Last week I wrote about Eddie Izzard covering over 1,100 miles in 50 days and complimented his dedication. I also made a comment that apparently got some purple panties in a bunch, as I got a note that slammed me for my "thinly veiled criticism of Team in Training" which asked "why anyone would be so negative?", "what's my problem?" and why would I "criticize someone trying to help cure cancer." Though I didn't mention any charity by name, apparently, the passage that my potty mouthed penpal found so objectionable was "I have a particularly big burr in my saddle when folks ask for money when part of my donation is going to pay for their wetsuit or travel expenses to a marathon or tri (and they conveniently forget to mention that). Was I talking about TnT? Hey – if the fuel belt fits – wear it. Let's look at some of the good, bad and ugly of TnT.
GOOD - First and foremost, they have raised millions of dollars for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which has helped countless people – past, present and future. There is no question that they do great work. Plus, they have helped bring many new people to an active and healthy lifestyle. I have friends for whom I have great respect that work as coaches for TnT and others who have been part of their training programs, and all have positive things to say about the organization.
BAD – At times, a large group of inexperienced athletes can be distruptive. Charities can buy slots and fill races without having to put specific runners in those slots until well after the race is full for the rest of us. Some charity runners are also not aware of race etiquette or rules, and have at times been known monopolize transition areas, hog the road, etc.
UGLY – As pointed out by David Hays in his examination of TnT finances, their fundraising literature states that "76% of your donation goes directly to research." This is patently false. Here's an exerpt from Mr. Hays:
Let's look at the 2001 LLS financial numbers. LLS breaks down the events for Part 1, Line 9 on an attached note. They list the three largest events for the year. As you might suspect, these were all TnT marathons; Rock 'n' Roll (San Diego I believe), Disney Marathon, and Honolulu Marathon. Here are the totals for the three combined.
As you can see, from these three TnT marathons, folks gave over 23 million dollars in donations. The expenses for training, travel, hotel, registration, t-shirts etc… for these three events was just over 6 million. 25.4% of the amount raised by the TnT runners went to essentially their own support! Less than 75% of the money raised by TnT actually made it to the LLS.
LLS had another 678 events in FY 2001, 81 of them were TnT events. The actual numbers for these other events aren't listed however the totals for all of them are. Only 4.7% of the revenue from all the other 678 events were used for direct donor benefits. Compare that to the over 25% for TnT marathons and you can see that while a TnT event does raise a lot of money, it is hardly an efficient way to do it.
Look at it another way. For every dollar a person donates for a TnT runner, it breaks down like this.
|Patient and community services
|Public Health Education
Or to put it yet another way, for every dollar donated to TnT only 56 cents goes to program services.
My other objection (which Mr. Hays shares) is that the fundraising literature always forgets to mention that up to 25% of my donation will pay for the athlete's travel expenses, race entry, wetsuit, coaching, etc. If I really want to benefit cancer patients, why shouldn't I donate directly to LLS and avoid paying for "athlete benefits"?
Over the past two years we have done two modest fundraisers in my mother's memory. In each case the other athletes and I have not taken any of the donations to defer our costs. I paid for the website and domain name. I paid for the Facebook ad and ebay fees. We each paid our own travel and parking expenses. The only times that donations directly benefited us was when folks bought us food and drink or made donations specifically toward that. No money was ever taken from the general donations to defer our costs.
I fully understand and respect all the good that TnT and LLS do. But I do think these are legitimate concerns. Does the good work that LLS does that mitigate the issues with their fundraising practices?
And to my loving penpal – since you're so benevolent, why not pay your own airfare to your next marathon and save LLS the expense so that they can help cure cancer?