[Dear Readers: In the following letter, I had my buddy Tycho Aussie reply because he's an expert on fursuiting for charities.]
Hi, Papa Bear!
I'm a fursuiter, and I'm a little wary of fursuiting without a cause. I really want to donate my time to the local charities by attracting people during their events, but I'm a little unsure of how to approach them about it. Any tips?
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Papa Bear asked me to send you a note because it sounds like your interest in fursuiting is a lot like mine. I find a lot of joy in sharing my fursuiting with the greater community, and I spend the majority of my fursuiting time outside of furry cons or even furmeets. Your question is quite timely, actually. Quite a few of us here in the Michigan area have just started a fursuiting group called the Michigan Freelance Mascots. We have been getting requests from an increasing number of charities, fundraisers, and community events, which are really, really fun to attend when working as a team. (See: www.fursuiter.org for our temporary website)
I have, in the past, been a lone fursuiter and I used to ask event organizers verbally if they wanted a volunteer mascot to add some whimsical entertainment to their event. Although this has worked pretty well, I would frequently get asked by confused people who it was that I represent. Everyone is used to fursuiters / mascots being employed by a baseball team, radio station, or other organization. The idea of freelancing is still brand new. For my first two seasons, I stayed unofficial, and relied on word-of-mouth to get event organizers to learn about me. Unfortunately, I lost of one of my most favorite venues when a nervous staff member confronted the organizer and said "We don't know ANYTHING about this person!!" After this happened, I commissioned a full-color, trifold pamphlet that described my character as well as information on the emerging hobby of freelance mascotting. I also included a short biography of real-life self. These pamphlets can be given to event managers, so that if anyone confronts them with nervousness or questions, the manager can show them the pamphlet and answer all of their questions. You can go to www.tychoaussie.com and I will try to scan and upload the pamphlet, which you can use as a template. So, I would highly recommend that you establish written credentials.
With these, you can now approach event managers, city and township activities directors, nursing home managers, hospital staff, etcetera, and offer them your services. They will most likely say yes - and it is a great way to learn your craft! I must caution you though, it is quite an intense but rewarding experience. You will have to be a quick study of people's reactions. Some people will engage you and want to hug you like a favorite stuffed animal, whereas others will try their best to avoid you. Don't let those reactions turn you off - because they are just natural. Some people are just adverse to fursuiting in the same way people are sometimes scared of clowns, spiders, or snakes. I find the ratio is about 1 person out of thirty will not want to interact.
So, I suggest you tune up your fursuit, work on your most outgoing personality, and be prepared to be the salesperson, and sell your performance service to some activity managers! Think about small festivals, ask the chamber of commerce if they would want you to walk with their banner in the local parade. Go to the assisted living center and ask to meet some Alzheimer patients. These types of experiences are how I got started. They are individual and require that you bring only an assistant. In some cases, the facility itself will provide you with a helper.
In terms of setting up at the venues, if you need a place to change, don't be shy, walk into a nearby store and ask someone. I will usually ask for the manager, explain that I am a freelance mascotter who is about to perform, and that I need a place to change. I have never been turned down. Some of the more unusual places I have changed into Tycho Aussie include:
This is a great hobby: I can openly fursuit without shame at my university and in my workplace, and my whole family, my aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews all know about it.
I hope this helps, and if you have any further questions, you can contact me through Papa Bear, on twitter or even facebook.
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