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Far to go / loving and giving - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
j4
j4
Far to go / loving and giving
This Sunday I'm running in the Town & Gown 10k again, in aid of Muscular Dystrophy. About 5 of my colleagues are running too, and I don't think any of them are trying to raise sponsorship at all -- for them it's purely about the running. I found this surprising, but perhaps I'm just naive and lots of people take that attitude -- if so, how do these events actually make any money for the charities? (Do some people raise so much sponsorship that it makes up for it?) I can sympathise with a certain degree of embarrassment in asking people to sponsor you -- I don't find it easy, and certainly when it's a regular thing there's a sense that people are probably rolling their eyes and thinking oh no, here we go again. But if I really couldn't bear it, I wouldn't enter charity events! Or I'd just sponsor myself to the tune of £50 or so and accept that as the price of taking part. :-} I just worry that the whole thing is a really inefficient way of raising money for anything, and it's just a sop to middle-class guilt, and I'd be better writing a cheque to the charity and not wasting other people's time by asking them for money. The more I think about the whole "get sponsored to do things" model, the more absurd it seems. Mind you, the more I think about anything the more I just unravel it. Perhaps I should do a sponsored not-thinking-about-anything-for-a-day in aid of an Existentialist society or something.

But I am weary, weary, weary of being constantly made fun of by colleagues for trying to do the right thing, for trying to think about what the right thing is in situations, for trying not to be selfish; I am tired of getting snide comments like "oh you're so virtuous" and "I'm just not such a good person as you" in response to anything I say about anything I do. I don't want to preach and I try not to come across as preaching (though I do question and debate rather than just pretending to agree with things that I don't agree with), I don't think I'm particularly "good", I certainly don't think I'm "better" than other people as a person, in fact most of the time I think I'm a big heap of fail and I struggle to stay motivated to do anything. I don't think people are innately "good" or "evil", I think it's all about actions and patterns of action and choices, and you can't necessarily infer anything from the information you have about one person's choice in one situation. Obviously I think some choices are 'better' (which is almost always a relative judgement rather than an absolute) than others, otherwise how would I ever decide to do anything? But I don't even think I make relatively-good decisions more than average (how the heck would anybody measure that anyway?), I think I try hard but (as in most things) I feel as though I work harder than some to compensate for finding things harder.

But there's a whole nother blog post in there (a book, really) about trying to get things right, about guilt and blame, about fail and win, about the unfashionability of morals and the mess we've replaced them with, which I'm probably never going to have the time or energy to write.

Anyway ... in the unlikely event that you still want to sponsor me after all that angst, my online sponsorship form is here (they're officially endorsing online sponsorship this time, which is definitely progress!), & I will be very grateful indeed (because, at the risk of sounding cheesy, it does make the running seem more worthwhile, even though these days everybody's given the money before the run, so the original model sort of doesn't work any more). And if you don't, that's fine, & I promise I'm not judging you for it in any way! (Saying that makes me feel like people will think I'm saying it because I am judging and want to deny it, but honestly, no, just no. Let me at least be the owner of my own thoughts.)

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simont From: simont Date: May 14th, 2010 01:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
The more I think about the whole "get sponsored to do things" model, the more absurd it seems.

I've always thought that. But the absurd bit is the fact that so many people are prepared to sponsor people, or in other words that so many people can be more easily persuaded to donate more money to charity if somebody is doing something bizarre and unrelated. Given that inexplicable truth, it makes perfect sense to take advantage of it :-)
tigerfort From: tigerfort Date: May 14th, 2010 02:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
I suspect that at least some of the usefulness of sponsored events to charities is actually in helping people stay aware of them; I wouldn't be surprised to find that for a lot of the population they simply disappear into the fast-moving confusion that is modern life otherwise. (I've also heard this put forward as a benefit of charity shops - yes, they make money, but they also make people remember that there is a problem in need of fixing.)
cartesiandaemon From: cartesiandaemon Date: May 14th, 2010 02:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
*shrug* Some things are weird for actual but non obvious reasons; some things are weird for no reason at all. For the latter it behoves us to examine and if needed reject them, for the former, not to rock the boat until we've got a positive suggestion. Eg. when I was young I thought of the house of lords as a wart on democracy caused purely by history and of solely historical interest; later I decided that however weird it was, it had many good effects and we should try to update it a bit without breaking the good effects. I have absolutely no reason at all why sponsored events raise money for charity, it could well be driven by middle class guilt -- but it seems to (commonly not always) serve SOME function, and if so, then yay.
j4 From: j4 Date: May 14th, 2010 02:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
it seems to (commonly not always) serve SOME function

Hmmm. I'd want to see some figures to support the idea that it really does 'work' (for some definition of 'work'), otherwise your argument is just a variant on "Well there's got to be a reason for it, otherwise people wouldn't do it", which IMHO is a Very Dangerous Assumption.

I should probably do more research. OTOH, while it would be easy to measure "cost of event", "money raised", "profit made for charity", "increase in custom for local businesses" etc., it is much harder to measure things like "increased positive brand awareness" or "decreased guilt among the middle classes". :-} (That's not to say it's not possible to apply objective measurements to these things, but I almost certainly don't have the resources to do it!)
kaberett From: kaberett Date: May 14th, 2010 04:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have seen (and liked) the suggestion of e.g. sponsored litter picks, which I think some of the student societies here occasionally do on Jesus Green and the like. In fact, I should investigate further on that front. Hmm.
gnimmel From: gnimmel Date: May 14th, 2010 01:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
But there's a whole nother blog post in there (a book, really) about trying to get things right, about guilt and blame, about fail and win, about the unfashionability of morals and the mess we've replaced them with, which I'm probably never going to have the time or energy to write.

I would be interested in reading it, if you ever do get the time.

I watched some adverts a coulple of weekends, after a long period of not watching adverts (visiting parents) and I was struck by how much the language of advertising is about being naughty, and giving in to temptation, and the whole general you deserve to be selfish idea. On and on and on. Of course you can then absolve your sins with some cleansing yoghurt.
j4 From: j4 Date: May 14th, 2010 01:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
the whole general _you deserve to be selfish_ idea

THIS. Yes. Gah. I hate it. Being deliberately selfish very rarely makes me happy (I daren't say "never" because if you say "never" on the internet someone who thinks they invented moral relativism by the power of SCIENCE always stabs you in the face with an example you haven't thought of).

See also the all-food-is-temptation thing. Hate hate HATE. The next person who says "Ooooh, how virtuous" to me when I'm eating veg and hummous will get a stick of celery shoved somewhere painful.

(Of course you could argue that if being altruistic makes me happy then I'm actually acting selfishly by being altruistic. You COULD. But before you do, I refer you to the warning above re celery. Just sayin'.)
lnr From: lnr Date: May 14th, 2010 04:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Om nom nom houmous.
monkeyhands From: monkeyhands Date: May 16th, 2010 08:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Of course you could argue that if being altruistic makes me happy then I'm actually acting selfishly by being altruistic.

Hi! I am doing Alevel economics and philosophy, so I would just like to point out that you're aregument is flawed in this area since it is circular and ad hominem. I'm also doing Alevel computer science. Hope this comment has made you think a little more about how to debate.
nja From: nja Date: May 14th, 2010 02:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have just sponsored you, but in return I expect you to run round the course wearing a judge's wig and robes.

Our dept. administrator is doing something similar, and she just stuck the link in her email signature - last time I looked she had raised twice her target.

Sponsorship's odd. My father used to refuse to participate in sponsored events, he would just arrange a bit of overtime and give that money instead, because he said he could make more money for less effort that way. So really, sponsoring someone to do something they would have done anyway is possibly better - it's saying "here's some money, have a good time", rather than "I expect you to earn this". If you want to give money to something you think is valuable, why should you also want to make someone run round Oxford in a judge's wig (unless they want to)?

Back when I was a charity trustee we had a big annual sponsored walk and would raise tens of thousands of pounds, but if all the people who participated (including the organisation team) just dipped their hands in their pockets, I bet we would have made a similar amount for far less effort (when we had a new fundraiser who didn't see the Leicester Mercury as the ENEMY, a straightforward Christmas appeal raised as much money as the walk ever had, to the disgruntlement of the trustee who ran the walk).
j4 From: j4 Date: May 14th, 2010 02:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have just sponsored you

Thank you!

but in return I expect you to run round the course wearing a judge's wig and robes.

No thank you! :-P

(One of my colleagues says she'll double her (£5) donation if I run in a badger suit -- I'd gladly pay several times that not to run 10k in a badger suit.)

she just stuck the link in her email signature

Oh, that would've been sensible, yes. Bit late now though. :-}

if all the people who participated (including the organisation team) just dipped their hands in their pockets

Yeah. I like to hope that the sponsored events persuade some people who otherwise wouldn't give, or persuade people to give to a charity they wouldn't otherwise have given to because it's lower down their list, but I'm not convinced they work very well -- OTOH I guess MD is further down my list than the charities I already have standing orders to (or give time to), so I suppose the race at least gets me to give them some money that I wouldn't otherwise give ...
pseudomonas From: pseudomonas Date: May 14th, 2010 03:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Can we start haggling for what it's worth for you to run in a badger suit?

I've sponsored you, this being a charity that I'd otherwise not get round to supporting.
j4 From: j4 Date: May 14th, 2010 04:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for the sponsorship!

The badger suit would be quite hard to source by Sunday. But I'm prepared to start haggling for next year....
celestialweasel From: celestialweasel Date: May 14th, 2010 02:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think the working assumption with races is that a percentage (probably a majority) of people are doing it for the race and won't raise any money. I assume the people running them know what that percentage is going to be. I think the entries fees are intended to cover the running costs with a decent contingency and a small profit for the charity. t__m__i probably knows all the politics etc. of it in more detail.
The Town And Gown is quite unusual in that it seems very much 'branded' as the charity i.e. it is on their website etc. and is presumably run by them.
Although, say, the Reading 1/2 has official charities it isn't branded the same way, and it is run by a local running shop.
Really big races are run by a permanent company, most smaller runs are run by running clubs.
cartesiandaemon From: cartesiandaemon Date: May 14th, 2010 02:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
"I am weary, weary, weary of being constantly made fun of by colleagues for trying to do the right thing, for trying to think about what the right thing is in situations, for trying not to be selfish; I am tired of getting snide comments like "oh you're so virtuous" "

Despite your self-doubts, I think that was very well said. It was the bit that made me want to actually donate, rather than feel vaguely like maybe I should one of these days, but it was all too complicated :)
j4 From: j4 Date: May 14th, 2010 02:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
It was the bit that made me want to _actually_ donate

Heh. Maybe there's something to be said for thinking out loud then. :) And if that means that you're one of the anon donors then many thanks! (No need to confirm or deny -- anon is anon for a reason.)
sebastienne From: sebastienne Date: May 14th, 2010 03:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
(this comment brought to you by severe sleep-deprivation; I make no promises about sense or coherence)

But I am weary, weary, weary of being constantly made fun of by colleagues for trying to do the right thing, for trying to think about what the right thing is in situations, for trying not to be selfish; I am tired of getting snide comments like "oh you're so virtuous"

I get this, so much. When I started my new job people were doing it over the fact that I *reuse waste paper & envelopes*, FFS! There are some people around whom I cannot order meat-free food without a rant about how I'm so good and they could never...

The way I tend to think about it is that it's their guilt talking. They know on some level that they should be living more reflective and considerate lives, but they can't quite be bothered, or they have overriding concerns; so when we remind them that it is possible - even make it look easy by integrating it into the fabric of our lives - we make them feel so very guilty.

Which is stupid - the gods know I can be selfish and lazy with the best of them - I don't think that I'm better than anyone, or that anyone has any reason to feel guilty around me; I just do the thing that seems best in the situation that I'm in. If I have any virtue at all, it's just pathological overthinking!
j4 From: j4 Date: May 14th, 2010 03:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes! This! And IMHO pathological overthinking is more like a curse than a virtue. :-/

I get the snarks about reusing paper as well. Like I'm some kind of saint for having ticked the "duplex" box on the printer settings once 3 years ago, or for having a pile of scrap paper on the corner of my desk & writing on that. HELLO, THESE THINGS ARE NOT HARD. OK, changing the printer settings is hard if you're not IT-savvy, but this is a computing services department! Fair enough if people think it's a waste of time, unnecessary, unhelpful... but in that case, why feel guilty? Guilt suggests they think they should do it, but don't/can't/won't, & when it's something so trivial I really Don't Get It. Yes, I know the trivial things add up, but really, reusing paper is SO INCREDIBLY TRIVIAL that I don't see what would stop them if they actually did think it was in any way worthwhile.

(Someone will now stab me in the face with all the reasons why reusing paper is actually VERY VERY DIFFICULT in their particular workplace. Trust me, at my workplace, it is not difficult at all.)
venta From: venta Date: May 14th, 2010 03:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't think (based on no evidence, obviously.... this is the internet) that people are guilty about your paper reuse when they are chopping down virgin forest to make shopping list. As you say, it's pretty easy to do.

I think the act that makes people feel guilty is the thought you (generic you, also you personally) put into your actions which results in you reusing paper, running for charity, not driving to the shops in your own personal Hummer which runs on the blood of the unborn, etc. People take the path of least resistance to things which are perhaps slightly easier, slightly cheaper, slightly less effort... and people who consider their actions and don't get those minimal benefits make them feel guilty.

Perhaps unnecessarily guilty... but they don't know, because they haven't done the thinking/sums/whatever to know just how guilty they should be feeling.
redbird From: redbird Date: May 14th, 2010 05:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Maybe remind them that reusing paper is easier: this way, I don't have to get up and get scrap paper, I've got a small stack sitting on my desk. And when I'm carrying stacks of paper around, n sheets is easier than 2n; maybe no big deal when n=5, but when n=200, you notice.
j4 From: j4 Date: May 16th, 2010 08:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think the act that makes people feel guilty is the thought you (generic you, also you personally) put into your actions

That makes sense. I hadn't thought of it like that (at least in part I think because I see the over-thinking-about-actions as more of a curse than a blessing).

I don't think feeling-guilty is a terribly useful thing. Doesn't make it easy to stop doing it though. :-/
redbird From: redbird Date: May 14th, 2010 05:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
The whole model seems profoundly weird to me: there's no meaningful connection between the activity and the donation. It's not like, say, a benefit concert, which raises money because performers donate their fees (and sometimes the hall etc. is also donated), and the money is there because people want to hear that band or see that play. They may pay more for tickets, figuring it's for a good cause, but at base, I give them money, they give me a show. Few of the people sponsoring someone in that run are going to go out and watch, I suspect.

But at least you're going out to do something you actually enjoy; the weird ones are the things where people agree to pay people to do things that don't benefit anyone and don't appeal to the doers--someone jumping rope for a cause who really dislikes rope-jumping, say.

Someone mentioned charity shops. Those, again, in addition to raising money and producing awareness, are selling something people want. A charity shop got C$7.50 from me for someone's old coat. That's their benefit. I've been happily wearing that coat in late autumn and early spring for the last few years. Everyone wins.
rmc28 From: rmc28 Date: May 14th, 2010 07:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
I commented to my colleague that I felt strange asking people for money, and he said that he and his dad basically just donated £50 each on top of their entry fees last time they entered a charity run.

If I am fool enough to do the MoonWalk again, I think I might be tempted by that approach. Otoh I quite liked the person who just stuck the link in a signature ... thoughts for another time.
vinaigrettegirl From: vinaigrettegirl Date: May 15th, 2010 06:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes to being weary of being snarked at for trying to do the right thing, oh yes.

I shall sponsor you after supper.

Thinking about your colleagues and their ilk and old ox.net lags, let me give you a tip: don't put a charity envelope through the letter box of anyone who had named their house Apocalypse View with stick-on metal letters. It's a nonstarter and you'll be invited to an argument as well.

We leave little behind us besides love and having done the right thing.. Keep up the good work and do not be downhearted.
j4 From: j4 Date: May 16th, 2010 08:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
I shall sponsor you after supper.

Thank you! And thank you for wise words, too.
lishablog From: lishablog Date: May 15th, 2010 07:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
((hugs))

You just keep being the you that you want to be, and let other people's comments roll off your back like water off a duck.
j4 From: j4 Date: May 16th, 2010 08:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks :)

The thing is I don't want to be the sort of person who makes other people feel uncomfortable/guilty/irritated by what I do/say. I do want to make people think about things, though, so maybe it's inevitable that I'll make them uncomfortable. Hm. :-/
monkeyhands From: monkeyhands Date: May 16th, 2010 08:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
My personal etiquette says that once a year is about right to ask people to sponsor you for something. Every six months is pushing it and every three months is probably going to annoy people.

Other factors affecting the "is it too soon for moar sponsorship?" question: whether you keep asking the same small group of people or different people, whether you repeat the same sponsored activity or do something different, how difficult the sponsored activity is, how well-off your sponsorers are, whether your emails asking for sponsorship are spelt and punctuated properly and whether or not you're FLYING TO FUCKING IRELAND to do the sponsored thing.

As for people who run the race without sponsorship, I guess that's because there aren't many amateur races that don't have some kind of charity/sponsorship thing going on. So if you just want to see how well you do in a race, you basically have to run a charity race and then ignore the charity dimension. Also, if you run a lot of races, your friends will get tired of being asked for sponsorship every time.
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