Thursday, 29 August 2013

Ride (run) for us

As the administrator of a sports club, Adventure Racing Club, I get a number of race notifications, which I pass on to my club email group if relevant. With the 94.7 Cycle Challenge coming up in November, I've had a vast increase in the number of emails from charity organisations seeking people who will ride 'for' them, representing their foundation.

The most recent one received offers those who sign up "fun goodie bags, cycle shirt, charity start time, hospitality before and after the race and a massage at the end of the race, just to mention a few of the benefits." Riders have to commit to raising a minimum of R1,800. A deposit of R600 confirms their participation.

Another sentence states that 100% of funds collected goes towards what the charity does. Thus, the money spent by the sponsor goes to paying for the hospitality area, catering, goodie bags, cycle shirts...

The charity has a title sponsor for this event. Riders would thus wear cycle jerseys emblazoned with the name of the sponsor company (and the charity) - mostly the sponsor, if photos from last year are anything to go by. Yes, mobile billboards on their bicycles for the corporate.

The charity seeks 500 riders. At a minimum of R1,800 each, that's R900,000 raised. And as some will raise far more, they could quite easily get over R2-million with a full complement of riders.

Looking at the team photograph from last year I count around 150 riders. That's a minimum of R270,000 raised. Interestingly, they raised R1,050,000 last year! Let's say they get 250 riders this year... they could raise around R1.3-million. Nice!

My question is... would the charity get more money if the sponsor put their marketing spend into the charity instead of hospitality areas, catering, cycle jerseys and handouts? Yes, yes, yes, I know this is a marketing exercise and not just a charity initiative... but what if? Goodies per rider are possibly in the region of R800 and then there's the hospitality area and hire of seating plus banners, printing, catering... And what about advertising pre-event to promote the initiative... I'm quite certain that well over a million is spent.

And you don't have the option of saying, "I don't want the goodies, I'll raise funds for you regardless. Rather put this money spend into the charity". For me it isn't about the goodies. But, it is actually all about the goodies.

The thing is that events like 94.7, Argus, Two Oceans and Comrades are big fundraising opportunities for charities and large total sums are generated by individuals seeking support from friends and family not just in good wishes, but in financial contributions to a cause that the participant supports. It's a boost for these foundations and a marketing exercise for corporates involved.

I get a lot of requests from people I know - and also those I don't know (very well or at all) to support their run/ride/swim by donating to XYZ charity. I don't respond to most because their causes, while totally worthy, are not my causes and I have initiatives to which I already contribute.

These mass participation events are one thing... I'm yet to be convinced about the feasibility of doing things like climbing Kilimanjaro to raise funds. It certainly costs in excess of R20,000 to do it and if you only raise R5,000? If the charity is so important to you why not donate that disposable R20,000 to it?

Awareness you say? It's about raising awareness too? Sure. But I can post regularly on this blog and on Facebook about the importance of blood donation without climbing a single mountain nor raising funds. A friend is a big supporter of Puppy and Kitty Haven and her posts reflect this. As a result, this animal shelter is front of my mind most days and she hasn't walked a step nor spent a penny.

Me, I'm fatigued by the constant requests. I don't 'approve' of there being multiple organisations (from two to 200 or more!) in support of a single cause and that these organisations are not 'friends' with each other. Rival organisations both aiming to protect sharks? That every Tom, Jane and Harry establishes their own foundation instead of partnering with an existing organisation to better their efforts... It just doesn't make sense to me.

Nonetheless, fundraising has its place and the manner in which funds are raised will appeal to each of us differently. Like me, go with what appeals to you - the cause, the person you're supporting or the method of attracting your support.

The important thing, I think, is to at least support something.

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