Charity Partners for Sporting Events: Is relevancy important?

As any self-respecting cycling aficionado will know, the 2014 Tour de France is starting in Yorkshire. With less than 100 days to le Grand Départ in Leeds, the media build up to the tour has already started.

Whilst many of the uninitiated will express their inevitable bewilderment at how a race billed as the tour of France can start in ‘God’s own country’, it is actually in line with Le Tour’s practise of taking the great race beyond the borders of l’Hexagone. This allows different localities to benefit from hosting the greatest event on the cycling calendar, which brings significant benefits to the local economy and people.

These benefits extend to the charitable sector. Like more and more sporting events, Le Grand Départ of the Tour de France has a designated charitable partner: Marie Curie Cancer Care. Whilst undeniably laudable, I must admit that I was initially surprised by this partnership. Aside from both organisations’ association with the colour yellow, there is little that self-evidently sets Marie Curie out as an obvious charitable partner for the Tour. However, upon further investigation I realised that, from the charity’s point of view at least, this doesn’t actually matter.

Marie Curie is the official charity partner of this year's Grand Départ, which takes place in Yorkshire

This is because, with its association with the Tour, Marie Curie seems to appealing primarily to the interests of cycling fans and leaving the powerful ask of its charitable mission slightly in the background. For example, Marie Curie is holding cycling events across the country. It is also offering some fundraisers the chance not only to ride one of the early stages in Yorkshire but also to watch the race finish in Paris from a grandstand on the Champs-Elysées. I can think of many cycling fans who would pay significant sums of money for these experience and perhaps the links to Marie Curie’s emphasis on end of life care doesn’t matter if funds are raised.

This is not a criticism. Instead, it emphasises what I believe to be an important fundraising principle. When engaging donors, it is just as important to appeal to their personal interests as it is to ‘sell’ them your charity’s cause. I have no doubt that Marie Curie’s partnership with the Tour will allow them to engage with a large number of cycling fans who might otherwise not have considered donating, thus opening up new avenues of giving.

I recognise that not all charities will have the opportunity to partner with a world renowned sporting event, but I would encourage all fundraisers to think along these lines. If you can link your cause to an event that interests a broad range of people, they are undeniably much more likely to give and the potential sustainability of the cause is strengthened.

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