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Sponsorship - John C. Kirk

Feb. 1st, 2011

02:13 am - Sponsorship

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As I've mentioned before, my big plan for this year is to cycle from Land's End to John O'Groats. This isn't a sponsored event, in the same way that I didn't get sponsored to go cycle camping in Breton last summer; it's something that I want to do, so I don't need a "bribe". Having said that, if you feel inspired to give money to the charity of your choice then please go ahead.

If you would prefer to sponsor someone, one of my St John Ambulance colleagues (from the Cycle Response Unit) is also doing the end to end cycle ride, raising money for Action Medical Research:
http://www.action.org.uk/sponsor/alfal
I think that's a good cause, but I have mixed feelings about this type of sponsored event.

The Action website has more info about their UK End 2 End challenge, including a brochure. Page 8 has the terms and conditions, with some interesting small print. Quoting item 3: "You must make it clear to all prospective sponsors that a certain amount from your sponsorship money goes towards payment for you to take part in the challenge. The cost of the trip is estimated at £1,245."

The fundraising target is £2,000. If the donors are taxpayers, they can claim Gift Aid, which will add 25% to their donation; however, this only applies to the balance raised (after the cost of the trip has been deducted). If someone hits the target exactly, and all their donors are taxpayers, it gets broken down like this:

Cost of trip£1,245.00
Balance£755.00
Gift Aid£188.75
Total donation£943.75


If you donate £10 with Gift Aid, you might expect the charity to get £12.50. Instead, £4.72 goes to charity and £6.23 goes towards the ride costs. You may notice that £4.72 + £6.23 = £10.95 (not £12.50); that's because Gift Aid only applies to part of your donation. This may also be relevant if you're a higher rate taxpayer and you want to include this in your tax return.

So, is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. I'm guessing that the charity gets more money this way than they would if they just relied on donations; 50% of something is better than 100% of nothing. Also, if someone exceeds their fundraising target then a proportionally smaller amount will go towards the ride costs, e.g. if someone raised £10,000 then about 87% of that would go to the charity. However, I certainly think that it's important for sponsors to know where their money is going, so that they don't feel misled.

I'm just using the cycle ride as an example here, because I've seen similar events elsewhere. For instance, you can do a sponsored bungee jump or parachute jump, where a portion of the sponsorship money goes to the event organisers and then it's free for you to actually do the activity.

There are alternative ways of raising money. For instance, the Children in Need FAQ says: "For every penny you give us, a penny will go towards projects helping disadvantaged children and young people here in the UK. We are able to make this promise because the charity uses its investment income and Gift Aid to cover all running costs."

Coming back to my LEJOG trip, I'm covering all the costs myself, e.g. paying for accommodation along the way. So, I'm slightly reluctant to chip in for someone else to do the same trip; it feels a bit as though I'm paying for someone else's holiday. Would it be fair to ask them to pay for their own costs and then give all the sponsorship money to the charity?

Nick Radford recently wrote an interesting blog post: The difference between "traveling" and "a holiday". I think that my trip will fall into the "traveling" category, since I'm deliberately taking the scenic route; I want to actually see what the various parts of the UK are like, rather than driving along identical motorways. I think that it will be a challenge, but it should also be rewarding. The Action tour may fall into a third category, since they'll all be cycling further than me every day and I think they'll stick to main roads. So, if they're giving up their time and putting in a lot of effort, it might be unreasonable to expect them to be out of pocket at the end of it as well. This could be the equivalent of operational feeding at an SJA duty, e.g. Notting Hill; we do long hours, and don't get paid for it, so I don't feel guilty about accepting a free meal.

I think this may come down to a question of motivation. At the risk of sounding sadistic, I'd prefer to sponsor someone to do something that they wouldn't do for fun. For instance, I sponsored someone to do an abseil a while back, and I almost got vertigo just by looking at the photos. Similarly, I sponsored someone in Durham who shaved off half his hair; he then had to wait a month or so for it to grow back and look roughly even on both sides. This is also why I'm not asking for sponsorship on my ride, because I think it sends the wrong image of cycling (as suggested by a Guardian comment and Sheldon Brown).

Looking at the London Marathon, if you're not an international athlete then you pretty much have to be sponsored in order to take part. So, I'd be willing to help someone out there if it was a particular ambition; also, I'm guessing that the admin overheads are relatively low. However, that's not the case for most sponsored events.

So, what should you do if you want to raise money for charity without spending loads of your own money in the process? You could pick a cheaper event, e.g. Movember. If it would cost too much to cycle 1000 miles, how about going 20 miles on a pogo stick? One other option is to get sponsored for delivering a service, e.g. "Bob a Job Week" in the Scouts (although apparently that's now gone).

So, what do the rest of you think?

Comments:

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From:elvum
Date:February 1st, 2011 11:38 am (UTC)
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I can see why charities support (and indeed organise) this kind of fundraising, but personally I think it stinks. The people seeking sponsorship have a clear conflict of interest - despite the guidelines, are people really going to tell their potential sponsors that the money part-funds what in some cases most definitely counts as an expensive holiday?

Circumstances alter cases, and I would think differently if (for example) someone who had lost a relative to cancer did a fundraising event in aid of a cancer charity, particularly if their finances were such that they couldn't afford to cover the underlying costs themselves, but in general I am very strongly opposed to this kind of fundraising.

I think you're right, and the morality is strongly linked to the motivation of the individual seeking sponsorship. Which is very hard to determine (without being rude) when handed a sponsorship form by a colleague with whom you have a nodding acquaintance. :-)
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[User Picture]
From:gaspodog
Date:February 1st, 2011 02:24 pm (UTC)
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I am also deeply dubious of this sort of thing.

There are plenty of things people can do to raise money for charity which don't involve them getting a free holiday or fulfilling their long held ambition to leap out of an aeroplane without paying for it...
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