Boston Marathon Team Brookline a "Start-Up"
Selectmen approve a plan to have the Brookline Community Mental Health Center run the town's participation in the BAA Boston Marathon
For next year's Boston Marathon, some runners from town will have help from the Brookline Community Mental Health Center (BCMHC).
The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously last night--despite some initial dissent--to negotiate with BCHMC to act as the managing organization in charge of the "Team Brookline" runners for charity in the 2013 Boston Athletics Association annual Marathon.
The town receives a group of marathon racing numbers, or waivers, each year. Under the new program, a managing organization would recruit, train and support runners from a number of non-profit organizations from Brookline--including their own. The aim is to make a more community-wide program.
"There have been many [charitable] organizations worthy." Town Administrator Mel Kleckner explained, "The Selectmen asked me to think about ways to pass out numbers in a more inclusive manner."
The team approach will allow Brookline organizations to solicit larger sponsorships, in addition to individual fundraising by runners. Runners will have fundraising coaches, as well as running coaches and support.
The minimum fundraising requirement for runners is $5,000.
For two members of the Board, the amount of money going to the charities was a concern:
Selectman Dick Benka observed, "Out of the $5,000 that a runner would raise, only $2072 would go to the agency."
From the proposal, Benka read out that almost $3,000 of the runner's fundraising would be eaten up by direct and indirect costs, such as training, fees for the First Giving portal, and other costs.
"I'm uncomfortable authorizing agreement that only gives 40% to the charity," he concluded. "I am personally unwilling to accept a proposal where 60% goes to costs."
Selectman Ken Goldstein was also concerned about the ratios, and encouraged Town Administrator Kleckner to try and organize a proposal where more of the money is going back to the charities.
Selectman Nancy Daly agreed, saying she would prefer the ratio to be closer to 50-50, but that she would not hold the plan up any further.
Selectmen Chair Betsy DeWitt pointed out that the program is brand new. The town may reserve additional waivers, which would spread the costs out further. Sponsorships and beating the $5,000 minimum raised will put even more money in the hands of charities.
"I see this as a start-up. I am not any happier with the proceeds and the ratios than you’ve said, Selectman Benka." DeWitt added, "But, with start-ups, you have to put money in them to make them work. We’ve handicapped this one by giving it a late start."
Said Selectman Jesse Mermell, "For the amount of physical commitment and fundraising commitment, it’s going to be more appealing to go with the program that will help you get training to get across the finish line. So, everybody wins."
Mermell added that overhead is typical in fundraising with any organization.
"It’s alarming, it’s frustrating, she said, "but this is totally normal."
The overhead is not unlike renting a home, as Niki Lamberg, a spokesperson for the BCMHC, explained in a phone call: one person may pay for the rent alone, or could get roommates to defray the cost of monthly rent. This program, she said, is like renting one apartment instead of three or more.
Mermell, who also works with the Mass. Association for the Blind shared some experiences from the Boston Marathon program there. They have similar costs, in part connected to the need to transport visually impaired runners to and from the race.
Ultimately, Selectmen Benka and Goldstein were convinced to give the program a try for this year.
Voting in favor, Selectman Benka said, "I certainly want this program to succeed--I think we all do. I think, though, that certainly in the future, we need to see a justification of the costs and justifcation of the overhead."
After negotiating and finalizing the program with BCHMC, Team Brookline will have to find runners and begin training and fundraising.
The Mental Health Center told Patch in an e-mail, "No other town we know of is creating a collaboration like this!"
[Update: A previous version of this article did not include information about the context of fundraising, information about the Mass. Association for the Blind has been added since the initial publication. 3:19 p.m.]