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Decision: Contra-Nestle "Unsponsored" BlogHer Ticket Price Donation

As I promised back in my BlogHer Accountability Post, I am making charitable donations in the amount of $600. That is the full cost of a BlogHer '10 ticket, if it were not covered by sponsors. This year's BlogHer sponsor list includes a number of companies that I am not enamored with, including most notably two Nestle brands (Butterfinger and Stouffer's). As an anti-Nestle advocate, I am not comfortable with the idea of BlogHer being sponsored by one of the most boycotted companies in the world. I am not comfortable with BlogHer being sponsored by a company whose unethical business practices are in direct competition with the advocacy work that I do on this blog, as it relates to infant feeding, family nutrition, human rights and the environment.

As I wrote in my previous post:
There are 2400 attendees at BlogHer this year. Attendee registration fees generally cover about 1/3 of the true cost of attending BlogHer. The other 2/3 is covered by sponsors. According to e-mails exchanged with Blogher, the true cost of attending BlogHer this year is $600. That means that approximately $400 per person is being paid for by sponsors, for a total of around $960,000 in sponsorship funds. In my case, as a speaker, the full $600 of the cost of my attendance is being paid for by sponsors. There are currently 37 sponsors listed on the BlogHer ’10 sponsor page. Although I do not have the exact figure that Stouffer’s and Butterfinger paid, based on where Stouffer’s is listed on the page (Bronze sponsor) and what I know about the extent of their sponsorship, I would say they are probably in the middle of the pack when it comes to the dollar value of their sponsorship. I also assume that, like Butterfinger, there are probably a few more sponsors still to be added to the site. So, if we assume there are about 40 sponsors and that Stouffer’s and Butterfinger are both “average” sponsors, that would mean that they each account for 1/40 (or 2/40 together) of the sponsorship funds. That means that they spent about $24,000 each or $48,000 total to sponsor the BlogHer event. It also means that Nestle brands are contributing about $20 towards the attendance of each BlogHer attendee (or $30 for me as a speaker).

So what am I going to do? I plan to make a series of charitable donations totaling $600 (the full cost of my attendance at the conference) to organizations that are focused on breastfeeding, children’s nutrition and family nutrition.

I thought long and hard about which charities to donate to. I took in all of your suggestions, considered them, talked to some organizations that I support, and so on. While I debated splitting up my donation into small pieces and supporting a bunch of different organizations, in the end I decided that I would probably still make my usual annual contributions to organizations like food banks and poverty related charities. However, for this contra-Nestle donation, I wanted to focus on what I thought would make the biggest difference within the North American context to battle the damage that Nestle and other formula companies do here.

I'm really bothered by infant formula advertising. There is too much of it, it is too prominent, it is often found all over breastfeeding and other baby related articles in newspapers and magazines, and it is deceptive. The formula companies will do anything at all to convince mothers to give their products a try and to plant a seed of doubt in their minds about their ability to breastfeed. I do not think this is okay. One of the big problems with this is that breastfeeding advocacy organizations never have large enough budgets to run their own campaigns. Although we can argue that the "breast is best" message has been hammered in enough (and even that it is not the right message), that isn't the message that is most needed right now. What mothers need is messages that will empower them to breastfeed (not just guilt them into it). They need imagery and information that will help them overcome the challenges that so many mothers face. If moms want to meet their own breastfeeding goals, challenges should be met with good quality support, not with a can of formula.

From that perspective, I have decided to make two donations to breastfeeding campaigns that have the potential to make a big difference, one Canadian and one American.

La Leche League Canada Campaign- $400

Today I received an e-mail via Ann Douglas informing me about a new campaign that La Leche League Canada is trying to raise money for.  The e-mail said:

La Leche League Canada Awareness Campaign 2010 Needs YOU!

I'm thrilled to be able to share some news about our plans for a special LLLC awareness campaign, coming to a television or computer near you in 2010!

Canadian actor Sitara Hewitt, currently starring in the hit television show Little Mosque on the Prairie, has offered to help LLLC create a media campaign to let more moms know about how LLLC volunteers can help them. Our plans are coming together very well and we hope to bring Sitara to Toronto in September to appear in the film and photography part of the materials.

We've received some very generous contributions to help us make this campaign happen -- in fact we've received a pledge for $10,000 towards the total project budget of $25,000. But we have a way to go yet.

That's where you come in. There are two ways you can help.

We need your help to share this link to the Canada Helps Giving Page that has been set up to collect donations for this campaign:

We need your help to spread the word that we need air miles donations to cover the airfare for Sitara and her son to come to Toronto. I will have an update about the air miles donation plans very shortly.

Stay tuned!

Pat Millar
National Fundraising Coordinator
La Leche League Canada

I had planned to include La Leche League in my donation already, but hearing about the need for funds for this new campaign including a celebrity of Muslim descent from a television show that I love, sealed the deal for me. I made a donation of $400, making me the first donor recorded on the Canada Helps Giving Page, towards the goal of $15,000 that is needed.

Here is my receipt:

Here is a screen capture of the Canada Helps Giving Page for the campaign, after I made my inaugural donation (the image is also linked to the giving page).

For my fellow Canadians who are attending BlogHer '10 and who wish to participate in this small protest against Nestle sponsoring part of our BlogHer ticket price, I would encourage you (if you are able) to also make a donation towards this campaign. Or, even if you are not attending BlogHer '10 and support the great work that La Leche League Canada does, please help them raise the necessary funds for this campaign. I would love to be able to keep track of donations made by readers of this blog. If you do decide to donate and are comfortable letting me know how much, I would love to know. You can either e-mail me or leave a comment below (I'll accept anonymous comments too if you want your donation to be captured for the purposes of the tally, but do not wish to share your name).  I won't share your name/blog (unless you willingly do so in a comment here), but I would like to be able to share the total dollar figure.

Click here to make a donation to La Leche League Canada's campaign via Canada Helps (provides receipt for income tax purposes).

Best for Babes - $200

I've written numerous times on this blog about the great work that Best for Babes is doing to give breastfeeding a makeover and to help moms battle the booby traps that keep them from meeting their own breastfeeding goals. I wrote most recently about my reasons for supporting Best for Babes when I asked you all to vote for them in the Chase Community Giving campaign. I would like to thank everyone who brought out the vote and I am happy to announce that Best for Babes was one of the recipients of a $20,000 donation. This is a significant sum of money that will help them to spread their current ad campaign further and to do other important work. They are asking people on their facebook page how they think the money should be spent. While that money is certainly useful to them, I know that with more funds they can do even more. That is why I have decided to make a donation of $200 to Best for Babes, which I am thrilled to be able to hand to Bettina Forbes in person at BlogHer '10 in New York next month.

If you are located in the United States and attending BlogHer '10 and wish to support this contra-Nestle protest action or wish to support breastfeeding advocacy in general, I would encourage you to make a donation to Best for Babes.  Or, if you are unable to make a financial contribution, Best for Babes Get Involved or Donate page also includes information on other ways that you can support their work, including by running their public service announcement ad on your blog.

As with my above comment on La Leche League Canada, I would love to know if you do decide to make a contribution to Best for Babes as a result of this post (e-mails or comments welcome, including anonymous comments).

Click here to donate to or support Best for Babes.

Will you join me? $20 or other?

I hope you will join me in supporting these organizations or in supporting other organizations that work to counteract the unethical business practices of companies like Nestle. Whether you donate the approximately $20 that Nestle has contributed to the price of your BlogHer '10 ticket, donate some other amount, or provide support by raising awareness of these great causes and issues (on your blog, facebook page, twitter, etc.), I thank you for your support and assistance in battling deceptive infant formula advertising.

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Reader Comments (17)

Just wanted to thank you for the writing you do on this topic. I made a $20 donation to Best of Babes as a result of this post and thank you for coming up with a great compromise for those of us conflicted about attending. Looking forward to meeting you in August!

July 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

I love that you are supporting La Leche League. What a cool campaign for Canada; we need to work on a U.S. version!

July 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSt. Louis Smart Mama

Ehhh Best FOR Babes - whoops!

July 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

Thanks for sharing this, Annie. Looking forward to seeing you in NYC - and finally meeting!

Thank you Kathy for kicking off the donations. I look forward to meeting you too!

July 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I'm not attending BlogHer and had no idea it's partially sponsored by Nestle. They get their fingerin so many pies I find it quite depressing. Will share this post.

July 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterliveotherwise

Thank you for kicking my charity-giving into gear Annie. The idea of a LLLC campaign is fantastic, and I've donated $100 to the cause. La Leche League has given me so much over the past 10 months since my son was born, it's only right that I should give back, and hopefully many other women will learn what amazing support for breastfeeding is out there.

July 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

I'm so glad you've contributed to the LLL Canada campaign! And Best for Babes as well. You rock, Annie!

July 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

I'm so glad to hear that Best for Babes was one of the recipients of your donation!

July 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNonie


Thank you so much for making that generous donation! Will you be attending BlogHer '10?

July 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

You are a wonderful inspiration! I donated $20 to Best for Babies. I appreciate your leadership on this, your generousity, and deeply admire the way you have handled all of the issues at play. Truly looking forward to your session!!

July 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDebra

I need to remember my personal PayPal login info and then I will donate to Best For Babes.

Great work on creating awareness on this issue. I was a lactation consultant for years before I became a life coach and it is amazing how many moms struggled to find their way in giving the baby the gift of breast milk because of outside influences. Society can be very harsh when they do not agree with a persons decision. Thankfully I think the tides are turning in favor of breastfeeding.
When my oldest son was born 30 years ago, I remember struggling to find a place to breast feed him outside the house. My father was appalled when I fed him in a restaurant in plain view of him. This was unheard of back then.

The truth was, my son was hungry, I was having a good time, and I was not going to feed him in the bathroom because I would not want to eat my dinner in the bathroom. My dad has come a long way since then. Now my daughter in law breast feeds my new grandson in front of my dad and he doesn't blink an eye. He just coos at his great grandson. A beautiful transition.

Take care and keep up the good work. Please respond to my blog post as I am looking for input from parents on what they need to feel secure in their parenting. Check it out. Take care

July 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGerrianne

Okay--done and done! Thank you for organizing this, Annie!

[...] Since then, I have continued to write a variety of posts on issues related to Nestlé and on my decision and the decision of others with regards to the Nestlé sponsorship of BlogHer ’10. I will [...]

[...] you remember back in the summer when I donated $400 towards a La Leche League Canada campaign starring Canadian actor Sitara Hewitt from ...? Well that PSA has been [...]

February 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter“Because breastfeeding i

I am content that I identified your site on Google. This post has precisely the proper information that I've been searching for. Thank you.

April 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBreast Tattoo

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