Additional remarks

Mainly on the business of fundraising

October 1, 1996

The fundraising for the Habitat, for which the participation in the Bike Atlanta ride was supposed to be a reward, was quite interesting in itself. I have obtained donations from 243 different donors. I must have visited several hundred homes, mostly in Pinawa and its vicinity, where my success rate was the highest (probably well above 50%), but also on the Western shore of the Winnipeg Lake (on the territory of the former [last century] Republic of New Iceland, now the Rural Municipality of Gimli [what a degradation!]) during my bicycle trip from Pinawa to the Hecla Island in the beginning of July (I made about 490 km in three days, of that 225 km in the first day - it was part of my preparation for the BA ride). There my success rate was almost zero. Most people in these vacation communities seem to have permanent homes in Winnipeg and I have heard from them mostly a variation of: "We are giving in Winnipeg, please, do not bother us here". The only exception was the small community of Siglavik, south of Gimli, where I visited almost all the homes because I was curious about the Scandinavian appearance of this place. In Siglavik my success rate was almost 40% (but to my surprise, only one donor's name was Icelandic, about everybody else had also a permanent address in Winnipeg - these donors constituted the bulk of the other residents of Winnipeg; where "other" means other than the AECL employees, many of whom commute to Pinawa from other places, including Winnipeg).

I met about four groups of people. The first group was well informed about the Habitat, liked its cause, and were giving me relatively large donations without much effort on my part. These people contributed bulk of what I raised. Then there was a smaller group who didn't know anything or very little about Habitat, who gave me money after I explained what it was all about. The third, also small, group consisted of people who were not interested in any explanation at all, didn't know anything about Habitat, but knew that one is supposed to give to good causes, and gave me a token donation, sometimes it almost seemed as if to get rid of me as fast as possible. The fourth group were people who didn't give me anything because they didn't like the cause or because they seemed not to be interested in giving to anybody. Maybe there was a fifth group of people who gave me donations only because they knew me personally, not because they would particularly care about the cause.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised that people are relatively generous even in these hard times, and considered me trustworthy, as I was asked in only about two or three cases for some identification and/or proof of my link to Habitat.

An interesting observation was that perhaps in all cases when both husband and wife were at home, and they clearly had opposite opinions on whether to give or not, the wife always prevailed (regardless of who of the two wanted to give and who didn't want). The only exception when the husband had the final word I remember, was a couple who moved to Canada rather recently from Europe.

I have heard a lot of different opinions on the Habitat's activity from the people I approached. Sometimes I had had hard time to explain what all those bicycle rides have to do with building houses. Hearing other people's arguments, maybe I myself sometimes felt that this deal of going on a supported bicycle ride in exchange for raising a certain amount of money is only about 96% right? Wasn't it like being a hired fundraiser? Is it o.k. to use hired fundraisers? The pressure to get a certain sum in a given time doesn't seem to be good. In the end I started to have a feeling that I was turning into a machine that tried to process as many potential donors as possible in the shortest time.

On the other hand, it was so nice to meet quite a few people whom it definitely caused joy to give in order to help other people.

What follows now may seem rather unrelated to all the Habitat and Bike Atlanta business, but maybe it is completely not. Once I was walking from downtown Winnipeg to the East Kildonan Mall (I had plenty of time waiting for my car to be repaired). As I sometimes like to do, I was trying to go as straight as possible and so I ended up in places where people normally do not go (I like to peep behind the scenes anyway; see for example my exploration of some of the "backyards" of Italy or Japan). I was walking along the railway tracks and over the railway bridges, and I saw pieces of land not that far from the Downtown that were unused and often full of garbage, where all those people who panhandle in the downtown could for example grow their own vegetable and other food, if only somebody had time and ability to organize such things. It might be more useful to show and allow a panhandler to grow his/her own food then to give him regularly a small amount of money. What I am trying to say is that maybe the emphasis should not be placed on setting fixed goals for fundraising, that more important is to involve as many needy people as possible in some useful activity that would help them in the long run.

I will finish this part with an interesting exchange I had after the ride with one of my major sponsors (who donated $334):

Hi Mirek,

thanks for your very nice message.  I am glad that you had a good (and 
definitely very active and exciting) time.

My contribution was more because of you than because of Habitat for 
Humanity (or any other agency that gives away or distributes things).  

My wife and myself typically support ecological (and population control) 
causes.   Lack of population control in my native country is 
destroying the standard of life (and many other forms of life!) in entire 
cities/regions.  More homes would provide additional fuel to an 
already-explosive and very dangerous and uncontrolled population growth.
Indeed, the standards of living in most of Latin America are getting worst 
by the day, and the exponential growth of the population seems to be one of 
the main reasons for this. It has definitely fueled a stunning and appalling 
increase of very violent crime among neighborhoods with very high-rates of 
reproduction. An exponential growth of homes/food/roads/schools/hospitals/etc. 
seems highly unlikely (even if it takes over all the agricultural land, 
and the oceans are depleted from fish).  Sorry about this "speech", already
too long, but part of my closest family still lives there surrounded by 
the exponential growth of people (and problems).  In any event, I think that 
people who are very energetic, driven, and who can make things happen,
deserve support.

Again, congratulations for the phenomenal and exciting bike trip.
Best wishes,
and my reply:

Hi ....!
  Thanks for your interesting message, I like to hear all kinds of 
opinions. Your "speech" has addressed the problem from a point of view 
that I somehow haven't taken into account yet when I was dealing with 
Habitat. I am also concerned about overpopulation and finite size 
and finite resources of the Earth and about sustainable economy.
  Originally, I joined the BA ride mainly because I liked cycling and 
wanted to take part in a long distance ride, and BA seemed like a good 
deal, and I liked the ideas of Habitat - I saw them mainly as supporting the 
cooperative spirit; it is not a "welfare" type of organization that gives 
things (houses) away, it requires the recipients to participate a lot. I 
viewed it somehow not as a way to build more houses than necessary, but 
as a better way to build houses that would otherwise have been built in a 
different way with profit generated for somebody who would not live in them.
  As I was asking for donations, I heard a large spectrum of opinions, and
for example found that it is not easy to explain the wisdom behind
connecting house building with bicycle riding, i.e., the bicycle riding as
a vehicle for pumping money from willing donors into the house building in
the process of which some of means inevitably end up used up by the
bikers, such as all the food donated to us along the way. However, that is
yet another problem. People somehow are more inclined to give if they at
least get something in kind of a show in return.
  And I have no solution at all right now how to satisfy in this respect
the concerns of overpopulation. I am very much for trying to keep the
Earth population within the reasonable limits. But what to do in the
meantime with all the people who are already here? Is it O.K.  to deny,
because of the overpopulation concerns, resources (such as decent housing)
to unlucky people who do not have them right now while those who enjoy a
larger than necessary share of such resources would be entitled to keep
all they have (I am thinking here more in terms of whole nations - poor
and rich, than in terms of individual people), or should the rich be
encouraged to share more what they have? 
  Do not all the scientists contribute with their discoveries to the 
overpopulation in some way?

  When I find a time, it might be interesting to write up all my 
experience with habitat and fundraising and the BA and your 
overpopulation concerns and put it on the Internet.

  Thanks again for your message, I liked it, take care,  Mirek

And so it is all (all I had time
to write up) here as I promised.

Go back to my Bike Atlanta page