Social Question

LuckyGuy's avatar

Why are people running for charity?

Asked by LuckyGuy (29123 points ) July 7th, 2012

This weekend there is yet another run for charity to help a young family with a husband dying of cancer – or a sick daughter, or a mother with a rare bone disease. There are corporate runs, runs for red cross, runs for homeless, runs for the hungry, etc. You name it – there’s a run for it.
Wouldn’t it make more sense, and be vastly more effective, for the participants to actually help the families, or charities directly? How about signing up to mow the lawn, or fix the rain gutters or paint the house, or get their car fixed? Something positive. Rather than exercising and pounding pavement, how about pounding nails and helping habitat for humanity repair a house. That helps the homeless.
I don’t get the connection between a 3 or 5 or 10k run and a charity. Do you?
I agree that even a run is better than sitting at home doing nothing. But is seems that there are other, more effective, ways to help those in need.
Do you participate in those types of runs? Do you think that is the best way to help the charity of your choice?

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20 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

The same reason why people pray for others instead of actually doing something.
They want to feel good and believe that they did something to help, while doing the least amount of actual help possible.

downtide's avatar

You can raise more money doing a run, by getting people to sponsor you, than you ever could by helping on your own. Me personally? I couldn’t do it. I can barely run 300 yards before my knees give way. I’d happily sponsor someone else to do the running though.

jca's avatar

I think if you want to specify your cause, it’s helpful. Fixing rain gutters is wonderful, but if you had a family member with breast cancer (for example), getting a team together and raising money for breast cancer research might be more effective than going to someone’s house and fixing their gutters.

I only did one “walk” ever, which was about 10 months ago, my job got together to do a breast cancer walk, and that was when I (finally after two years) told them that my mother had been a breast cancer survivor. This breast cancer walk is a huge huge thing. On a college campus, parking all over, roads closed, HUGE. My coworkers got together and did it for my mom’s sake, which was touching, and we raised a few thousand dollars (which we would never have been able to afford on our own). My mom was very flattered, we all had a fun day together, and breast cancer research is a few thou richer.

thorninmud's avatar

Fundraisers that subject the participants to some measure of physical discomfort trigger a psychological phenomenon known as the “martyrdom effect”. People are significantly more likely to participate and to support the participants when there’s an element of suffering involved. This has been well-documented.

Kayak8's avatar

@LuckyGuy I think it takes both funds (for whatever purported cause) and direct assistance (fixing gutters) when someone is in need. Raising money for disease/condition research will likely NOT benefit the person in question but the sufferers who come later. Raising money for a family in need allows them to determine how it might best be spent. Direct service is often very welcome, but I have learned that a direct offer (I am going to the store, is there anything you need?) is much more helpful than “Call me if you need anything.”

jonsblond's avatar

@ragingloli I’m not a religious person, but I’ve had many friends and family members (some Fluther friends) who have offered prayers for me right now. They can’t be here for me physically and money won’t help for the problem I’m dealing with at the moment, but I can’t believe how much their offer of prayers has helped me. Just knowing that I have friends thinking of me and wishing the best for me is giving me a great sense of calm that is much needed right now. Prayer can be more helpful than you realize.

sorry, didn’t really answer your question @LuckyGuy. just wanted to add what I did.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Those are all great answers annd make valid points. I just question how “efficient” they really are. The effort and energy expended could do so much more than merely pounding the pavement.
A recent 10 k walk shut down a road here for 4 hours. They had police and fire protection, EMS crews, water stations, timing desks, front and back tags printed for the participants – and t-shirts.
Imagine what could have been accomplished if the same people actually tackled a problem in the city e.g. Cleaned up a neighborhood for 4 hours, or rang doorbells handing out flyers that described the new “turn in a drug dealer” phone number or set up a literacy clinic in the park, or took poor city residents without cars to the farmer’s market so they can buy fresh vegetables. There are so many opportunities that would make a difference.
I don’t know how much money was raised, but my gut is that just the extra police protection and fire services used it all up. The funds will go to XYZ charity, but taxpayers will end up paying a higher bill next year.
I guess my engineer side needs to take a chill pill. .

@jonsblond Sit back in your chair…. let your shoulders drop… relax…
Here’s a hug coming your way…. ((jb))

gondwanalon's avatar

The bottom line here of course is money. Money that can be used to help support research and or care for disease afflicted people or people in some sort of need. The physical challenge aspect of this works as it is structured to help to draw attention and money to the various causes. This money raising strategy seems to be very successful and so it is very popular. If these money making events were not very inefficient in money raising (or lost money) then they wouldn’t likely be so prevalent.

josie's avatar

Making symbolic gestures are so much easier to do than actually getting your hands dirty. Better to make the gesture, and let some other sucker actually do the work. Sort of like how politicians look at taxpayers.

jca's avatar

Instead of saying let’s not do these walks or let’s not try to raise money for research, and instead help people doing personal projects, why not say “Let’s do BOTH raising money for research AND doing personal projects that benefit people.” What you’re pointing out, @LuckyGuy, is that helping people personally is great. However, raising money for research is great, too. Instead of taking from one method in order to do another, why not do both? We should all be more active in our communities, helping others AND advocating for causes.

YARNLADY's avatar

A mother pushing a stroller, a running five year old or a grandmother can help earn money for charity, but cannot do much when it comes to direct action.

Plus, Habitat for Humanity actually has to turn people away because they cannot make work for all the people that want to help. If thousands of people turned up at a Habitat working as they do at the charity runs, it would overwhelm them.

Many of the same people who participate in runs also show up for the creek cleaning days, and put in serious hard work at that as well.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Maybe sending 1000 people down to Habitat for Humanity is too much to swallow in one gulp. But if they were split up 20 per weekend for a year they could accomplish something great with the same number of hours. And raise money.
It just seems a shame that all the time, labor, and good intentions is spent on organization, pavement and running shoes. At least they could run on a treadmill and generate enough electricity to heat some homes.
A sponsor could just as easily give the money to the cause of their choice – and be sure it all went there. Do sponsors really care if the runner does 5 k or 10 k? Aren’t they contributing because they want to? I don’t know.
While well intentioned, the whole process seems incredibly wasteful to me. I don’t have a good answer. Does anyone else?
I just hope this is not like professional fundraisers who keep the majority of the funds raised. According to Mass. Atty General Coakley “Based on a survey of 600-plus campaigns, charities received just 43 percent of the money raised in their names during 2009; the balance went to fundraising companies to pay salaries, rent, office expenses and other costs involved in the campaigns.

thebluewaffle's avatar

Anybody want to donate to the bluewaffle trust fund?

All proceeds go straight into my back pocket….

Blackberry's avatar

People like symbolism. They like to say things like, “Everything happens for a reason!”

I like to give money instead of sweating, lol.

gondwanalon's avatar

I sort of understand your perplexity here. Why raise money for charity in athletic events? What dose a long distance walk or run have to do with supporting cancer research or helping the homeless? It does seem like a weird combination. Also a guy one time asked me to sponsor his cycling ride to support tree research (called “Tour de Trees”). How could I not donate a few bucks for that? HA! The fact is that these events raises and maintains awareness of worthy causes as will as challenges people to talk the talk and walk the walk (give money). Also 43% of a big pile of money while encouraging un told thousands of people to participate as athletes and fundraisers is a lot better that 100% of no money.

Anyway I think that the one unifying aspect here is that each entity (the athletic events and the charities) possesses, is the long hard struggle in an unpredictable, unforgiving and troubled world.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

It really isn’t an either/or situation, is it? People can do both. I have.

When I volunteer to participate in one of these fund-raisers, or just donate money, it is for a cause that is important to me personally. Supporting cancer research fund-raisers is done in memory of my father and sister. It’s too late to help them, but it might help others down the road.

If it is a local charity, then I am willing to give time, tangible items, etc., in order to support the cause.

YARNLADY's avatar

Another reason to raise money through a seemingly unconnected event is because the recipient need cash and donating work to fix their fence won’t pay their doctor/burial bills.

I love your idea of using treadmills to generate electricity for a charity run. Our health club once held an Around The World run to motivate people to do their workouts. Each participant got a chart with pictures of which city they were in over the course of the project.

ETpro's avatar

I Googled running to cure Breast Cancer and discovered this.

But really, runs, walkathons, bike rides and the like are an early idea for crowd-sourcing of charitable work. Each entrant is responsible for finding one or more people or businesses to sponsor the miles they will cover.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@ETpro They were “hoping to find the cure around the 2.5 mile mark.” Sadly they are still looking.
I’m betting it’s in the basement in a box labelled “kids toys”. The prostate cancer cure is likely there, too. You always find it in the last place you look.

ETpro's avatar

@LuckyGuy Oh to be so lucky to get a job as a writer for the Onion. :-)

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