The Tanqueray-sponsored AIDS Rides have become a popular fundraiser. Where is all the money going?
Above: The AIDS Rides have successfully raised money for some organizations -- but have returned dismal results in other cities.
The author: Sasha Alyson is the founder of Alyson Publications, the country's leading publisher of gay and lesbian books. He sold that company in 1995 to start Alyson Adventures, which specializes in active and adventure vacations for gay men and lesbians.
Also of interest:
Table of Contents of Venturing Out columns
"Let an AIDS organization pay for your next vacation!"
It's not as catchy as "Legs of Iron, Heart of Gold", yet arguably it's a more honest slogan for the AIDS Rides that have become an annual fund-raising event around the nation. Organizers heavily hype the physical challenge riders face, as if this justifies the high support costs. Indeed, biking 70 to 100 miles a day is a challenge. But it's also a vacation. If organizers were truly asking participants to suffer, they'd offer a bedpan-changing marathon rather than a bike ride.
Last year, the first Texas ride raised $2.8 million, yet only $400,000 - about 14% -- went to the sponsoring AIDS organizations. The rest? Salaries, advertising, food and support for the riders, and a hefty "Production Fee" paid to the for-profit company that oversees the rides, Pallotta TeamWorks, Inc. Wisconsin riders learned last autumn that only 6 cents of every dollar they raised went to AIDS organizations. Chicago, Boston, New York, and San Francisco have fared better, at 50 to 60%, but even this falls under the 70% goal set by many non-profits.
The honest solution is to require that riders personally pay the full cost of their ride: food, tent, trucks, paid staff, advertising, and overhead, totaling $150 to $200 per day.
But that, of course, would reduce participation. And we all know that where the money is flowing this freely, the people with their mouths under the spigot are not about to reach up and turn down the flow. So the ball is in your court. If participating in an AIDS Ride appeals to you, then by all means, schedule your next vacation time around it. But pay the costs of your ride yourself, so that when you ask a friend to sponsor you, their donation will be going primarily to AIDS organizations. And then, have yourself an exhilarating, guilt-free vacation.
Everyone knows that Pride takes place in June. But what goeth after Pride? The Fall, of course, or so the old saying predicts. Here are options for getting off the beaten path, this September through December:
September 1-6: Southern
Decadence, New Orleans, LA
September 26, The
Folsom Street Fair, San Francisco, CA
October 7-11, Cancun International Gay Pride Festival,
October 8-10, In
the Company of WOMEN Mountain Tour, Catskill Mountains
November 5-7, Single
Gay Men's Weekend, Provincetown, MA
November 17-25, Tropical Daze Rio, Rio de
December 31, The Millenium, Everywhere
Next Month: Eco-tourism.