Paying for a lack of engagement

Posted on August 16, 2009

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Royal Parks Half MarathonIt had been on my mind for a week or so to enter the Royal Parks Half Marathon and watching the triathlon in Hyde Park yesterday provided the necessary catalyst for action.  It seems, however, a day or two too late as registration has closed – except for a few remaining charity places.

Which got me thinking…

When did we decide that the best possible way of supporting a charity is by running?  Of course, raising funds for good causes is not to be sniffed at, but I wonder if we are now in danger of associating charities such as Cancer Research UK with 10km runs and half marathons to such an extent that we fail entirely to engage with the underlying cause that we are meant to be supporting?

Indeed, has our financial support of charities now become a way of not really engaging with the underlying issues at all?

An objective of many comms campaigns is to form an association or understanding of the product or service.  And some charities do this very well. 

The National Trust offers holidays where volunteers can rebuild paths and walls whilst getting away from it all; The Soil Association has a whole host of farms allowing people to visit and get involved via courses in bee-keeping, smallholding and the like; The National Literacy Trust makes provision for volunteers to give of their time, not just of their money.

In fact, giving of time is very much at the core of this dilemma.Organic Farm School

A typical ten week training schedule for a half marathon requires a rough estimate of 22 hours on the road before the big day.  And I wonder whether 22 hours of direct help would be considered of more value to a charity than the £400 minimum sponsorship required to enter the Royal Parks on their ticket?

No matter how much money is raised, if the number of people directly employed by charities is diminishing, there will come a point where giving money rather than direct help becomes completely pointless as there will not be the capacity to use it.

There is a limit to how much we can offer direct help to something like a cancer charity, but it seems to me that local charities, those that offer services in the community, that focus on improving the local environment, or making changes that impact in the immediate vicinity are likely to benefit far more from people offering their help and expertise.  So next time you are out for a run, have a think about ways of getting more people directly involved with charities.

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