Burning Man delays nonprofit board announcement

This year's Burning Man theme is appropriately Rites of Passage.DESIGN BY ROD GARRETT; IMAGE BY ROD GARRETT, ANDREW JOHNSTONE

My previous posts on plans to convert control of Burning Man from Black Rock City LLC over to a nonprofit entity called The Burning Man Project generated lots of attention, controversy, and page views, but since then there hasn’t been much happening publicly with the effort.

Initially, the plan was to file the paperwork and announce the new nonprofit board members by the end of May, but BRC’s Marian Goodell (who was traveling through Europe with BRC head Larry Harvey) recently told me that it’s been more complicated than anticipated to create the new structure and that the plan now is to file the paperwork and announce the new board members in early August.

Sources say the seven new board members (who will join the LLC’s six board members on the new nonprofit board) have all been selected and the initial crew has been chosen mostly for its fundraising abilities and past support for burner initiatives. Some names have already started to leak out, and the ones I’ve heard reinforce that approach, but I don’t need to steal the Borg’s thunder, so I’ll wait for the official announcement like everyone else but revealing names.

But the criticisms that I’ve aired about the need to get more input and buy-in from the larger burner community on this transition really hasn’t been addressed by the LLC yet, although Larry did tell me back in April that the organization does intend to have some public meetings at some point on how burners are represented in the new nonprofit and how it operates.

Larry has been talking about this conversion to a nonprofit for a couple years now, and that plan is included in the conclusion of my book, The Tribes of Burning Man: How an Experimental City in the Desert is Shaping the New American Counterculture. Given that the event’s future governance structure is now being created behind closed doors, it would seem that now is the time for these public conversations to start happening.

If they aren’t going to happen in a formal process created by the Borg, they can start happening informally in the community. And they will certainly be discussed at some of my upcoming book events, starting July 19 at the Mechanics Institute in San Francisco and continuing through August with 10 scheduled events, including panels at the SF Main Library, Oakland Public Library, and Jewish Community Center, and various bookstore events.

So come on out and join the discussion.


  1. I sort of lost most of my respect for you when you mentioned at a book event that you believe that SOUND CAMPS should have representation on the nonprofit board. (Well, and that you mention you tailor your book readings to assumptions about your audience, which is silly and paints with a really broad brush and makes it seem like you’re just pandering to sell books).

    I think it’s sweet that you feel so strongly that event attendees deserve some sort of voice in the corporation, but I don’t agree with you. It smacks of the same thing I hear from people who go- “Burning Man is no big deal, why are tickets so expensive? Don’t they just bring out some port-o-potties and make a road? I could do that.”


    1. I’m sorry to hear that you lost respect for me, but I’m not sure why. I said that various burner constituencies should have representation on the nonprofit board once it reaches its full size, and sound camps (which I cover at length in my book) should definitely be a part of that. They draw people to the event and help create its nightlife, and dealing with community conflicts involving music would be more fair and effective if sound camps had a voice.
      I’ve covered the Borg extensively since 2004, and while I don’t agree with those who say all it does is bring porta-potties, I also think that most of the value of this event comes from the volunteer efforts of everyone who goes. Honestly, I think that’s undeniable, and entirely consistent with the 10 Principles that the Borg created. So I think representatives from the major constituent groups should have a say in how Burning Man evolves by having a voice in this new nonprofit.


    2. Oh, and one more thing. While I do tailor my readings to different audiences, it isn’t to pander to them or sell books, but simply to create events that are more engaging to the audience. There are many different stories that I can tell from my book, with far more narrative and thematic threads than I can fit into one reading. So I talk more about sound to audiences of music-lovers, more about Burners Without Borders when I was in New Orleans, and more about urbanism issues during my event at SPUR. And when I’m at the Mechanics Institute, I’ll focus more on the builders. That isn’t pandering, it’s just trying my best to do good, varied programs that engage the audience.


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