I keep writing and re-writing this. I’d better just spit this out and move on to my next task.
Earlier today, you asked your twitter followers which non-profit organization you should donate to.
Honestly, I’m pretty sure the answer is Resolve Network.
I’m a 27 year-old who is an aspiring stand-up comedian. I’ve spent the past year in New York City after stops in Austin and D.C. (I am the DC Improv waiter from 5 years ago who ran you down in the lobby and gave you a CD of my stuff and asked for notes). I love stand-up comedy, and my gut feeling is that for me, it will be a life-long pursuit.
Despite that love for stand-up, I’ve decided to move to the Congo in 3 months. Eastern Congo, to be specific - currently one of the most dangerous and unstable places in the world.
Why? Well, here’s the short version: My ex-partner (who also founded the organization two years ago) went to the Congo this fall, and visited the women that we work with there. She interviewed them, and one of the questions she asked all of them was “what would you tell the world if you knew they were listening?”
And one of the women said this: “I have a message to the world, and the message is: We are people. And we exist. And we need peace.”
If I have a chance to do something, how could I read that and not understand? Right? How could I not decide to go there, and work with them, and learn from them, and travel to other villages and explain what we’re doing, and set up a system so that women from different villages can communicate with each other about how much to charge for their produce, or when to prepare for a militia that’s headed in their direction?
Most people can’t move to the Congo to do all that. And so they shouldn’t feel bad that they aren’t doing all that. I won’t bore you with the details, but this opportunity has shown up in my life - a life that up until now, had been an otherwise pretty normal, struggling-comedian life. Trust me when I say this, Louis: I’m a stand-up comic. I’m like you were at 27. Irresponsible. Bad with money. I waste way too many of my days. I always presumed someone moving to Africa was a hero. But I’m not a hero. I’m just a dude. I’m just some random person, who lives in a 4th-floor walk-up, and who gets depressed because I can’t even get my shit together long enough to do my laundry.
But I have this genuine chance. This genuine chance to make a difference. And damn it, I’m going to try.
But we need money. We need money to get over there, and we need money to accomplish the awesome programs we’re setting up. I’m good at a lot of things, but asking for money isn’t one of them.
(I just cut out the emotional, Chicken-Soup-for-the-Comic’s-Soul, story-telling part of this letter, because at the end of the day, an open letter isn’t just a letter - it’s also open. And I just don’t feel comfortable getting all motivational-speaker on you. So I’ll just skip to the end of my letter.)
I’m telling you, Louis, this is a good thing. In our first year, we gave out loans in 10 different villages, to about 50 women, so they could start small businesses. Not only did they turn a profit, but they used the extra money they made to give loans to other women in their communities. They did the same thing with their profits that you’re doing with yours: they turned it into energy.
Now a year later, there are over 500 people - including new women and their families - who are living lives that are better in subtle but really significant ways. And because many of their businesses impact their entire community, the successful businesses are helping entire villages. Now 15,000 people have easier access to food, and 30,000 more people have access to safe latrines and less dangerous water.
I’m telling you: Resolve has a real chance to change a lot of people’s lives, in a lot of different ways.
I want to bitch about how hard it is to ask for money, but now I understand. This is kind of what you’ve been going through the past few months.
In fact, now that I think about it...damn. I’m writing an open letter to you. You had to go on The Tonight Show and ask for people’s money. Jesus. I never even thought about that angle of your recent experiment. It must have been really hard to put yourself out there and ask people to give you money.
On the flip side, that means you know how tough this is. I’m asking for your help, Louis. I’d love a donation. But what I’d love even more is if you extend this open letter to your fans. Let them know that money can be hoarded, fought over, protected, stolen and withheld. But it can also be an energy - an energy that can be shuffled and pushed around and pooled together. It can fuel great comedy specials, but it can also fuel revolutions. It genuinely can.
I know that might sound like bullshit, but after the past two weeks, I feel like if anyone’s fans can truly understand that their money can do things, it’s yours.
Our organization is like you, Louis. We don’t need money so that we can have money. We need money to use it as fuel. We have a real chance to help make some incredible things happen. But we need money. We need fuel.
I hope you understand, and I hope you choose to help.