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The Pirate Shop Supports Writing Program

826 Valencia: The Writing Center helps kids develop their writing skills. A worthy goal, but how do they fund it?

With a pirate store! Yep, that's right, they run a store full of eye patches and pirate hats to fund their literacy projects.

For years now, while making small-talk at parties, the pirate store comes up almost every time the nature of my work is mentioned. The first time I heard of 826 Valencia and The Pirate Shop, was at a conference for non-profits. It was a session on the emerging earned income strategy, in the world of dwindling traditional funding sources. The whole idea of a store selling pirate-themed toys to support a program was crazy and brilliant. It works! Can it be duplicated? Maybe not, but it can inspire new ideas.

The key is to connect something that people want with something they want to support -- make it easier to satisfy the drive to "do good". Along these lines, I've been looking for things GalaxyGoo could offer to the feel-good market space.

This past November, we organized an amazing art show with works inspired by math and science. It was a successful show, but didn't raise a large amount of money or stir up a buzz in the local media. Why? I think that perhaps the ticket price on most of the pieces was outside the budget of our community of supporters. The Pirate Store is filled with inexpensive items, and they sell a lot of them.

But why no media buzz? Maybe we need to work on a smaller scale and get people more familiar and comfortable with the intersection of art and science. Reach out with something that they can hold onto. One thing we could do is to offer appealing products through services like lulu.com and cafepress.com.