SEATTLE — Fantasy writer Patrick Rothfuss, the bestselling author of The Kingkiller Chronicle series, issued a call to arms against global poverty, mobilizing geeks worldwide with his charity organization Worldbuilders. Since 2008, Rothfuss and Worldbuilders have raised more than $7.15 million toward pulling people and communities out of poverty.
Origins of Worldbuilders
After Rothfuss’ first novel, The Name of the Wind, began receiving accolades, his fan base grew larger and his reach through social media and an online blog became substantial. On a whim, Rothfuss hosted a photo contest. The response was enormous and unexpected as Rothfuss was flooded with hundreds of submissions from fans. After recovering from the subsequent shock of realizing just how far his reach extended, Rothfuss’ giving nature kicked into gear. He knew he had a platform to effect real change.
In the meantime, The Name of the Wind, the first entry of The Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy, was becoming a bestseller. Still not completely cognizant of the measure of his appeal, Rothfuss started a fundraiser for Heifer International, his mother’s favorite charity, and pledged to match the donations received. Assuming he’d need to come up with around $5,000, he joked that he nearly went bankrupt keeping his promise when the donations reached $50,000.
Rothfuss recognized his fans’ capacity for giving, as well his need for help in coordinating it. He organized some friends and, believing in the power of geeks doing good, Worldbuilders was born.
Worldbuilders prides itself on its team – made up of geeks, gamers and book nerds – and its penchant for intelligent solutions.
Heifer International is the organization’s main beneficiary, having received over $3.5 million from Worldbuilders’ fundraisers since 2008. Heifer focuses on empowering people in poor and developing communities by providing education and livestock provisions. They adhere to the cornerstones of sustainability, self-reliance, improved animal and resource management, gender and family focus, training and accountability, among others.
Rothfuss and Worldbuilders host two fundraisers annually for Heifer, a one-week campaign every summer and a six-week drive at the end of each year. 2017’s end-of-year fundraiser netted over $1.2 million.
Mercy Corps is another Worldbuilders-supported charity. Their mission is to alleviate poverty and suffering by helping build secure and productive communities. Always working toward long-term solutions, Mercy Corps also focuses on immediate relief for war-stricken refugees and victims of natural disasters. Worldbuilders raised over $200,000 in 2015 to support Syrian refugees, and over $125,000 in 2017 after the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. In both campaigns, Rothfuss put up $50,000 in matching funds.
Worldbuilders supports two other charities: GlobalGiving and First Book. GlobalGiving connects donors to non-profit and grassroots groups all over the world. They work to provide immediate disaster relief in addition to supporting the communities’ longer-term recovery. First Book is a U.S. charity promoting education as the path out of poverty. The organization engages a network of over 350,000 educators who work exclusively with kids in need. Through a sustainable model, First Book helps those educators acquire resources for their students like books, educational materials, sports equipment and winter clothing by making them affordable.
Geeks Doing Good
Rothfuss and Worldbuilders generate funds through merchandise sales as well. Donations of licensed merchandise from fellow professional geeks, gamers, writers, artists and the otherwise creatively inclined make up an online store, along with official The Kingkiller Chronicle merchandise. Participants include Kevin Hearne, bestselling author of The Iron Druid Chronicles, and Jim Butcher of The Dresden Files fame. All store proceeds go directly to Worldbuilders.
Worldbuilders also enjoys the sponsorship of dozens of businesses like Brotherwise Games, DAW Books, Lone Shark Games, Tor.com, JoCoCruise, Empty Set Entertainment, Dark Horse Comics and ThinkGeek, among many others.
In 2016, Heifer International honored Patrick Rothfuss at the annual Beyond Hunger: A Place at the Table gala. While his team had to post about the award since the humble author would not, Rothfuss still gladly accepted it amid a throng of celebrity guests, appreciating the importance of a visible platform in the fight against global poverty. As Rothfuss and Worldbuilders implore his fan base, “The easiest thing to do is just talk about us…Help get the word out, because that’s the easiest way to make the world a better place!”
– Jaymie Greenway