What Do Mud-sliding, Marathoning, And Bike-riding Have To Do With Tzedakah?

Why peertopeer fundraising events have become so popular

By Moshe Hecht

Some hundred miles away from here in a land of mountains, trees and lakes, something emerges, cholent bellied and groaning. His skin caked in mud, sweat, twigs (and other weird forest life), this creature has come to save the world.

The swamp thing? Some creepy survivalist in a bunker?!

Or just a regular, 50-something guy from Brooklyn raising money for kids with cystic fibrosis?

Welcome to our generation. Welcome to today. Welcome to Tzedakah’s Present.

Tzedakah is as old as our people. We’ve all learned how Avraham and Sarah Imeinu opened their tent to feed caravans of strangers. How Moshe Rabbeinu fundraised from the Bnei Yisrael – a Shekel here, a Shekel there – to build the Mishkan. Our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents have all performed the Mitzvah of righteous giving in one form or another for close to 4,000 years.

But back in the day, you either donated your money or you donated your skills. That’s it. You could donate a dollar to help build a Shul, or volunteer your hands and tools to actually build that same Shul. In generations past, there was no other way you could effectively give Tzedakah.

Flash forward to 2019.

Peer-to-peer fundraising, the rapidly growing movement of empowering the community to raise funds on behalf of the causes we care about, is widening the landscape (literally) of how we give, so that people like our Brooklyn based, swamp-friend will abandon suit and tie for spandex. Leave behind the hustle-bustle of the city for some mud, trees and no parking meters within a 20 miles.

This guy, and thousands of other men women and children like him, will race through a wet obstacle course, legs pumping, muscles aching, dirtier than a two-year old with a bowl of spaghetti.

People today are uniting their own individual networks of friends, family and social media followers to sponsor the things they care about, whether through a bikeathon or mud sliding, raising greater awareness, funds and impact than they ever could alone.

And work off 52-weeks of shabbos meals while they’re at it.

“It’s completely revolutionized the way we give,” says Chaim Backman PT, a USA certified triathlon coach, and Friendship Circle team coach for over nine years. “Peer-to-peer fundraising is much more personal. You as a giver are investing in a friend or family member who is actually, physically giving their time and energy for something very personal to them.”

He continued, “You’re also part of a team, training together, raising together and cheering each other on – together. Many who are running in these events have children benefiting from these organizations, so there’s another personal connection there as well. You can’t even compare the difference in impact between this and some random ask on the internet for an $18 donation.”

Tzedakah is becoming an event. A full-body, multi-sensory, holistic experience, manifesting in exercise, food, music, and pretty much anything else you can imagine and (possibly) a few things you can’t.

From Chai Lifeline’s Bike4Chai to the Friendship Circle Walk to Ohel’s OXC, Tzedakah is restricted to no one, limited to no limb, and performed by your entire being. Unable to give money with your hand? No worries. Pedal a bike with your feet and save a life. Can’t volunteer your services? No problem. Crawl on your knees through a muddy obstacle course to help children and families. All tapped out? Get some me time at a barbecue with prime steaks and support a local Yeshivah.

Every single Mitzvah is a physical act performed by one part of us or another. We study Torah with our mind. Eat Kosher with our digestive system. Don Tefillin on arm and forehead.

Tzedakah is different.

It is one of the few Mitzvos that we perform with our whole body, head to toe, elbow to knee, shoulder to shoulder. Everything we are and work for, every cell and sinew, distilled into that one act of giving.

This is never more true than today with our potential to overload the airwaves with goodness, using all the tools at our disposal – competitions, exercises, the Internet, WhatsApp, text messaging. And the payoff? When we flood the world with positive actions, we leave zero room for any negative force, eliminating threats that technology, or any foreign substances, could pose to our children and future. By actively and consistently influencing our world for the good, we weaken the world’s negative influence in our own lives.

It’s time to feel the power of this full-body Tzedakah revolution. Feel it now. Head to toe, wrist to ankle, hand to foot. Know that even the tiniest, scariest part of you – that part of yourself you always avoid in the mirror – can, is, and will be used to revolutionize Tzedakah and elevate our world.

One one bike ride, one marathon and one obstacle course at a time.

Moshe Hecht is a philanthropy futurist, public speaker and chief innovation officer of Charidy, a crowdfunding platform and consulting company that has helped 2000 organizations raise over a half billion dollars. Moshe is an accomplished entrepreneur whose passion lies at the intersection of technology and charitable giving. His articles have been published publications such as Forbes, Nonprofit Quarterly and eJewishPhilanthropy. When Moshe is not at the office, he is writing music and enjoying downtime with his wife and three redheaded children.

This piece is the latest addition to Tzedaka’s Present: A column on current and future giving trends and oppurtunities.