Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Curious Spectacle of the Fundraising Ordeal

This weekend several friends of mine participated in the Hazon bike ride. Insofar as I know about Hazon I am impressed. I have supported several folks participating in their ride. It has led to me revisit how odd this practice is.

Someone is asking a friend to give to a cause they care about. That much is normal. Where it get's weird is that they are quantifying the amount they care about it by the degree of physical ordeal they are willing to endure. Do I support abortion enough to run a double marathon or just 5K. Who the hell cares? I am all for people being in shape and I in general am excited to support the causes friends of mine have thought about and committed to themselves but it is unclear to me why the two should be connected.

If people were walking from Selma to Montgomery to raise money for anti-racist work, the history would make a thematic connection with contemporary work on that issue, as it would echo the march in 1965. However most of these ___-a-thons have no such connection.

In the case of Take-Back-the-Night folks were making a public statement about safety and were doing it shoulder-to-shoulder. Somehow i don't think AIDS is responsive to that sort of impressive solidarity.

Perhaps these walks serve some of the same purposes that rallies do, to raise awarness, create a feeling of cohesion, and of course, to have a good time.

A significant percentage of the proceeds of these enormous events go to running the actual event. The result is that we are supporting the cause, and then paying a crew to help our friends, walk, run, bike, dance, or whatever they are doing at that specific ___-a-thon. I will continue to support these endeavors as my friends will participate in them and it is important for me to support my friends, but the whole thing just strikes me as kinda weird.


At 4/26/2007 , Anonymous Jo said...

Do you donate to Hazon/AIDS research etc at any other time of the year for any other reason than friends have asked in connection with a -thon? Or, do you donate more than you would have if they hadn't asked?

There's your answer.

At 4/26/2007 , Blogger ZT said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 4/26/2007 , Blogger ZT said...

I strongly support people getting involved in causes, educating their friends about causes, and then soliciting their friends for said causes. that's great.

what i think is kinda weird is that we aren't exactly supporting the cause simply on the basis of our friends' recommendations nor based on informed arguments about why the cause is important. We seem to be saying that because our friends are willing to endure a physical ordeal we should support a seemingly unrelated cause.

for example: my father just left to do the israeli hazon bike ride. had he said he felt strongly about hazon and was supporting it himself and wished i would join him, i certainly would have.

had he said he was interested in my underwriting a bike trip of his, i probably still would of said yes, but mostly because he asked and he's my dad but it would have felt less good.

in the case of a ___a-thon you are asking both for someone to support a cause and to support your involvement in mass exercise.

doesn't that strike other people as an odd combination: "i'll be running for 26.2 miles, so please give money to starving children?"

I support people's mass exercise but i don't consider it convincing in whether i should give to a cause. If I would give upon being asked, i will whether or not someone is running, hopping, dancing, or reading. if i won't give to a cause (the NRA for example) hopping, running, or jumping won't convince me. am i looking at this incorrectly?

At 4/27/2007 , Anonymous Desh said...

Maybe people will be less likely to ask you in the first place if they're not biking (or whatever physical activity is in question)? They can only bring themselves to be comfortable asking if they can say, "Look what I'm enduring for the cause; the least you can do is give a little money."

And surely if they don't ask you in the first place, you're less likely to give.

At 4/27/2007 , Blogger Stephanie said...

I agree with you, Zach. It never made sense to me. My sister did a hopscotch-a-thon for St. Jude's last year. Giving to children's hospitals? Great. Her playing hopscotch for hours? Pretty dumb! Granted she wouldn't have asked me for the money were she not hopscotching, but what one has to do with the other and how this whole -thon thing even got started, I have no idea.

At 5/03/2007 , Blogger BZ said...

This may differ for each event, but when I did the Hazon ride in 2003, we had to pay an entrance fee, which covered the costs of the ride itself, so any donations were going directly to the cause.

But yeah, i agree that it's a strange setup that it's more socially acceptable to say "Please donate because I'm biking 130 miles" than just "Please donate".

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