Reading Rainbow Kickstarter – the TRUTH – in my opinion of what LeVar Burton is doing – do not be fooled!
By now everyone’s heard of the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter to bring Reading Rainbow back to every child, everywhere. Do not be fooled.
There are a lot of articles saying the public is being fooled, that Kickstarter donors are being duped. Do not be fooled by these articles. I do not feel that is the case. I love the ‘for profit’ direction Reading Rainbow is going in.
In fact, what I like the most is that Reading Rainbow is moving towards a for-profit model. I’ve co-run two non profits, including managing a $1m budget on one – spending $1m is an interesting experience – but once the money’s gone it’s gone unless you have more donors.
Going to the for-profit model with a Kickstarter kickoff hopefully will help Reading Rainbow be self-sustaining in the future instead of just disappearing like some of PBS’s great’s do over time. Just my thoughts on it. Plus there are so many legal limitations that Non Profits have – so I’m glad RR will be for profit and be able to really be long term.
For profit allows those running it to pay for the TOP talent, license out what it needs to when it needs to, and ultimately reach more kids than a non profit EVER could. I come from a background of having helped run an entertainment non profit and a community outreach on profit. With the exception of non profits tied to churches and those tied to schools, I see way too many restrictions.
In Non Profit world, You have to abide by certain restrictions in terms of what you pay employees, consultants, benefit programs, and how you can monetize what you’re doing so you can SURVIVE. I helped run a non-profit that ran on a $1 million dollar budget and still saw it dissolve after only having completed 3 years of it’s mission. You CAN be a for profit and still do socially uplifting, humanitarian and educational work – and do it MUCH more effectively. No Excess Benefit Transactions, no inurement or private benefit risks with employees and contractors, no fair-market value restrictions on licensing – you can do whatever it takes to complete your mission. Non Profit does not have that benefit. Which is why I think Reading Rainbow as a For Profit enterprise is the BEST way to reach every child, everywhere.
I’ve been on many calls with the IRS, non profit lawyers, entertainment lawyers, and accountants to learn the ins and outs of non profit administration. It’s difficult, time consuming and you have to watch everything from accepting a gift from a vendor to giving a gift to a vendor, if your spouse travels with you, if a consultant is charging too much, not enough, etc.
Non Profits are often overseen by boards which can be inactive or active – in non profits overseen by ‘inactive’ boards, things negative can happen and a board directory may just say ‘that’s unfortunate’ – and move on with their lives, while the people the non profit is there to serve, suffer. In a For Profit, there a striving for performance, excellence, and growth. LeVar Burton and his team have an ambitious goal – every child, everywhere – and that will require the care and oversight that comes with a for profit entity where performance is critical and excellence is strived for.
LeVar Burton and his business team are making the right move in making Reading Rainbow a ‘for profit’ venture. He’s making the right move for his team, his consultants, the company’s longevity, but most of all the children. PBS did a wonderful thing during the life of the show but they were not in a strong position to innovate it and take it to the next level. LeVar and his Kickstarter team are.
LeVar will get the best bang for Kickstarter Bucks with the vision he’s laid out in the Kickstarter video. He would never accomplish all of this in it’s original non profit format. LeVar is doing what it takes to ensure the longevity of the Reading Rainbow brand.
You can be a for-profit with a non profit style mission, we call that social entrepreneurship. At the end of the day, tens of thousands of Kickstarter backers have not been duped. They have not been fooled. They just want to join LeVar Burton in his mission to bring Reading Rainbow to every child, everywhere.