A Thought Experiment: $100,000 for Furry

A hypothetical question: you are given US$100,000, to be used for the betterment of the furry community. How do you spend it?

The first option is to simply spend the money on furry items. You’ll be contributing to the furry community by strengthening the furry economy.

I’m going to define the ‘furry economy’ as the sum of all furry-to-furry (F2F) transactions, where the good or service exchanged is a furry one. So purchasing furry art from a furry is F2F; purchasing furry art from a non-furry (perhaps a copy of the Lion King from Disney) is not. Purchasing a ticket to a furry convention is F2F; purchasing a ticket to a sci-fi convention is not.

Your $100k is a lot of money, but it’s small compared to the size of the furry economy. The money spent on furry conventions alone, assuming 100,000 annual attendees at an average cost of $200, is in the tens of millions. It’s fair to guess that the money spent on other F2F transactions is also in the millions. So your $100k is not going to make a big difference to the size of the global furry economy.

Still, your money is going to help some furry providers. This is going to make the provision of furry services marginally more profitable, and you might choose to purchase items that can gifted to the wider furry community, such as furry art.

Option 1: Buy Furry Art

Your money will help some furry artists, although it’s just a drop in the ocean and will have little benefit in the longer term. But the art will have secondary value if you allow it to be publicly shared.

You have a secondary consideration here: high art or low art?

Option 1a: Commission Furry Pornography

There is great demand for pornography within furry, a demand which isn’t easily met because the production of furry pornography is labour-intensive. Your commissioned pornography will find an audience and be appreciated, but its value will decline over time: pornography tends to lose its erotic power on repeat viewings. Your $100k worth of pornography will have a shelf life.

Option 1b: Commission High Art

High art, on the other hand, tends to last because it has greater intellectual and emotional heft. So perhaps you might commission some thoughtful pieces. Perhaps your money would allow an artist, or author, to dedicate more time to a project. You are less likely to find a mainstream audience, but you may end up with something that endures.

Here’s another way to add to the furry economy: why not invest in furry R&D?

Option 2: Buy an Experimental Fursuit

You could find a handful of fursuit creators, and spend the money pursuing risky suit ideas. Fursuit commissioners and creators will generally be risk averse, because neither party wants a bad outcome. So maybe you could spend the money in the hope of discovering a new technique or trick, which could then be adopted by suiters and creators worldwide.

Or:

Option 3: Fund a Website

Your $100k will find you developers and managers and testers. Perhaps you could build a website that provides a useful service, meets an unmet need.

Option 4: Fund a Convention

Our furry conventions are largely copycat; they’re based on iterative improvements from sci-fi conventions. Your money might be used to create something risky, unusual. You can afford for your convention to fail, and maybe you’ll create something that succeeds, and can be adopted worldwide.

But maybe you want to go a different route. By spending your $100k on the F2F economy, you’re essentially helping the community through ‘trickle down’ economics: you’re trusting that your money will indirectly help the wider furry community. Perhaps that all sounds a bit capitalist for you; perhaps you’d rather spend your money as a charity.

Most conventions have a charity event, and furries are generous givers. For an example, consider Confuzzled 2013: 872 attendees gave £11,484 to STA Ferret Rescue. Our convention charities are usually (always?) animal-themed, but why not spend your money providing charity directly to furries?

Option 5: Help Needy Furries

Okay, so the drama associated with this option would be off-the-charts. And your money wouldn’t have much of an impact on the furry community as a whole. But you would make a big difference to the lives of a small number of people.

You could always be a bit more targeted with your charity. You could, say, give the money to furries with instructions on how to spend it. There are options here:

Option 6a: Help Furries Travel

You could help furries travel; to conventions, to overseas furry groups. Send a furry group to one of our newer international outposts, perhaps Japan or Eastern Europe. Or gift dozens of furries travel and accommodation to conventions.

Option 6b: Help Furries Buy Art

Or you could help furries pay for their own art commissions.

As it turns out, this experiment is currently taking place on a smaller scale. Fur Affinity user KrisPup is currently running a raffle, where the winner gets $1111 in commissions (that are paid for by Kris).

It’s a compelling idea, and the size of his prize is interesting: it’s big enough to be valuable to those furries without any disposable income, and small enough to be affordable to most people with a full-time job. I wonder if it might be repeated by others. It has generated enough interest to have crashed FA’s creaky servers at least once as furries tried to enter en masse.

(Predictably, Kris’s offer has provoked drama: accusations that his raffle is fake, or that he’s trying to buy popularity, or simple jealousy. I wonder how he will be affected in the longer term, once the money is given and the excitement wears off. The raffle will be open until Christmas or so: see here.)

If the drama of giving charity directly to furries is all too much, you could use your money to subsidize loss-making furry enterprises. There are a few alternatives.

Option 7a: Subsidize Furry Websites

You could offer to pay for hosting and development time for non-commercial furry websites. Most furry websites are volunteer-driven, and most of them operate at a loss. [adjective][species], for example, costs Makyo about US$500 per year (including furrypoll.com). Undoubtedly the costs for larger sites are much higher.

With apologies to Makyo’s bank balance, I’m not sure that this is a good way to spend your $100k. I have no doubt that the help would be appreciated, but you’re unlikely to be helping the furry community in any way. You’ll be saving money for selfless volunteers, but they are already choosing to spend the money without dipping into your pot. So let’s look elsewhere.

Option 7b: Subsidize Conventions

Conventions sometimes lose money. It’s a double blow for an organizing committee, who spend endless hours making a convention happen only to see that they’ve underestimated attendance or, more likely, total costs. They have to make up the shortfall and, in some cases, the convention closes its doors. So why not offer a safety net?

And speaking of safety nets:

Option 7c: Subsidize Successful Artists

The life of a furry artist, even a successful one, is tough. Many artists simply quit to pursue greener pastures. A bit of extra money might keep our artists in furry, for longer.

Finally, your choice isn’t just between a furry economic stimulus or furry welfare: there is a third way. You could offer a reward.

Option 8: A Furry Art Prize

Your pot of money is large enough to create interest in a juried furry art prize. You could assemble some well-regarded furries and offer a windfall to the creator of a great work of art.

There are already furry awards out there, notably the Ursa Majors. But there is no prize for winning a UM beyond a signal boost, and this for an award judged on popularity. The outcome is that UMs are usually awarded to the best-known entrant, the one least in need of publicity. This is why Kyell Gold declined nominations for the 2012 UMs; he understands that the publicity is more valuable to others.

The Cóyotl Awards are a lower-profile award run by the Furry Writer’s Guild (disclaimer: I am a member). They are different from the UMs in that only members of the FWG are allowed to nominate and vote. There is a jury, however they only determine whether a nomination is eligible for voting. Like the UMs, there is no prize.

A juried furry art prize, perhaps $10k spread over 10 years, would be valuable to our community. It would help the winning artist, and it would shine a light on lesser-known (but high-quality) emerging artists. Your prize would be the Oscars to UM’s People’s Choice Awards.

This list of options has come from a long series of conversations with furries around the world. It’s not exhaustive.

How would you spend your $100k?

About JM

JM is a horse-of-all-trades who was introduced to furry in his native Australia by the excellent group known collectively as the Perthfurs. JM now helps run [adjective][species] from London, where he is most commonly spotted holding a pint and talking nonsense.

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15 thoughts on “A Thought Experiment: $100,000 for Furry

  1. 1) Furry StoryCorps.
    Fund specific furries for specific travel to gather personal stories of how people found furry, what furry means, and how furry relates to other aspects of people’s lives. Use these tales to help identify the “borders” and “frontiers” of the fandom.

    2) Furry research.
    Expanding on #1 above, fund studies similar to Gerbasi to actually analyze the habits, behaviors, and demographics of furry for identifying trends in furry fandom and help those who cater to it better do so, as well as to help furries identify their own tendencies with an eye towards improving the community overall.

    3) Furry literature.
    Art is only one aspect of furry expression, but literature lags sharply behind visual art for a number of reasons. Funding a competition and a prize specifically for furry literature, perhaps with a judging component from outside the fandom, may help elevate the overall image and quality of writing aimed at the furry community.

    4) Furry history.
    Everybody in the fandom knows who we are, but few remember how we got here. Documenting the origin of furry as a splinter group within core SF/F and exploring the roots of furry may help others see how we have grown as a community and also help us understand emerging fandoms that relate to our own.

    5) Furry outreach.
    Furry suffers from two image problems. The first is from outside the fandom, where people don’t know what to make of us and have only our own distorted images to reflect us. The second is inside the fandom, where the circular firing squad is quick to brand anyone who might be seen as giving the fandom a bad name as “not really furry.” A specific outreach program both to help furries overcome their internalized shame and to promote an honest-but-positive image of the fandom for those who aren’t members.

    6) Furry research.
    Funding research into prosthetics, cybernetics, and cosmetic surgery to help furries who wish to embody their selves for long-term periods of time will improve visibility and hopefully reduce stigma of furry as something other people do. Much like coming out or starting transition, enabling people to express their furry nature as part of everyday life will help reduce the sense of Otherness about the fandom.

  2. Hmm I was thinking more along the lines of promoting more dialogue between furries and non-furries and using the money to get some positive press. Opening up furry and having perhaps more sponsored mainstream events where a furry element is added, but as much as $100,000 is, it might not be enough.

    In terms of some of the suggestions that you put forth, I would be more inclined to sponsoring non-porn related art simply because that is something that does not pay as well generally so it seems to need more subsidization.

    You have a lot of good ideas there, but they all then make me think how small $100,000 if you are wanting to make a broad impact.

  3. If the ‘furry economy’ is defined by merely furry-to-furry transactions then the furry economy is a zero sum game. AKA, the amount of money furries have does not change or grow at all, it’s just shifting.

    A lot of the ‘furry economy’ comes from outside money. Furries who are gainfully employed who then use that money the outsiders gave them to buy furry items. However, what I think would do the “furry economy” the most good for growth is not how to toss the money about from one furry to another, but to create a furry product that would appeal to a non-furry audience. Thus a non-furry would be interested in buying a furry product.

    1. As you bring more furries in, the size of the internal economy increases proportionately. But even more important, as you point out, is the money brought in from the outside. In theory this will increase rapidly as furries grow older and earn more . . . except that people may instead devote less of their money to furry activities, or drop out of the fandom entirely.

      I’m not sure what product would appeal to furries without requiring that they be one. We’re really fans of one another’s characters. Furcadia, I guess, draws in people who aren’t furries to start with, and you could argue that people buying games and comics and suchlike aren’t necessarily furries. Costumes could be a big “export”, too, competing with standard mascot-makers, as could custom plushies. Disney et. al. already seem quite capable of handling mass market needs for furry material, though.

  4. I probably wouldn’t spend it. I’d use it to establish an endowment to do one or more of those things, under the guidance of a furry non-profit organization – perhaps one established for the purpose.

    The truth is, volunteer time is worth a lot more than money. AC costs around $350,000 a year (excluding art revenue/expenses); it’d be a lot more if you had to pay all ~250 staff what their jobs were “worth” for four days, as opposed to free registration and a nice meal at the end. A large custom site might well take more than 100k to develop professionally – let alone all the revisions after it’s up. Vastly more than, say, ~$5000 a year in hosting costs. Ongoing staffing also costs you.

    Elliott already does option 4, in case you didn’t know about it. I’m also not sure about your “shelf life” assertion. People have +favs to be able to easily go back to them.

    With respect to 7a, if people don’t have to donate a furry website, they may spend it on other status items (such as commissions from the site’s artists). Of course, a single funder cuts down on transaction costs, but has its own risks – vanishing, influence, etc.

    A variation of 7a is to develop software targeted towards the fandom; again, the most efficient way may be to find a furry software developer with free time, as you’ll likely get a “better deal” even if you have to pay them a subsistence wage.

  5. Before I start this comment, let me caveat it by saying that I am not an economist, have no economic training and haven’t really thought about the mechanics of it, this is just an idea.

    Could this big wedge of cash be used to start a furry currency?

    If the goal is ‘betterment’, would it be beneficial to keep a quantity of capital floating around within the fandom, only to be used in F2F transactions? Taking the example of the Brixton Pound, and more recently the Bristol Pound, there is an appetite to keep money circulating locally and away from mega-corporations registered in the Bahamas.

    The obvious problem with this is that furry ‘products’ are predominantly luxury goods and their producers need regular money to live, but I think there is an argument for a degree of culture-specific cash (Furry$), which could be tied to the value of a non-nationally sponsored currency unit like Bitcoins or LindenDollars.

    As I stated before, there are plenty of issues that would need ironing out before we start, but having our own currency would make the fandom ready for when we eventually get our own island and secede.

    1. This might be an interesting idea for a convention – you could get a certain amount of con-bucks as part of your registration, guaranteeing that artists would make a certain amount of money. But if I know artists, the money would have to be immediately convertible, preferably to the local currency, although food is another option.

      Of course, conventions can already subsidize artists if they want to, by charging less for their table than it costs to provide it – and this subsidy is spread relatively equally, rather than accruing to those who already make the most.

      Beyond specific events, I don’t think a furry currency is viable. We’re a relatively small community spread over a wide area, and we get most of our goods and services from outside the fandom. It’s not like a small local community which can provide wide convertibility.

      Also worth considering is that many people don’t have the ability to get physical currency, including artists living in far-off places. You might well end up paying a premium just to buy local when you could instead be supporting furry artists who would benefit greatly from real dollars or pounds. Furries are as rational as others when it comes to making such decisions.

      The most realistic scenario for a furry island is that some really rich furry decides to invite some of their friends and family to live there. Alas, it is likely to be a small one, not sufficient to support itself, let alone form its own nation.

  6. Choice 5. Here’s why:
    I don’t think the F2F economy is a zero-sum game. Almost all furries produce a marketable good or service. If they sell their good or service to non-furries, they gain money to bring into the F2F economy. If a furry sells the good or service to fellow furries, the furry community is better by that much, So if you commission an artist, the general wealth of the community increases because in the end, there is the money that was exchanged plus the art that was produced from scratch. That’s more than there was in the beginning.

    Based on this premise, I would use $100k to fund the education or careers of “jobless” furries because this would bring more furries into the general market for the good of the furry community. (Jobless furries defined as those who are not producing any good or service, F2F or otherwise.) Funding established artists/cons/musicians/fursuit makers is merely giving a boost to individuals who are already being productive, and a portion of the money will probably go toward improving the quality of those people’s lives. Thus, the individuals will use, say, 20% of the money to benefit themselves and 80% to improve their art/conventions/music/fursuits. To the contrary, using the money to help furries obtain a stable job would enable those furries to benefit the economy for the duration of their lives. This, I think is a greater benefit to the community, and also more altruistic because it helps the most unfortunate of us.

    1. A trend I am noticing on this chain on comments is that most of the ideas put forth increase the short term increase of F2F Economy, whereas I would put forth something that would not only influence a F2F economy, but F2NF (Non-fur) as well over a long period of time. I am not a professional Economist, with only high-school level education, but I like to think of myself as smarter than the average bear.
      What I propose (Looking at how much is spent on the topic) is an MMO game that has a lot of furry undertones. If anyones played Dust: An Elysian’s Tale, or Hell Yeah! then you know that Furry games can outreach to regular gamers because they are interesting. This 100k would go to the study, production, and a short term maintenance cost of this game, and eventually the game itself should run on its own two paws, and produce profit. If the host company (Whoever made the game) were ran by furries, and not greedy ones at that, then some of the profits would go not only to the game, but increasing the original investment of 100k over a period of several years. Of course, like any game, an MMO may die out, so we use some of the profits to add expansions or updates, do more focus group testing, and continue to keep it interesting, like WoW did with its many expansion packs. The best model I suggest for this would be a F2P (Free to play) MMO with a subscription based service that allows you to either get an edge in one way, or access to areas or more storyline than previously. While I disapprove of this general concept, it works tremendously (Just look at Facebook games and games like Second Life). Not only does this bring more F2F transactions, but it will start bringing in more NF2F transactions, and a possible new appreciation for the fandom from those outside of it, and maybe help a few people find themselves out (I found out I was a furry thanks to the Elder Scrolls and their Argonian race, which I usually played as).
      A few downsides to keep in mind is that if its a F2P model, it may take a while for profits to jumpstart. With this in mind, you may use the 100k to start a Kickstarter for this game, and seeing as how a lot of furries are willing to donate money for furry related causes as well, your 100k may become 200k, or 500k, depending on how well you market this game. Of course, you will have to deal with advertising costs, but you can casually approach this like Mojang did for thier game, Minecraft, which had no company advertisement, only word of mouth, reviews, and youtube videos. Of course, a game like this will spread quickly through the Furry Fandom, but may take time to reach regular people, but thats why you start going to people who monetize videos and reviews (Like TotalBiscuit) and ask them to review your game, ultimately granting you a larger audience.
      Of course, you can just spend all of your money on porn. Always a good alternative to video games.

  7. I’d love to see someone buy an apartment building in a nice location with the potential to expand and create the core of an actual RL furry community. $100k isn’t enough for more than a down payment, but it’s my all time fave idea for the fandom. I’ve more than once been tempted to try this myself in RL, and may yet give it a whirl if a few cards land lucky. But I have to admit the odds are against me ever making the attempt.

    Failing that, I also would consider supporting our creative types. Rather than buying their goods directly, though, I think such a large sum could best be employed opening the wider marketplace to furry themes and ideas. One good way would be to open a specialty store in a mall in a major US city selling only furry-type goods and art. I don’t expect it’d turn a profit, and would go broke in a few months. But this would “mainstream” our themes and offer them “respectability”– at least in that particular city– in a way that little else could. (Imagine the salespeople all smiling and wearing ears and tails and having obvious fun with them. “See? It’s perfectly okay like this stuff!”) Or I’d consider bankrolling a “serious” art show for one or more of our leading artists in New York, or maybe animate a furry author’s short story at a professional enough level to be marketed/shown on cable TV.

    Our fandom’s incredible creativity is IMO our strongest asset. But not enough people outside the fandom understand what we’re doing or why. The best thing we can possibly do for our artists, again IMO, is to help them make their products available and acceptable to the mainstream. Again, $100k isn’t really enough leverage. But it’d sure make a nice start!

  8. I would split it between commissioning high art and helping needy Furries. This Fandom deserves a Mona Lisa but that means nothing if it doesn’t have the people to represent.

  9. Simple. I’d just hire mercenaries to hunt down and shoot all the haters etcetera who make the internet a worse place for the rest of us. A bit bloody I admit but it would provide a lasting benefit for the community as a whole

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