The colors of money 

Local View

You want your 5K with color? You can choose among Color in Motion, The Color Run, Color Me Rad or Color Vibe, for starters.

Oh, it's glow you want? Plenty of that, too. Same goes for mud and obstacles. You can run 3.1 miles trying to escape from zombies. And if food is your motivator, there are now pumpkin pie or hot chocolate runs.

But if you want your run with a healthy dose of charity, you might have to do your homework. The majority of the trendiest runs, which provide fantastic photo opportunities — who needs Instagram filters when you and your friends are covered in multicolored cornstarch? — are operated by national, for-profit companies.

Wait, you say, I thought those color runs were supporting nonprofits. "Sort of" is the best response. Yes, they have national, and sometimes local, nonprofit partners. But the degree of support varies.

In July, Color in Motion, an Idaho-based group, put on a local event that supported Colorado Springs Sports Corporation. Mike Moran, senior media consultant for the Sports Corp, says his organization got a "modest" percentage of the race's $50 entry fee. The race, on the other hand, was folded into the State Games and into the city's downtown Olympic Celebration, and got to use State Games volunteers. So it's fair to wonder whether race organizers got more than they gave.

A month before that, Color Me Rad had put on an event that supported Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation's community centers. Despite thousands of runners participating at $30 to $50 a head, the city received $5,162, according to chief communications officer Cindy Aubrey.

To be clear, neither Moran nor Aubrey is complaining. And it's not that the runs are hiding their intentions, exactly: Check out their websites and they acknowledge (some more prominently than others) that they're in the profit-generating business.

So what's the problem?

It has to do with the number of races. Trying to get an accurate count is more challenging than finishing a half-marathon, but it seems like there was a color or glow run nearly every weekend through the summer, including The Color Run in America the Beautiful Park last weekend.

Meanwhile, some nonprofits have over the years come to rely heavily on charity runs. If you want to get a workout and make a donation, there are already plenty of such nonprofit options. According to a Pikes Peak Road Runners schedule, there are at least five this weekend alone, including the Humane Society for the Pikes Peak Region's Pawtoberfest and the Greccio Housing Run for Home 5K on Sunday. (Disclosure: I'm on Greccio's board.)

Considering that entry fees for both for-profit and nonprofit races are regularly $35 to $50, even the most ambitious runners are unlikely to do it all. And against such colorful competition, says Dave Somers, executive director of the Center for Nonprofit Excellence, nonprofits will have to work harder to retain and draw supporters. (Of course, that might mean getting into the goofiness themselves: El Paso County Parks is hosting a zombie run on Sept. 28 to raise funds and emphasize emergency preparedness.)

But Somers, who's a runner himself, says that it's also about the runner taking responsibility. He suggests: "Check out websites, go to the organizations and see what they've disclosed to the public. How transparent are they in terms of their financial statements?"

Lori Meister, a breast cancer survivor who lives in Piñon Valley, has participated in the Komen Foundation's Race for the Cure (perhaps one of the best-known nonprofit runs with races across the country) for two years. Before being diagnosed, she and her family talked about doing the race; after her diagnosis, she says, it was a no-brainer.

"Seventy-five percent or more of donations goes into local efforts," Meister says. "It feels like you're doing something and you know where your money is going."

So get out there and run — but remember, not all races are created equal.


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