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Joel Klebanoff: Stuff & Nonsense

To worry is to be. To be is to worry.

Are Charity Runs Rational?

I don’t understand charity runs. Or walks. Or rides.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand their purpose and how they are structured. A charity, hopefully one representing a virtuous purpose, stages an organized run, walk or bicycle ride to raise money for its cause.

It collects that money by charging a registration fee, getting participants to find other people to sponsor their participation, or a combination of the two. That sponsorship may be an all or nothing thing, i.e., if the participant completes the course the sponsors agree to donate a certain amount to the charity; otherwise, they aren’t obligated to donate anything. Or it might be prorated so that if the participant doesn’t finish the whole course the sponsors still pay the charity some agreed upon amount per mile completed.

I understand that concept, if not the rationale behind it. And, if the cause is good and it’s the most efficient and effective way to raise money, then good on them. Keep up the great work!

If you expect to get great enjoyment out of participating in the event and a registration fee is the price of entry, I get that too. The fact that the money, less the amount that the charity spends on staging and promoting the event, will go to a good cause is a wonderful bonus.

What I don’t get is the thought processes of people who sponsor themselves, friends, relatives, neighbors, colleagues, or whomever in these events with the benefit of the charity being their sole consideration. “I think it’s very noble to try to conquer cancer, but only if Frank finishes that bicycle ride. Otherwise, screw it.” Or, “My commitment to autism research and care is directly proportional to how many miles Mary completes in that 20-mile walk.” In what universe is that a rational system of logic?

I realize that that’s not how people consciously think. But that’s the “logic” implicit in the sponsors’ actions.

Instead of basing your donation on an arbitrary, unrelated event, wouldn’t it be better to give money to a charity or charities that you feel are most worthy—no strings attached—and then get your exercise by going out on an unorganized, unencumbered, unsponsored walk, run or cycle at a time, location and distance of your choosing? That would have at least three benefits that I can think of:

  • The charity would get the full donation, without having to spend any of it on the staging an expensive event.
  • Our streets wouldn’t be shut down by a horde of people all running, walking or cycling in the same place at the same time, thereby causing a lot of delays and increased pollution because of congestion on the streets that are still open.
  • You could still get your exercise, but without the inconvenience of having to conform to the dictates of the event organizer as to time, location and distance.

I can hear one of the objections. “Yeah, but some of these events get a lot of dollars from corporations that sponsor them in the hope of garnering goodwill.” Yup, that’s true. But I’ve got to believe that there’s a marketing genius out there who can come up with a way for corporations to give their money to the charity, without requiring that it first incur the tremendous cost of the event, while still generating equivalent publicity for the corporate sponsor from that act of generosity.

All that having been said, there is one type of activity that I think should be funded in this way: war. Any country that wants to initiate a war should be required to raise all of the funds necessary to stage that war through charity runs, walks and/or rides.

If that were the case, I suspect we’d hear a lot of people say something to the effect of, “You know, I’m at least as patriotic as the next person. Maybe more. Much more. Honest. And I’d really, really, really love to enter the run to fund the conquering of the swamplands of Zilchland for the glory of our king and country, but there’s a Gilligan’s Island rerun marathon on cable that day and I don’t want to miss it.” To my mind, that would not be an altogether unhealthy reaction.

In addition to reducing the incidence of hostilities, these runs, walks and rides will help to get participants in better shape for the armies they will be conscripted into when the wars are launched. That sounds like a plan to me.

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Categorised as: stuff and nonsense


  1. ran says:

    Rational depends on your assumptions. Nothing else. If you were a rational align studying earth, what of the things we do would make sense to you?

    • I have to admit that I’m having trouble seeing how that relates to my post. My assumptions are that the charity wants to raise as much money as it can for its cause and donors—i.e., people who are donating because they want to support the cause, not because they want to participate in the event in and of itself—are doing so because they want to contribute financially to that cause. It’s always very possible, possibly even very likely, that I’m missing something, but those assumptions seem self-evident to me. If they are correct, then this would not seem to be the most effective way to go about meeting those objectives.

      Of course, is the cause is to increase fitness levels then the run, walk or ride could be an end in itself, which would negate my argument.

  2. jmdlugosz says:

    I agree. My efforts should be devoted to doing something useful, not fake make-work.

  3. I also find the logic defeats me. Of course, that tends to be true with anything that involves the word “run”. Or war for that matter.

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