I've been thinking. I spent some effort last year trying to help fellow Furry fans who've been down on their luck. I've passed the word, (since I've had no bucks to pass), about sick dogs and cats, broken transmissions, sudden rises in rent and so on. I've mentioned emergency commissions, sales, loans and outright begging. I hope I've done some good.
My journals haven't gathered many replies, but I didn't expect them to. Sometimes I've gotten comments from well-meaning friends who have tried to discourage those whom I've been trying to encourage. They seem to feel that anybody who claims to be in trouble before a furcon must really intend to use the money to finance their convention trip. Personally, I think of this as cynicism, perhaps self-involvement. Maybe they're right, but you can't just assume such things, it's not fair.
But even if it is true, what's wrong with wanting to get to a furcon? It's important to spend time with other fans. It's difficult to advance in the fandom without putting in face time and meeting others. Deals are made at furcons, friendships and hook-ups started, even business entered into. On the surface, getting to a convention might seem to be a frill, an unimportant expense that can be dispensed with to help cope with hard times. That's true, but only to an extent; it's really more like dentistry, something you can put off for a while, but you'll suffer if you avoid it forever. (Granted as obvious, it's more fun going to MFF than to the dentist!)
So here's what I've been thinking about. Why not start a Furry charity to help under-privileged furries get to cons? It would help them with travel, hotel, living expenses and other costs as needed. Money would come from direct donations and sales of donated goods or services. It would be given to those who need it to get to a con. Details can be worked out later.
There's a precedence for this. Furry derives as a fandom from earlier fandoms, Science Fiction fandom being one of the more important. SF fans have travel fund plans called "fan funds" to help popular fans get to specific cons. The first was TAFF, the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund, which helps fans from the UK get to Worldcon in America, (or the North America Science FIction Convention (NASFiC) when Worldcon is in another country); in alternating years it helps an American SF fan come to Eastercon, (the UK national SF con.) Other examples include DUFF, (Down Under Fan Fund between the US and Autralia), GUFF, (Going Under / Get Up-and-over Fan Fund between the UK and Australia), and CUFF, (Canadian Unity Fan Fund, within Canada.) SF fan funds help usually one SF fan, (occasionally groups), with travel and living expenses and allow them to visit friends in the host country before, during and after the convention until they go home. The fan to receive this largesse is chosen each year by popular vote. Money comes from donations, voting fees and sales of trip reports. The recipient in turn runs the fund at his or her end for two years.
However, I suggest that our Furry Fund should work a little differently. Money would be dispersed just to furries within North America. (Other countries or regions could start their own furry funds.) This is because travel in particular is much cheaper within the region than across an ocean. Recipients would be chosen, not on popularity, but by need. Perhaps they could be required to submit a plan with a budget, including ways that they can provide for part of their own needs, such as having been offered room space or a lift at least part-way. Smaller requests would be more likely to be granted; that way we could grant more of them.
The main advantage of such a Furry Fund would be that Furry fans who have trouble getting to a con would have help. Conventions could expect larger turn-outs and some less heard-from fans could make themselves known. They might even come with larger budgets and be able to buy art, instead of just admire it. As a side effect, fans who lie about personal emergencies to get money for furcons, (assuming there are any), would no longer need to lie. Fans who have the ability to help could then do so with confidence that their charity is going to help with real emergencies.
I must admit that I haven't the first idea how to make such a thing happen. I've never done anything like it. I don't even know if anybody is interested in a Furry Fund anyway. I'm putting this idea out for inspection and opinions. I would appreciate constructive feedback.
TL:DR - Happy 2012, let's help poor furries get to conventions, it'll solve some problems.