Archive for August, 2010

Musings:Why do Americans support charity sports events?
August 24, 2010

I participated in a fascinating international webcast the other day to talk about my personal experiences as a volunteer “athlete” in various fundraising activities.  Irina Menshenina, Director of Development of the “Downside Up” Charitable Fund in Moscow, invited me.  I’m no jock, but I’ve relished walking in Boston’s Walk for Hunger, spinning for the New Jersey Special Olympics, and singing in fundraisers for Sharing a New Song, Voices Chorale and Susan G. Komen, for the Cure.

According to Irina and her Moscow panelists, the “Russian mentality” of charitable giving is vastly different from Americans. She was looking to the New York panelists to help provide insights, information, and ideas that might be springboards to facilitate greater support of their charity sports events to help fund activities for people with Down Syndrome. The panelists included Robert Stack, CEO of Princeton-based Community Options, which helps people with disabilities.

In advance of the webcast, I spoke with friends and colleagues who also participate in sports fundraising events to see if others shared my experiences and attitudes. While this was certainly not a formal research endeavor, I believe that these 9 motivators for participation in charity sports events represent a slice of American attitudes. Here they are, in no particular order, with brief descriptions.

  1. Some personal affinity for the cause. You, a family member or friend may be affected by the disease or the issue.
  2. Personal challenge or goal. Getting into shape, getting into an exercise routine, walking or biking further than before.
  3. Sense of community: Being part of these efforts creates a powerful sense of being part of a community of dedicated others—volunteer athletes, organizers, those who support the effort by making the streets safe for walkers or handing out water bottles or band-aids.
  4. Feeling the support and love of those who are donating on your behalf. We fundraising volunteer athletes are counting on the financial support for our cause—whether that’s $5 or $500—we don’t want to let them down, and they don’t want to let us down.
  5. You believe your efforts can make a difference. My friend Eleanor told me of the kids with cancer who line the roadways of the Pan-Mass Challenge that she regularly participates in. The children hold signs thanking the riders …”I’m here this year because of your contribution to research…” And of course the funds that are raised can be quite significant. As an individual, I might be able to contribute $10 or $20 to a favorite cause…but if I enlist the support of my friends, family and colleagues, I can generate far more for my charity through my efforts.  If there are thousands participating in an event, and the majority of the organizational costs are picked up by corporate donors who recognize the value of a social bottom line, the net out can make a huge difference in affected people’s lives!
  6. Bragging Rights.” We have to admit that there’s self-pride involved, societal approval and even envy towards those who are willing to make the effort to participate in these events. Naomi takes pride in the fact that she can now do that 50 mile bike-ride—quite an improvement after the 18 miles she was able to clock in a day… 15 years ago!
  7. An opportunity to dedicate yourself to something larger than any individual. Perhaps the opposite of the last point, but my experience and others have shared with me that there is something almost “spiritual” in being part of an effort like this.
  8. Great new experiences. Seeing neighborhoods’ beauty on foot, riding winding hills and coastlines, making new friends, being inspired by others’ activities and accomplishments. Participation in these events produces new vistas and opportunities.
  9. And it’s fun! The planning is fun. The doing, even though it’s physically challenging, is fun and the afterwards–celebrations, parties, music, friendship, and counting the funds raised are wonderful.

If you would like to see the webcast in Russian follow this link

I will post the English translation version when it is available and welcome your comments.

Laurie Tema-Lyn, Practical Imagination Enterprises 908-237-2246,