagram moniker @FestivalWriter, Graham tirelessly works to share the stories of the creative heroes of the day. Through sheer dedication and an iron will, he fills his daytime hours generating editorial content as the voice of Do LaB. Outside the office, he moonlights as a freelancer for various culture and events focused publishers like Fest300, LA Weekly and Burn After Reading Magazine. He has also written extensively on the powerful culture that Burning Man catalyzed in festivals peppered throughout the default world, including Lucidity, Enchanted Forest, Envision and Lightning in a Bottle.

8 Comments on “Desert Hearts Gets a Money Boost for Civic Projects With Fiscal Sponsorship

  • Someone who knows says:

    This is a joke. I worked closely with this group and they pocket proceeds to line their pockets. They swindled the DH crew into raising money so they can take a percentage home to their own bank account. Glad they give things to homeless, but that action doesn’t make stealing OK.

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    • DeeDe Hopkins says:

      i would love for whoever made the first statement to let their face be shown. i am a founding member of the Savage Hearts and The Love Ride and I can say without a shadow of doubt that this is an UNTRUE statement.
      All monies donated go DIRECTLY to the purchase of items needed for the project. I am deeply saddened that anyone would say otherwise.
      Shame on you for making such horribly false accusations.

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    • I’m not sure what you know but you could not be any more clueless in this case. Whoever you are, you are so WRONG!!
      Fist off, I’m not sure what you are gaining from making false claims.
      2- if you are wrightgeous to make such harsh accusations, why don’t you disclose yourself? Anonymous claims are just “talking sht”.
      3- you are welcome to come talk to us and we can show you exactly how we allocate funds. Every single dollar goes directly towards the project.
      4- Because we put every dollar towards the project, we end up going out of pocket every time!!
      5- I challenge you to prove your case or remove this comment.
      6- I just don’t understand why anyone would focus their negativity on such a selfless charity event. Makes it so much more challenging to do good for the community.
      You should be ashamed of yourself. This is blasphemy!

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  • Peopleinglasshouses says:

    I hope that the first sentence in the above comment is true (that they are making a joke). Pretty strong accusations, I hope that for all of the good they are doing that it’s not true.

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    • DeeDee Hopkins says:

      this person is a joke.
      it’s not even remotely true.
      Savage Hearts will be at Desert Hearts AGAIN in less than 2 weeks, serving up Wench (French) Toast to all festival goers with the immense support and approval of the DH Crew.
      would this even be a possibility if they had done such a thing?
      i think not.

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  • Paul Ong says:

    To the first poster… what you say is 100% false! Have you even attended or participated in a love ride? You are a troll and a coward for posting anonomously. No idea whatever your reasons are but your comments are hurtful, untrue, misleading and downright dispicable. Your attempt to discredit the love ride as a money grab only hurts the most vulnerable people love ride attempts to help…The homeless…you are pathetic!

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  • Joe Giuliano says:

    Don’t sweat this garbage mentioned in the first post. The blood sweat and tears the Savages and now DH have put into this selfless endeavor speak louder than some anonymous baseless accusations. The fact is the Love Ride cares only about those in need, has consistently delivered, has outgrown its original goals, and will continue to grow and service a part of the community often overlooked. To hell with naysayers, y’all are pillars of love and charity. Anyone that thinks otherwise hasn’t witnessed the acts described in this article.

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  • This first comment is absurb and unsettling. Sending love to this extremely sad person that wrote this nonsense. You clearly need a lot of love!!! Your crying out for it! Savage Hearts is a wonderful group of people with huge hearts that are actually doing good and helping this very serious homeless crisis in LA. Soften your hardened heart. My heart aches for you if you actually believe what you wrote. All you need is love. It’s free and it’s everywhere when you open your eyes and heart!

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