Friday, February 17, 2012

Honesty in Fundraising

Without fundraising, there is no point to Team in Training. For most of us, in order to be successful at it, we put almost as much work into fundraising as in to training. I've already discussed why I believe the fundraising to be efficient, and why it is not a scam. I've talked about how, even though it seems counter-intuitive, raising money to go to a "destination marathon" can bring in more money to the mission than can running a local event. I've talked about how some of our travel expenses to out of town events - a significant portion actually - are covered by the money we raise. Now, I will talk about honesty in fundraising.

A number of the posts on the running forums blasting, inaccurately in my opinion, TNT as a scam have no basis in fact and don't even attempt to use factual information. But here is one discussion I found that is critical of TNT and its honesty in fundraising that is thoughtful and analytical - not based on some personal rant. It is worth reading for anyone doing Team in Training. The main assertions are (1) that 75% of the money raised does not go directly to research and (2) participants don't disclose that they get a trip out of the deal. To summarize what the author, David Hays, says about the latter: Participants don't explain that that they are getting travel expenses paid - others are essentially paying their way to the event. While TNT does raise a lot of money for a good cause, TNT runners should fully disclose to potential donors that 25% of the funds directly benefit the runner.

Let's address the first point first. 75% of the money goes to the mission of LLS. Part of that mission is curing blood cancers. But there are other raised parts to the mission, which I have discussed here. So if you are doing Team in Training, just remember this distinction. Only about a fourth of the money raised goes to cancer research and cures. Another fourth goes to fundraising and administrative costs. The other roughly 50% goes towards patient services and to education and advocacy.

I've discussed the travel costs that are covered in the other posts referenced here at the start of this article. I don't think we participants go out of our way to talk about the travel costs. Maybe we should do that more. I personally think that as long at 75% of the money collected goes towards the mission, it should not matter whether the fund raising portion of the money collected goes to paying professional fundraisers or to rewarding a runner with a trip to a race for their hard work. The bottom line is that money is going to be spent on fundraising one way or another. But I agree we can be upfront about it. I did tell my potential donors about it, if not directly in emails then in conversations with them. I don't remember anyone having a particular issue with it, and if they did, they wouldn't donate.

Let me say this - I have never badgered anyone to donate. How many times do you get a phone call from a solicitation that just will not take no for an answer? I have, plenty of times. If people don't reply to my emails, I don't bug them. I do send frequent updates. If someone asks to come off my update list, I take them off with no argument and no abuse. If people donate to LLS on behalf of my efforts, I thank them. It is simple as that. I'll take that over being browbeaten into a donation by a phone solicitor who's company (and management) will get 15-20% of what I donated. And I will add that I have donated plenty of times to people doing TNT and similar events, and they have never badgered me, either.

When I next do TNT, I now have plenty of posts - with more to come - discussing the fundraising and where the money goes to that I can point donors to. And now, you can point your donors to these as well, should you choose. Be open and honest, and explain with some of the points I have brought up. If people don't like the idea of helping to pay for your trip to a race, so be it. I wonder how many of them would mind paying some professional fundraising company executive's 6 figure bonus instead?

I'll write about my personal experience with raising money for TNT and what percentage of my funds raised covered my travel expenses on my next post on this topic.

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