Great Stories, Philanthropy

Is Color Me Rad the problem?

Next Saturday I’ll be joining hundreds of other fun-loving people for Color Me Rad Hamilton. In addition to participating in the event, I’ll be posting a race review video for Get Out There magazine. I’m looking forward to it. After a recent similar event in Kitchener, ON a local writer wrote an opinion piece that was extremely critical of the charitable claims made by the organizers. It is a poorly conceived, biased, and factually incorrect article that unfortunately has made the rounds within the running and charitable communities. A later update including a response from the race organizers is helpful, but serves mostly to reveal the absence of fact checking by the original writer. Joel Bentley from Peer Giving Solutions has written a much more reasonable reflection on Color Me Rad. He also argues that the event is being somewhat unfair in their support of the local charities who they support at each run. I appreciate his emphasis on charities ensuring that they get fair exchange for their efforts, and he clearly “gets” the tone of their website, but I think he is wrong in supporting the idea that Color Me Rad is being deceptive. I do hope Color Me Rad continually considers how they benefit their charity partners and that those charities push them for fair and mutually advantageous terms. With a full time connection to the charitable sector and as an active runner who participates in 6-10 events of various types annually I have some opinions of my own on these matters. The thing is, even my opinions aren’t that important. The idea of the charity run/walk/ride is well established and in many cases has be quite effective. (See my video review of the CIBC Run For The Cure for an example). Both large national scale organizations (think Terry Fox Run) and small local ones (I support Lynne’s Legacy Run) have been able to generate participation from many people who might not generally consider themselves runners. I suspect that very few participants raise funds beyond their entry fee to most of the events, and fewer still ask about the costs involved in producing the event. Probably we should if the charitable aspect is our real motivation to be involved. If, however, the charitable thing is just an excuse to do something fun with a bunch of friends and strangers maybe it really doesn’t matter. Even those who do take that interest are probably asking the wrong question. Whether its the charity itself managing the event or a separate for profit company putting it together, the real issue isn’t how much money is being given to charitable programming (though transparency should be compulsory), but how much impact those funds are generating. It doesn’t ultimately matter how much money goes to the charity if those funds aren’t effectively advancing the cause for which they are intended. Impact, not overhead, is the point. My Color Me Rad experience generates some support for the Hamilton Conservation Foundation. I don’t know how much they will receive, but I hope they will use it well. And if I’m not going to ask those questions there’s no point being a critic.