Friends of Lulu Silent on Donation Status

Friends of Lulu logo

Two weeks ago, I asked Friends of Lulu about the status of their Empowerment Fund, a somewhat notorious project that’s been bedeviled with questions since its start. They weren’t able to provide much concrete information, so I asked two more questions.

When do you expect to have the transition completed? Do you expect to release a statement at that time? Until then, what is the status of the funds received?

And are you still an official 501c3 organization, because you’re not listed at the IRS Charities site?

It’s been two weeks, and I’ve received no response. I guess they have no comment on whether their legal status is still what it should be, or whether they plan to further inform interested parties about the Fund.

It’s a shame that their silence gives watchers such a bad impression of the project and the organization. A charitable group that can’t account for the status of received donations… that’s not a good position to be in. It damages the chance of any further fund-raising.

I have one further question: has Friends of Lulu outlived its usefulness? Do they serve a needed purpose or contribute in valuable ways?


  • Ray Cornwall

    If the purpose of the Friends of Lulu is to get more women reading and creating comics, then I’d say the organization is still needed. While we’re seeing more women participating in the medium, there’s still plenty of room for more.

    The more pressing question is whether or not Friends of Lulu can still be effective in bringing women to comics.

  • Ed Sizemore

    This worries me because people have contributed to the fund and have no way of knowing if their money is being used as they intended it. At this point I think the Friends of Lulu should be offering to refund the donated money. Once they have determined if they are still going to continue to pursue this course of action then they can re-solicit for funds. They should be worried that they are going to run afoul of the IRS if they don’t get their bookkeeping in order and fast. (I used to be a church treasurer and can say the IRS doesn’t give a lot of leeway with designated giving.)

  • Ray: many women are reading and creating comics who’ve never even heard of Friends of Lulu. FOL grew out of the traditional direct market publishers and structures, and the most fruitful avenues for getting women involved in comics seem to be bookstores, graphic novels, and manga, a different axis of involvement.

    Ed: if they can’t find the money or don’t have access to it, possibilities that can be inferred from their previous response, they can’t refund. Although I agree with you, they should.

  • Tommy Raiko

    Thanks for keeping on top of this particular story. How FoL handles this Empowerment Fund and the monies it’s already received toward it, may be a defining moment in the organization’s history, one way or another.

    As to the larger question as to whether or not FoL has outlived it’s usefulness:

    Look, it’s certainly not the case that there are no longer any issues regarding female participation and readership in comics. One imagines that there are plenty of ways FoL can still have a useful place in the comics community. (I understand that the New York chapter helps organize and sponsor occasional panel events at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, for instance; those sorts of activities might not be eye-catching, headline-creating, blog-fodder activities, but they’re still useful.)

    I get the sense that FoL faces some challenges endemic to many largley volunteer-run organizations: it’s just plain difficult for such an organization to maintain the adminstrative infrastructure that’s often expected of such a charity. Add to that that FoL’s charter seems to be so broad as to allow key members to run with their passions (which, make no mistake, can be a good thing) but seemingly not so controlled as to ensure solid implementation and oversight of those birthed-in-passion plans, and there are some reasons to be, if not concerned about, then at least aware of what’s going on at FoL. Which is why it’s great that you’re following up on the Empowerment Fund.

    Anyway, I think FoL certainly has a place in the comics community. I think it’s still potentially useful. But I also think, perhaps particularly at this time, it could benefit from a measure of organization, focus, and transparency as it defines its mission for the future.

  • Nat Gertler

    I was a member of FoL for a while, and found that they were better at promoting FoL than promoting the stated goals of FoL. That may have changed, though, as it’s been years since I’ve been a member.

  • Ray Cornwall

    Johanna: Heck, if FOL’s goal was to simply get more women into the direct market, THAT would be a good thing. I love that comics have become hot items in bookstores, but I’d love for the direct market to become more women-friendly. That might be a completely different mandate than “get women into comics”, but it’s not a bad mandate, either. And it may be more achievable, too.

    Keep the pressure on FOL, Johanna.

  • Tommy Raiko

    Speaking of FoL activities, whilst websearching for Lulu news, I came upon this:

    call for entries for a new FoL anthology. (Which engendered an…interesting…set of comments.) Anyway, the deadline for the Call was December 2006; assuming the schedule’s holding, I imagine we might be hearing news of this FoL project in the nearish future. Assuming it comes together (and depending on what the actual scope of the anthology turns out to be) this could be another FoL activity that’s useful to the community…

  • Shannon Crane

    Ms. Carlson, although I originally sent this response to your personal email, I thought your readership would also appreciate hearing from us. So for their consideration, here is a copy of the communication I sent you recently:

    Ms. Carlson,

    I was sent a link to your blog and read your recent post about our empowerment fund.

    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.

    Second, I’m tired of trying to tip-toe around the issue as we approach this topic. So here’s the deal: 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.

    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, 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’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.

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


    Shannon Crane
    President, Friends of Lulu

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