Friends of Lulu Responds

I guess asking questions in public does work! In response to my earlier posting about how Friends of Lulu hadn’t answered my followup questions about their Empowerment Fund, I got an email from the current president of the group, Shannon Crane. Please note that she again didn’t actually answer my second round of questions (about their timeline for wrapping this up and their 501(c)(3) status), but we do get more information about the beleaguered project. Here’s some excerpts:

We did offer a refund last year to those who donated, as we were given misleading information regarding our purpose with this program.

So if you gave them money, get it back. At least, I’m assuming that the refund offer is still open.

Ronee Bourgeois suggested to our entire board that we start an empowerment fund. We agreed that yes, it would be a wonderful idea. Unfortunately, instead of being patient to let the ENTIRE board come up with guidelines, rules, etc, she announced the new fund to the comics community without the board’s consent. We found ourselves between a rock and a hard place. We did what we could to make it work, and now we find that this is not something that we will pursue any longer.

That’s a terrible situation to be put in, and I sympathize with them in having to deal with a loose cannon. Is that a formal announcement of the project’s closure? If so, where are the remaining funds, and what’s their plan to give them back? “Ask us for a refund” puts the impetus on the wrong people, in my opinion. It’s unfortunate that they have to deal with someone else’s mess, but it was their name on the project, wrongly used or not, and a public disavowal is necessary, in my opinion.

Ms. Carlson, when you contacted us you gave us no context of what your purpose was for asking your questions. I’ve never heard of Comics Worth Reading, and I’m sure you understand with the convention season, our upcoming awards, the new anthology (which is finished and awaiting printing), membership drive planning, the board of directors’ real-life full-time jobs, and the fact that we run this organization on a complete volunteer basis, that we can’t get to every query ASAP. Patience is a virtue.

I don’t think waiting two weeks is being particularly impatient, especially when I was responding to her response, but I can understand the feeling. (This made me smile: At least I know the tendency is shared, since I got her email last night, couldn’t answer because I was packing to travel, and then I woke up to find it had been posted as a comment, which is why I’m comfortable reprinting it here.)

I think many people know my credentials in this area — I was an early member of FOL, within two years of its founding, and active in the NY chapter (back when there were four chapters, instead of the only remaining NY one). I also served briefly as a board member of the group during my second go at membership, although I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t do anything during that time. That’s why I still care, although I’m no longer a member.

I’d also like to know why this year-old “controversy” has been the focus for so many people regarding Friends of Lulu. We are a 12 year old organization with a history of doing great things. How about focusing on the many things we get right? Maybe you could talk about our new anthology. It’s called The Girls’ Guide to Guy Stuff and will be released prior to San Diego Comicon.

Oh, I don’t think they’d like it if I talked about their anthology, since I think it’s a terrible idea for a theme. I leave it up to my readers to inform them as to why this matters — I’m rushed out the door, since my ride to the con is here. My short version would be because the wrong thing happened, and I haven’t seen much evidence of hard work to put it right. Plus, losing charitable funds is a very bad thing, and when money’s involved, it all matters more.

I look forward to meeting Ms. Crane at the NY Con and talking with her further on the subject.


16 Responses to “Friends of Lulu Responds”

  1. Heidi M. Says:

    It’s a little leading to tear apart this response paragraph by paragraph, don’t you think? As opposed to running it and commenting on it.

    Your blog, your rules. I support your raising all these questions, but the way you are going about getting answers is beginning to look a little slanted.

  2. Ray Cornwall Says:

    Methinks Shannon Crane needs to understand that when an organization collects funds for a purpose and then decides not to pursue that purpose, they need to be transparent about how they deal with those funds. Her last comment is naive. Make sure everyone gets their money back, and then we can talk about your current initiatives. That’s just the way of the world.

    It sounds like her answer was a bit rude and classless. “Gee, I would have gotten back to you sooner, but I never heard of you! And who cares about this silly fund? We have a new anthology we want you to plug!”

  3. Johanna Says:

    Heidi, you may be right, but I had all of five minutes to put this together, so I did what I could. The full letter was already posted without any response from me at all as a comment in the previous thread. Since she paragraphed it as “first… second… third…” for separate points, I thought it could be approached as such.

    I am slanted on this subject, anyway. I think the Empowerment Fund was a mistake from the beginning, and I think Friends of Lulu should have disavowed it and its proponent at that time instead of trying to make lemonade and winding up in this situation.

  4. Don MacPherson Says:

    Ms. Crane’s explanation as to the status of the empowerment fund strikes me as a reasonable one. Where she goes awry is in the tone of some of her comments…

    First, I need to correct an error in your posting: We did offer a refund last year to those who donated, as we were given misleading information regarding our purpose with this program.

    This is a level-headed, reasonable response. No problems with that.

    Third, Ms. Carlson, when you contacted us you gave us no context of what your purpose was for asking your questions. I’ve never heard of Comics Worth Reading…

    Here’s where Ms. Crane goes awry in her response to a legitimate journalistic inquiry. It doesn’t matter whether or not she has heard of Johanna’s blog. Furthermore, Johanna needs not justify her reasons for asking questions. What matters is transparency in what was clearly a flawed initiative that’s associated with a non-profit organization.

    … and I’m sure you understand with the convention season, our upcoming awards, the new anthology (which is finished and awaiting printing), membership drive planning, the board of directors’ real-life full-time jobs, and the fact that we run this organization on a complete volunteer basis, that we can’t get to every query ASAP.

    That’s reasonable. However, I certainly can’t imagine that FoL has been inundated with inquiries of this particular nature. Furthermore, such an inquiry should be seen as an opportunity (which Ms. Crane seems to have realized), not an inconvenience.

    Patience is a virtue.

    Now that’s snarky. Ms. Crane seems to mistake Johanna’s vigilance on the issue with impatience. It’s not the same thing.

    I’d also like to know why this year-old “controversy” has been the focus for so many people regarding Friends of Lulu.

    It’s the only thing we’ve heard about FoL in the past year.

    We are a 12 year old organization with a history of doing great things.

    Questioning one initiative doesn’t mean one is casting aspersions on the organization’s entire history.

    How about focusing on the many things we get right?

    This sounds as though Tony Snow is doing PR for FoL. :-)

    Maybe you could talk about our new anthology. It’s called The Girls’ Guide to Guy Stuff and will be released prior to San Diego Comicon.

    Nothing wrong with using the response on the empowerment fund issue to segue into a promo for another project. I wonder if any effort has been made — beyond this response to Johanna — to promote that anthology. Has Newsarama/CBR been sent a news release, for example?

    I congratulate you on your successful blog. Will you be at New York Comicon? Perhaps we can meet up and chat comics.

    I give Ms. Crane credit for concluding her message in a friendly manner. She could use a tutorial on how to deal with media inquiries, though.

  5. Nat Gertler Says:

    It would have been nice in this piece had it been clear that the full mailing was available on the linked-to thread, so that the first appearance of what is being addressed is not the sliced-and-condensed version.
    However, once the full version is available, I think the citation of what one is about to address followed by the comments directly on what was cited is a good format. It can avoid certain sorts of confusions that arise from otherwise trying to address an individual point in a longer piece.
    And I also think that not having heard of a site is a reasonable reason to give lower priority to interview questions from them; as a blogger myself, I don’t think it behooves us to treat every inquiry from a blogger as though it were from the New York Times.

  6. Colleen Says:

    But here’s the thing – it shouldn’t matter if the request came from a blogger or the NYT – it should matter only that someone has written a polite query asking about the accountability behind the donated funds. FOL took money from people – they accepted it. If they were not prepared to handle the donations in the appropriate manner than they should have stopped it in the very beginning – returned all checks, put out letters saying they were not prepared to accept donations yet, etc. They took the money and now someone has sent an email asking what happened to that money.

    It’s straightforward – and it doesn’t matter if Johanna is running blog with a ton of traffic or next to none. The suggestion here is that if she was famous (or a big donor) that she would have gotten a quicker reply.

    And really – I think we all see why that is wrong.

  7. Don MacPherson Says:

    Further to Colleen’s comments, what if Johanna was contacting FoL because she had donated to the fund? Who cares if she’s a blogger, journalist or the Queen of Terabithia? If the FoL board saw fit to refund empowerment-fund donations, it would seem to me that ANY inquiry about them should get better than a two-week turnaround.

  8. roche Says:

    Further to Colleen’s and Don’s comments:
    If this was the first and only inquiry about the funds, it should have been a no-brainer to toss off a reply, perhaps even taking some time on it. But it wouldn’t be legit to complain about it being so much work.

    But if they are getting lots of questions about it, then they should have a cut-n-paste reply already ready. In which case it should have been no work at all and taken no time whatsoever to answer the same question n+1 times.

    Meh.

  9. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Feb. 23, 2007: Unfailingly tolerant, compassionate, brightly misplaced Says:

    […] Johanna Draper Carlson’s tenacity pays off: She learns that the Friends of Lulu Empowerment Fund has been discontinued. From FoL president Shannon Crane’s response: […]

  10. Nat Gertler Says:

    I doubt that her FoL efforts are her primary gig in life. I can certainly understand her answering such an inquiry on a more when-I-get-around-to-it basis.

    Which doesn’t mean that someone deciding that two weeks is long enough to wait for an answer is being at all impatient, mind you.

  11. Jen C Says:

    We’ve received no press releases about the upcoming anthology ….

  12. Tim O'Shea Says:

    So, did you get a chance to meet Ms. Crane at NYCC?

  13. Johanna Says:

    Tim, I didn’t. I discovered that it was the kind of show where if you didn’t make prior plans or have a cellphone number, you were unlikely to run into everyone you hoped to see. I thought they might have a table set up, but no luck.

    I did meet someone else, MK Reed, who is working on the anthology earlier mentioned. She was kind enough to give me an advance copy I’m looking forward to reading. She mentioned that they didn’t yet have distribution plans in place, which might be why they haven’t yet sent out any PR — better to do that kind of thing when you have a release date arranged.

  14. Tommy Raiko Says:

    For what it’s worth, FoL boardmember Leigh Dragoon has posted on her LiveJournal here a response of salient facts about the status of the Empowerment Fund. In a later comment to the thread, Ms. Dragoon indicates that she’s been told that an “official FoL statement” is forthcoming (although it may not be a priority,) so there may be something more to keep an eye out for soon.

  15. Another Friends of Lulu Board Member Speaks » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] After last week’s revelations about the now-defunct Empowerment Fund, another Friends of Lulu board member, Leigh Dragoon, comments. Here’s an excerpt: […]

  16. Do You Have a Vision for Women in Comics? Friends of Lulu Needs Help » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] fiasco in early 2007 in which a loose cannon board member announced a money-raising effort that ended in refunds, didn’t accomplish its goals, and made everyone look bad. The situation led to me questioning […]




Categories:

Pages:



Meta:

Most Recent Posts: