Many of us want to get involved in charity or giving, but often get stymied by the mechanics of getting engaged. How do we make it happen? What organization do we want to support? How do we know it will be a good fit? How much time and investment are we going to make just to create the engagement? Do we really have time for this? Squirrel! The following is a series of posts that are intended to help provide some guidelines and encouragement that says: it’s not hard, and the time you do spend is well worth it.
Take a look at what we’ve done at CTEQ in terms of giving and we’ll lay out a set of easy-to-follow steps that will help you execute efficiently and, hopefully not get stuck along the way. One of the keys to getting engaged is simply to make the commitment that says,” Yes, I want to do something. I want to play my part in making a difference.”
When we organized as a company, we decided from the Business Plan stage that one of our core tenants was getting involved with charities and charitable giving right from the get-go. Since the commitment was built into our business plan, we created our own incentive to follow-through. We wondered if we failed in this endeavor, would we fail at everything else.
Choosing organizations that match some of your values is important. A couple of things that were crucial to us included: 1) Organizations that had low overhead; 2) Groups that promoted empowerment of individuals and focused on improving lives and not just taking care of needs; 3) Non-profits where it was easy for us to get involved and participate in a hands-on way if we chose.
World Vision is one of those charities we sponsor. They’re a global organization that’s been operating for over 65 years. 84% of their dollars go to their programs; 6 % to administration and 10% to fundraising. WV has been constantly on the move since their start. They are no longer engaged in the places they were helping in the mid-70’s because their work actually helps improve lives. Once they’ve reached their goals in an area, they move on. CTEQ has been involved by sponsoring children in Africa, sponsoring clean water programs in places like Zambia and Haiti, and participating in marathons where the impact really gets exciting.
Let us tell you more about that. An intern of ours (we’ll call her Mads) was charged with developing our ongoing charitable engagement program. She spent a summer creating a model for engagement (as we’ve alluded to above) on behalf of Urban Ventures – a Minneapolis non-profit. Urban Ventures is a faith based nonprofit organization operating in south Minneapolis with the mission to empower individuals and their families with the tools needed to break the cycle of generational poverty. Urban Ventures (UV) does this through a number of different programs that take a holistic approach to the fight against poverty. Ultimately, UV believes that individuals have the capability to take control of their lives, if they have the support system around them needed to succeed. That’s why UV’s programs focus on the entire family, including four core areas: jobs, education, family, and food security.
We’ll talk about UV more in future posts. You can probably already connect the dots that we saw in common between these two groups. World Vision (WV), and specifically Team World Vision (TWV), has been a project that Mads got us excited about. We had the knowledge of how WV had been helping orphaned children (often losing both parents to AIDS) get their basic needs met: nutrition, medical, education, shelter and more. WV has had a tremendous impact globally in this area. WV describes its work as, “Pulling up the roots of poverty and planting the seeds of change.” Team World Vision (TWV) was developed about eleven years ago to specifically address the need of providing clean water to children and families in areas where it didn’t exist or was difficult to obtain. Here’s a basic need that we might take for granted, but has a tremendous impact on those who struggle to gain the right kind of access without help. Teaching communities how to dig and maintain wells is part of this program.
TWV has recently expanded its efforts to help fight sex trafficking. The two efforts may seem miles apart in scope, but there’s some relationship here. Making the water more local has reduced the number of victims falling into sex trafficking. With children needing to walk long distances to obtain water, they can be and have been easy prey for sex trafficking abductors. So, it’s about protecting children. Not an easy problem to solve, but a basic need that WV is working hard to provide.
After getting CTEQ involved in sponsoring children through the traditional program of WV, Mads introduced us to the clean water program. Making clean water available in areas where it’s scarce was the foundational mission of TWV. As a branch of WV, TWV raises funds through individual runners (like you and me. Okay, like you) who first commit themselves to running a 10K or a half-marathon or a full as a member of TWV. TWV has to, of course, be a registered charity for the event you’re participating in. Today if you attend a marathon in any city in the US (some in Canada, Asia, Europe and even Down Under), you’ll likely see runners in the classic orange jerseys with the TWV logo. As a participant on behalf of TWV, your end of the bargain is to solicit sponsorships from as many people you can get to donate money. All proceeds are given to WV. It’s not uncommon for a runner to raise $2,000, $5,000, or even $10,000 in a single event. If you think about the multiplying effect that happens here, which far exceeds most individual’s ability to donate cash, it’s truly mind-boggling. Speaking of that, the very concept of TWV was created by a single man, not even associated with WV. We’ll talk more about the overall impact of TWV and how it all started in the next post.
Michael Chitwood (TWV Founder) 4th from right
The TWV engagement is proving to have a widespread impact. People don’t just give once and then close the door to future opportunities. They give again and again, and many decide to run themselves. The runners who run once often decide to go on to be team captains, who help to organize the training and coach their team members in fundraising. Sometimes, team captains even graduate to volunteer or even paid staff at TWV. There’s an impact that’s palpable and gripping. If you’re looking to write a check just one time, TWV is probably not your thing. If you want to be a part of something where you can hear and see and feel the difference that your efforts are making, TWV might be a good choice.
There’s a deeply compelling aspect to running a marathon on behalf of children that you’ve never met; who desperately need every step of the race that you’re in. Every stiff muscle and every drop of sweat can be looked at as something you’re giving for them. Imagine yourself running 26.2 miles thinking about dozens or maybe hundreds of children in need and having those nameless faces as your inspiration. They are the ones truly pushing you forward. They are the ones you see at the finish line. Your sacrifice becomes a new beginning for children on the other side of the world.
A month ago, we traveled to NYC and watched Mads run in the world’s largest marathon. Quite spectacular that she gained a spot in this race widely coveted by most serious marathon runners. There are a few ways (and perhaps only a few) to get into the NY marathon. You can qualify with an excellent time. You can win a spot through NY’s lottery. Or you can be invited by a charity. You can probably guess how Mads earned her spot. She’s not known as a
lightening quick runner. She has weak ankles from a variety of childhood injuries. Her stride is shorter than average and her feet are slightly pronate, which makes her running style less efficient. Running across the street – no big deal. Running 5 miles around the neighborhood is not a problem. Even a half marathon is very doable for Mads. But 26.2 miles? Those physiological factors add up. It was not athleticism, but Mads’ fundraising skills that got her in the race. TWV has only 50 spots in NYC. That’s 0.1% of the 50,000 total runners.
Mads was shooting for a 5.25 hour race, but a good friend told her to go slow and enjoy. He had run the race before and experienced the thrust of adrenaline produced by the dense throngs of fans lining the course. Millions come out. And if you know New York, you can probably expect that these folks are not passive. They don’t need a lot of encouragement to provide encouragement to the runners. This advice caused Mads to focus on who she was really running for. Having spent an aggregate of seven months in Africa in the first 21 years of her life, it was easy for her to create faces in her mind of some of the children she knew. With that being her main motivation, Mads applied her energy to her infectious smile and a persistent right-hand extended to the fans looking for a high-five. Thousands of people along the way felt the slap of her skin.
Children in Accra, Ghana who befriended Mads in 2014
Coursing her way through the five boroughs of New York, Mads got to know folks that re-appeared several times as they were tracking people they knew. Her smile and enthusiasm had an infectious impact on them that day. They saw her enthusiasm and tried to feed her some of theirs. Especially in New York, as a spectator you get to know dozens of runners. Oddly it has
to do with the density of the race. Many of them, especially after mile 12 or 13, start to look pretty beleaguered. The Queensboro Bridge at mile 14 is a killer. But being pushed along by those happy faces in Africa and the cheering crowds in Brooklyn and Queens and Manhattan, etc., Mads made her mark and made CTEQ proud of what she did that day. As she approached the finish line, she had fist pumps going upward, an extravagant smile on her face and legs quickening to reach the line. The officials calling the race noticed all of these qualities and actions and cheered her on enthusiastically through their PA system (which could be heard on the other side of the Hudson. Again, it’s New York).
In the end, she finished worn out, tired, chilled and emotional, much like all the other runners. But she had something else attached to her name on this day. She had raised $10,000 for children she didn’t know. Tears of joy for that accomplishment were the most profound. We’ve seen and heard and even touched the impact (if you can say hugging a sweaty runner is “touching the impact”) and from that we feel inspired to do more. Perhaps one of us will run a race and maybe go on to bigger things from there. One thing we can say for sure is that this won’t be a one-and-done engagement. It certainly isn’t the last race Mads will run. TWV has already asked her to run a 50 mile race in South Africa in June, 2017. Thanks, Mads! And thank you, Team World Vision! And special thanks to Michael Chitwood who had the vision and answered the call to start TWV. More on that story in post number two.
Mads – Top of the Rock- day after NYC Marathon – able to see the whole race course from here!