Guest Post

Philanthropy and fitness (Guest post)

An article critical of colour runs was published last week, Colour runs are a faux-charity scam.

And I got ornery. As a Fund Development Coordinator I take pride in running fundraising events to benefit the people who use services at my agency. I don’t like it when people are mislead by advertising. It discourages philanthropy and diverts funds from really import programs and services in our community.

Most of my friends who ran in colour runs knew that it was simply a race but others thought it was a fundraising event. As the article points out, fundraising is big business. In a quick click world any one of us could make the mistake of thinking our money goes to a cause when in fact it goes to a business.

Sam too found it tricky, having blogged about her experience with the MS Bike Tour, yet also having asked to sponsor a friend at a run that did not it turned out have a charitable intent. Sam pointed out that many races, like the Gran Fondo, have options for people to fundraise or not. Those are clear cases, one is a charity fundraiser identified with a cause, MS, the other was very clear your registration went towards the cost of running the event and any pledges collected went to your charity of choice. Awesome! We are clear on where the money goes and for what purpose it’s used.

Where it gets murky is when a race is marketed as a fundraising event but the charity gets only a small portion of the proceeds. It doesn’t honour the donor’s intent. So what is a fit feminist to do?

Follow the money my friends.

Does the event claim to be in support of a cause? If so, do they name a specific charity? In the MS Bike Tour it’s clear the funds benefit the MS Society and in the Gran Fondo you have to pick a charity to support.

Do they state what percentage of funds go to the charity? Most cause related marketing campaigns, where a business pairs with a charity for mutual benefit, specifically state things like “one dollar of every widget sold will go to Awesome Charity”. Be sure to look for fine print that says “up to this specified amount”. With races it gets tricky so dig around. Call the charity of choice and ask. There is a lot of debate in the broader community about cause related marketing and some great information. You may have seen Pink Ribbon, Inc and the crux of the issue may be we can’t consume our way to a better world.

I also know that many altheltes who register for a race series really don’t care about the fundraising aspect and simply pay a registration fee. Again, clarity is great.

Furthermore, if philanthropy has been on your mind and you are doing a race anyway find out if you can gather pledges for your charity of choice. If you are worried event costs whittle away at your gift have friends donate on your birthday in lieu of gifts, write a gift into your will or a plethora of other options. call your charity of choice and ask how you can get involved. Maybe you can organise a race yourself!


Natalie is a feminist mother of 2 who wants to change the world, live a long, fit life and stop procrastinating on blog writing and working out.

3 thoughts on “Philanthropy and fitness (Guest post)

  1. Great post on an important topic. I would also add that if you do register for a race that is in support of a cause, it’s important for your own integrity that you support said cause and their manner of campaigning. I’ve got mind here the people who are more interested in racing than fundraising. You still need to think about it before registering.
    Thanks for the guest post!

    1. Thinking of the Salvation Army/Santa Shuffle race? That’s the one that gets me. Love the Santa Shuffle but not keen on where the money goes.

  2. I did Colour me Rad, assuming that my registration fee only covered the t-shirt and some coloured powder. I only found out after my payment was processed that part of the money was going to a breast cancer “awareness” group. Apparently, all they do is print t-shirts that say “I love boobies”. Needless to say, I was furious.

    On the other hand, several of my friends who did the race are not regular runners, and it was nice to see them getting out and going to a race. Maybe it’s not something they would’ve done without the incentive of the colour? In any case, next year, I’m going to just throw coloured powder at some of my friends in a field, for free.

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