Hurrah! I heard from Doug this morning. Here’s his email in full:
Hey guys! No major updates this time – now we wait for Doug MacPherson to do his magic. He started on our order last week, so hopefully things are coming along well. I shot him an email earlier to check in.
How are you doing?
Hey guys! Thank you for your patience as I prepared a new update over the past few days. Your supportive comments and messages have been really wonderful and encouraging. Although our project has taken some coordinating, you’re far too kind to me. Phone calls, emails, quotes – these things aren’t difficult for me. You trusting a stranger on the internet with your donations, now that’s exceptional.
So, let me update y0u on where you are now. As I mentioned in the last couple of updates, I’ve placed the order with Doug MacPherson, our bagpipe maker, and I’m glad to report the payment has gone through! (You can see the receipt below.) What’s even more exceptional is how closely the amount raised matches the charges. We raised over $1750, which came out to roughly $1588 after GoFundMe fees, and the pipes cost us 900GBP – or $1580. PayPal’s exchange rate was a little rough, and I expected us to have about $90 left over. However, we’re left with $8 and change. Personally, I’m happy about how closely we fundraised. Although many of you had really wonderful suggestions about different ways to spend the money – buying locker space, a selling permit, teddy bears, etc – having a discussion about how to spend excess money with 135 donors would not be an easy task. The way things worked out, we still have to decide on how to spend the leftover cash, but our options are much more limited. You can see the breakdown for how we spent every cent in the summary below, and in earlier updates.
As you saw in the photo on my last update, I stopped by Union Square to chat with Malcolm’s bookstand partner Michael, who has been immensely helpful with reaching and communicating with Malcolm. Surprisingly – but very fortunately! – I finally ran into Malcolm. I had no doubt we’d reach him, especially after speaking with him on the phone, but it was great to see him in person. As Michael had mentioned to me earlier, Malcolm is a little quirky, but he’s a brilliant piper. We had a brief chat, and I assured him of our progress. He has been pulling away from working at the bookstand to play more, and has using a very low-quality set of bagpipes he’s come by in the meanwhile. The bookstand is now mostly run by Michael. Malcolm told me that he has always wanted a set of MacPherson pipes, and I think that having a great set of pipes – commensurate with his 40 years of playing experience – is going to make all the difference to him.
I’m meeting Michael for coffee sometime this week, and am excited to learn more about his story. One thing that struck me in our initial conversation was just how lucky Malcolm was to be in the right place at the right time. Michael had stepped away for coffee for a moment when Brandon Stanton, the HONY founder, came by while Malcolm was watching the bookstand. In meeting with Michael, I’m also looking forward to learning more about Malcolm. I’m definitely going to sit down with him after we give him the bagpipes to learn more about his story.
So, here’s the summary: we’re in touch with Malcolm, we’ve placed the order, and our maker Doug MacPherson is starting on the pipes this week! Definitely do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions, and thank you so much for your incredible support.
Here are the specifics of our spending:
I’ve got more exciting news today! But first, I wanted to thank you guys for reading and reaching out. I read every comment here (WordPress makes me approve each one individually, so don’t be surprised if it takes a few hours to show up,) and your support has been very encouraging. I try to respond whenever I can, but I read every last thing you write! A few of you have mentioned coming back here periodically to check for updates, and that means the world. Keep following up!
Now, for the exciting news – I’ve placed the order with Doug! I’m still waiting on a PayPal invoice from him, but the final price we agreed on was 900 GBP, which, at the time of writing, is $1540. I’ll be sure to update everyone when I actually pay, but in the meanwhile I can share this awesome email from July 10th:
So, hopefully we’ll see the pipes come in before the end of the month! I know it’s been a long journey, but we’re getting Malcolm a brand-new, custom-made instrument from a top maker shipped from across the globe. I say it’s worth the wait.
So, what happens now? For now, I’ll keep posting the odds and ends of the order in the name of transparency. On a more exciting note though, I have some potentially interesting content to share in mind: how this campaign started, what else I’ve learned about Malcolm, and my ongoing conversation with Michael, Malcolm’s bookstand partner and friend. I also want to highlight who some of you guys are, and share your awesome stories! I know you’re reading from all over.
Also, here are some otters who’re excited about our progress:
I received the money in my bank account today, and am in final negotiations with Doug to place the order, preferably by the end of the week. I tried to get the nicest set of bagpipes possible for our budget, with as little left over as possible. As Doug described them:
“A set of bagpipes ready to play, bag, reeds, cover and cords, a Bannatyne Willie McCallum Custom bag and a set off Balance Tone drone reeds, a set of Brass slides and a Boxwood/brass/ nylon Mouthpiece… I think the brass would be a nice contrast with the boxwood.”
I’m not an expert on buying bagpipes – though I have bought violins, violas, and tons of studio equipment in the past -but that sounds really, really nice. We’ve negotiated to a way nicer set from Doug’s basic package.
I know there have been some great suggestions on what to do with the remainder of the money, and my plan is to start the discussion once I place the order. My aim, again, is to spend as much money as we can on the best bagpipes we can get. Once we do that, we can explore other ways to help, but let’s take this one step at a time.
In other news, this project has been an exciting crash course on crowdfunding and non-profits for me. One thing I didn’t consider at all was the tax policy on crowdfunding and gift giving. Fortunately, after doing some research, I found that the IRS allows for personal gifts up to $14,000 without taxation, a sum known as the “annual exclusion.” In other words, I can give anyone under $14,000 without worrying about being taxed.
Unfortunately, the situation with crowdfunding seems to be more complex, and the nearly $1600 we raised may count as taxable income for me for the year that I’ll need to pay out-of-pocket. I’m not sure on the details, since “the exception to the crowdfunding rule is a true gift: money sent for nothing in exchange,” which is the case here, since we’re not offering any rewards. However, all the research I’ve done still comes out hazy on the IRS policies on fundraising. Are there any accountants in my audience that can offer advice on this?
To finish on a bright note, Olivia from Humans of New York checked in yesterday! While we’re working independently from HONY, it’s great to know that she’s following along to see how our project pans out. Definitely don’t get your hopes up, but I think it would be incredible to get Brandon Stanton, the brilliant HONY founder and photographer who brought this story to light, to join us for when we actually bring Malcolm his new set of bagpipes. I know he’s unbelievably busy these days, but none of this would have happened without his brilliant storytelling.
In anticipation of paying Doug, I withdrew the money from our GoFundMe account today. It should take 2-5 days to transfer. Here is the confirmation:
Why only $1,588.14 instead of the $1768 that we fundraised? Because, sadly, GoFundMe and their payment processor WePay take significant fees. Here is how the fee system works out:
Where is the additional $0.31 that we’re getting coming from? I don’t know, but with what GoFundMe is charging us, I’m thankful for every penny we’re winning.
Finally! After a few days of back and forth, I actually managed to get Doug on a Skype call. He was very friendly, and is emailing me some prices tomorrow (Monday.) Can’t wait to see what we’re working with!
It’s been a little difficult to reach Doug, but I keep making calls – we’ve emailed back and forth a few times, so it’s just a matter of finding a time that fits us both.
In other news: Bulgaria, isn’t that Viktor Krum is from?