Downturn Slows Elite Charity Events
Boston, March 20, 2009, The Boston Globe — To raise enough money to participate in the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, a two-day charity bike trip across Massachusetts, Rachel Gabriel started an unusual fund-raising event of her own, an evening of belly dancing performances. Her "Shimmy Fund" raised nearly $4,700 last year for the Jimmy Fund and put her in the Pan-Mass Challenge.
But this year she got nervous when some of the belly dancers told her they could not afford to donate private lessons as raffle prizes.
"That's when we started thinking maybe we should scale back a little bit because the economy is bad," said Gabriel, 41, an engineer from Lunenburg.
Rather than committing to raise $4,200, which she would be obligated to pay whether or not she collected that much in pledges, she is taking a shortcut, pledging $3,400 for a shorter Pan-Mass Challenge route that ends in Wellesley.
"It's a huge time commitment for training," Gabriel said. "But it's also a huge financial commitment."
Elite fund-raising events like the Pan-Mass Challenge inspire thousands of athletes and weekend warriors to enlist in a training regime and a fund-raising plan for a good cause. But with the squeezed economy pinching so many pockets, some participants are being scared off by the steep fund-raising requirements and recoiling from warnings that their credit cards will be charged if they cannot meet their pledge commitments.
Registration for the Pan-Mass Challenge is down 10 percent this year, and coordinators are promoting shorter routes with lower fund-raising thresholds.
Other walkathons that have no minimum pledge are trying to draw more participants, anticipating that each one will have less to contribute.
"We're definitely bracing for the worst," said Kelly Gaule, director of development for the AIDS Action Committee, which produces AIDS Walk Boston, an event that drew more than 15,000 people and raised nearly $1.2 million last year. "What we're doing is working diligently to raise the number of participants. If we went status quo with what we've done in the past, we would see a decrease in donations."