As a professional fundraiser and seasoned consultant, I am generally skeptical of the impact special athletic fundraisers have on serving a nonprofit organization’s cause and intended donor population. I’ve attended and even managed several charitable sporting events and am so often struck with the participants ambivalence to the cause they are supporting. Most of us are in it to stroke our athletic prowess and ego with little care for the cause. Additionally, all too often the charity is not walking away with a healthy event bottom line or authentically new donor relationships.
I am writing this blog because the Dallas Bike MS 2018 in May proved a wonderful exception to my skeptical mindset. My husband Mark and I rode the Dallas Bike MS that traversed 150 miles of north Texas from Frisco to Sundance Square in Fort Worth. We were part of Fort Worth’s Health Angels team, one of many teams that together comprised the 1700 cyclists who participated in the two-day event. In addition to the cyclists, I am told there were nearly 1000 volunteers, police officers and local Multiple Sclerosis Society staff to serve the multitude of safety, healthcare, nutrition, shuttle and seemingly any other number of needs the cycling participants had.
Admittedly, I joined the Health’s Angels team as a personal athletic journey within my birthday month. It was about my ego and me. But this organization expertly changed that along the way.
Our team, headed by a very passionate donor/volunteer who grew up with a mother afflicted by MS and wheelchair bound, led the team by example with every email, conversation and Facebook post sharing that whether we ride one mile or the entire distance, we are helping people like his mom. He encouraged the team to fundraise for the cause and together the 65 or so of us who rode last weekend raised over $80,000. We were only one of many teams and while we won’t know the entire net proceeds of the ride until after fundraising ends in July, I suspect well over $1 million will be raised. In addition the MS Society kept in constant contact with us individually to encourage, support and steward me as a participant, and more importantly a donor. Plus they periodically sent me information via email on what they are doing with the money we raise.
When I arrived at the hotel site in Frisco, I was greeted by dozens of smiling volunteers and happy (not grumpy overworked) staff and vendors offering everything from bike checks and maintenance to the logistics for my bike and my bags for the two overnights and locations involved in this event. I also met several people with MS, all of whom said “thank you for riding and for your help for MS”.
Throughout the next two days as I rode through the beautiful north Texas countryside and chatted with cyclists along the way, I heard dozens of stories. Many were riding FOR MS and many were riding WITH MS. These riders shared that this event has provided over a billion dollars for research to slow the progression of and help find a cure for the debilitating disease of the central nervous system. And many also shared stories about how this research has actually yielded medicines that have positively affected outcomes for themselves or their loved ones.
This four-month engagement with an organization I had not previously connected with humbled me in a way that I could not have imagined. I was moved from my athletic self-interests to actually caring about this cause and the people MS affects. The ride itself turned out to be very doable I believe because of the joy and gratitude that filled my heart as I rode. I am giving some of my highest praise and a THANKFUL SHOUT OUT to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and Texas team, to Fort Worth’s Health Angels, and to all of those with and without MS who participated in last weekend’s ride.
Y’all did this RIGHT!
*Photos courtesy of Missy Gale
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Missy Gale, CFRE
Missy Gale is a professional philanthropy advocate who works with nonprofit organizations looking to expand their mission impact. Missy founded M. Gale & Associates in 2001 to bring the transformative power of relationship management to nonprofit organizations all over North Texas. From arts to education and from social services to health care, M. Gale & Associates has taught hundreds of organizations the art and science of collaborative philanthropy.
Missy lives in Fort Worth, Texas with her husband, Mark, of more than 25 years. Their children have successfully launched and are currently chasing their dreams! Missy and Mark’s personal philanthropy includes support of the arts and social services at the local and national levels.