Lately, I am undergoing some studio changes. This is an internal and an external thing. I’m looking at what motivates me to do anything, and taking some prompts from my intuition to make some changes.
One of these changes is that I’m going to go from occasionally donating books to a shelter or money to an organization like Kiva microlending (also very fun and low stakes), to baking it into my way of doing business from the ground up.
So far, this has turned out to be delightful.
In the past I have always had some story get in my way of doing this:
a) I don’t make enough money and this will hurt my business.
b) I don’t make enough money and this won’t help anybody.
c) Other people should give to me, they have more than me.
It's amazing how many years of my life I've spent in such a poverty mindset.
I was also just too busy spinning my wheels about whatever I woke up thinking about to make much progress until I began learning about an organization called Effective Altruism, after listening to a podcast in which Sam Harris interview’s its founder, William MacAskill. From there, it’s been a slow slide, involving asking good friends with very different places on the spectrum of wealth, how they do their giving, and then I took a few concrete steps of my own.
While this is a process only in its early phases, as of January 2021, I have set up a system whereby every time I sell a product, a tree is planted in some part of the world where reforestation is needed through Eden Reforestation Projects. This idea came from a lovely conversation I had with friend and design crush Leila Simon Hayes, whose pattern designs and related products are most excellent (she also designed the covers of my first two books) and donates similarly to the Eden Reforestation Project. Through conversation with both Leila and my dear friend, art peer and co-conspirator Sue Murad, I decided to just do it. Additionally, I donate 10% of income that I earn through my studio to something, currently through Effective Altruism, where I know the money will be as effectively used to save or improve a life, as can be managed, based on their careful research and experience.
I wanted to share this news with you, so that every time you find yourself at my shop, or considering the purchase of an artwork, you will be benefiting many, and bringing me a spark of delight in the process!
There are other changes afoot that I will share as they happen, and I will likely focus in on how to give with more specificity as I learn the most effective ways to do so. In the meantime, I wanted to let you know both for accountability and to inspire you to think about where your money goes.
As an end note, this process has made me more aware of who has baked philanthropy into their business models, in formal and informal ways, and made me more and more likely to buy from them than from brands that may have personal profit as their primary goal. I also love this model because it does not follow the non-profit model, which seems to shun money and profitability, and require the exhaustion of always looking for funding. It isn’t always sustainable and seems to equate earning money with being dirty, leaving that to others. I think profitability and self sufficiency is extremely interesting, but all the more so when it’s to make a more powerful change in the world you see around you.
This is big talk from someone who barely knows what she’s talking about, but hopefully it inspires you to be curious and creative in how your money circulates and benefits the world around you.
Hannah Burr is a contemporary artist and author. Originally from Boston, she lives in Ann Arbor MI.