M&M’s First Charity Run

Dear Sir and/or Madam,

I am moderately appreciative of your vaguely generous support for my generic cause.  Without your support, my efforts would have been negligibly though non-trivially affected.  I apathetically look forward to your continued support of my unapologetically routine endeavours.

marginally yours,

-haroldbot

Charity_LogoThis was the magnificent letter that our friend Harold crafted for me, in an effort to spare me the hours I was spending thanking each one of my donors individually with personal messages.

Almost two weeks ago, Mike and I (known among our friends as M&M) participated in a 5k race to support the Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence (ATASK). This was a major milestone for us since Mike had never run for charity before, and I had never done any kind of fundraising—or run for anyone either. As co-chair of the ATASK Community Leaders Council (CLC), I had suddenly found myself outside of my comfort zone. This was no longer about sending email reminders or meeting minutes, creating forms or presentations. This was about collecting money and getting our running shoes dirty.

Lessons from fundraising

To be completely accurate, I did have to raise $200 once to help fund a trip to Memphis, TN where I would be volunteering for a week. It was the easiest $200 I ever collected! In my sophomore year in college, all I did was walk into every office and department I had worked for, and say “Would you sponsor me?” Between the Academic Resource Center, the International Students and Scholars Office, the Admissions Office, the school library, the Dean of Student Affairs Office, Human Resources, Academic Advising, etc. I was done in half an hour.

Asking for money wasn’t difficult then. The donors already had an established relationship with me and with the cause itself. Service is a pivotal component of the Emmanuel experience, and if they were to support Alternative Spring Break, they could easily do so through the girl who was already reorganizing their folders for fun.

Charity_Contract

How I originally felt about asking people for money (Image @ Walt Disney Animation)

With the Chestnut Hill Reservoir 5k race for ATASK, I would be 1) introducing a new cause, 2) inviting people to support it right after that, and 3) potentially turning some friendships awkward. Soliciting monetary support required a lot more courage than I’d like to admit. After some preliminary Fundraising 101 research, it took me several days to work up the courage to start my own fundraising page, another 9 hours to set it up (including 8.5 hours of paralyzing apprehension and internal debate), and 10 minutes of pure panic when I realized my page had gone live before I had finished proofreading it. This is what I learned in the end:

  • You can’t involve your friends in a cause you don’t absolutely believe in, and I happen to believe more strongly in the mission of ATASK than in any other cause before.
  • I wasn’t asking for money, I was inviting people to support a nonprofit. An invitation sounds somewhat like this: “Hey, wanna join me for dinner?” “Sure, I’d love to!” / “Sorry, I’m busy, sick, fasting, trying to save money…” Compare with “Hey, wanna join me in supporting ATASK?” “Sure, I’d love to!” / “Sorry, I’m not comfortable donating.” In all scenarios, both parties should feel cool and guilt-free. (But maybe inquire about that fasting thing…)
  • You will be surprised to see who donates to your cause. As expected, most people gave $20-$40, but the one largest donation we received ($150) came from two friends I had not seen in over a year. The other big surprise was when Mike announced he would be running for me! People will be happy to give, but first you have to provide them with the opportunity to do so.

Running in the rain

Leaving the house at 6:30 on a Saturday morning to work for free involved a fair amount of conviction. To do so with menacing clouds over our heads was even harder. Mike chose to warm up by biking to the race (~6 miles) while I drove over with an ATASK banner in the trunk and other materials that would end up not being used due to the weather. Catherine, a CLC officer, had brought a table, folding chairs, bibs for Team ATASK, check lists, volunteer signup sheets, and snack bags. The banner behaved like a sailboat in the strong wind and was promptly put away. Then, 10 min before the start of the race, the sky opened up, and someone up there poured a lake over our heads. We moved everything under the table, and continued matching ATASK runners with their bib numbers from a piece of paper that looked like a sheet of paper towel.

Four CLC members ran for someone who couldn't make it.

Four CLC members ran for someone who couldn’t make it. (Photo credit: Ehryl O’Rourke)

Meanwhile, our main event organizer was unable to attend due to a sad and unexpected family matter. Although I had originally not planned to run, I had managed to find three (self-declared out of shape) CLC members to wake up early and join me for a relay in which we would be carrying bib #14 from start to finish.

“Welcome to the Chestnut Hill Reservoir Mud Run!” the organizer declared at the starting line. Seeing everyone equipped with serious sports gear, Mike (more of a biker than a runner) judged it safe to start at the back of the pack, and he ended up passing a hundred people, though not before tiptoeing behind a dense crowd for a couple of minutes. Results: With a time of 24:55 Mike finished 29th out of 130, and my relay team finished 80th at 31:37.

Here comes the sun

The sun came late to the event by about two hours, just when most runners were ready to take a nap. Even with the rain, however, everyone was in such great spirits that if anything, the bad weather had enhanced this bonding experience.

Mike and I raised $585, contributing to a total of $3,086 so far for ATASK. Mike enjoyed the 5k so much that he’s decided he would do this again, and I’ve learned that it’s a lot easier for me to run when I’m not trying to keep up with Mike. Catherine set up a Facebook page to show off our efforts. We are still accepting donations for another week, so if anyone is interested in supporting ATASK through M&M, you are more than welcome to do so here. It’s not a request—it’s an invitation.

I would like to thank our friends who have donated to the ATASK 5k run. Fundraising is not my cup of tea, so here is additional thank-you for making my day.

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