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Are charity walks a waste?
Fun runs are a popular fundraising tool, but arguably, participants could better help the needy by volunteering or directly donating
 
Thousands participate in a New Jersey breast cancer walk: Some critics say charity walks aren't the most efficient way to help the needy.
Thousands participate in a New Jersey breast cancer walk: Some critics say charity walks aren't the most efficient way to help the needy.
Matt Rainey/Star Ledger/Corbis

Each year, tens of millions of Americans participate in charity walks and "fun runs" aimed at soliciting donations from friends, family, and beleaguered co-workers. It's a "feel-good phenomenon" few people stop to question, but critics are starting to ask whether the time and money spent organizing and participating in such events would be better spent directly helping the needy. Should charities just take the money and (not) run?

These events are a waste of time and money: "If walking could cure breast cancer... it would be cured by now," says Kim Irish of Breast Cancer Action, as quoted by SmartMoney. The truth is that events like these are expensive, siphoning off as much as 50 cents on the dollar, compared 15 to 20 cents for other types of fundraisers. If the charitably inclined spent their time and money volunteering or donating directly, they would do more good.
"Are charity walks and races worth the effort?"

Charity walks are odd, but hardly worthless: I recently witnessed 42,000 people walk 20 miles around Boston to raise $3.6 million for food banks, says Ted Gup in The New York Times. It was hard not to think about how the 210,000 man-hours the event required could have been better used: Building houses, planting gardens, delivering meals. Still, these walks undeniably inspire outsiders to give by personalizing the issue. "There is an exquisite — albeit attenuated — logic to it all."
"The weirdness of walking to raise money"


Walks can raise more money than other endeavors:
"The genius of athletic fund-raisers" is that "through them, charities can raise millions from contributors who have no particular interest in the cause," says Anne Kadet at SmartMoney. Sure, these events cost a lot of money, but those who give are often supporting a participating friend, and they wouldn't think of supporting the cause otherwise. 
"Are charity walks and races worth the effort?"

Plus, it is about more than raising money: The value of the walks isn't just about money raised, says John Gait at A Daily Glimpse. They create a sense of pride and community that's especially important when people can only donate small sums. The walks also generate publicity. "People see that roads are shut down, thousands of people are walking for a cause," and they wonder what they're supporting and if they should be doing the same.
"The weirdness of walking to raise money"

 

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