Free Press Journal

Why the Mumbai Marathon is more than just a race

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The marathon is considered more than just a race. It is a great celebration of spirit and fitness that underlines and showcases the passion and zeal of the citizens of the city, and nowhere is it more visible than in the spirit of giving that accompanies all great city marathons, writes Vibha Singh

Runners just do it – they run for the finish line even if someone else has reached it first.

The Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM) (previously known as Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon) is an annual international marathon held in Mumbai, India, on the third Sunday of January every year. Regarded as Asia’s most prestigious marathon, the race today epitomizes Mumbai’s spirit as a city, carrying with it an essence of hope and inspiration to achieve larger good in the form of a charitable cause. Jayanti Shukla, chief executive officer (CEO), United Way Mumbai (UWM) which has been the philanthropy partners for the marathon since 2009, talks about the success and challenges they face while preparing for the marathon.


Q– Tell us something about the marathons you had been arranging? What has been the impact of these marathons? Also please give us information about the TMM?

TMM is amongst the top ten marathons in the world. We promote and facilitate the fundraising using the Mumbai marathon platform and disburse donations raised to respective participating NGOs. Today, this fundraising platform has assumed a stature of eminence of being the single largest philanthropic sporting event in India. Over the course of 14 editions of the marathon, more than 550 NGOs have successfully mobilized over Rs 195 crore for a variety of causes across the nation. It brings together people from all walks of life corporates, social workers, doctors, children and persons with disabilities on a common platform to create lasting community change.

Q- What are your views on the evolution of running from sports to charity?

Both long distance running and raising funds for a cause require similar passion, conviction, determination and hard work. Both are personal and self-driven. And both are really beneficial for the soul. Naturally, it has followed that, as the popularity of running as a sport and as a pastime has increased, the idea of leveraging the platform for philanthropy has also grown and taken shape. The reach that events like TMM have is unrivalled and the event is therefore without parallel as a platform to raise funds for a good cause.

Q- What kind of set-up you had to maintain for the project?

 Our belief is that every donation made towards a worthy cause is an investment in the community and not merely a financial support. We dedicate significant time for careful due diligence – evaluating and building synergies with the right partners, who demonstrate an ability to understand and address issues with the larger perspective in mind. We identify and bring together multiple community stakeholders like NGOs, government agencies, companies, communities and individuals to collectively come up with long lasting solutions to issues faced in our society. This is our collective impact model.

What sets us apart is the professional structure in place for management of projects, the high level of internal audit and tracking and the result oriented process, producing sustainable change. We ensure complete transparency and stringent organizational checks for associated NGOs, thereby ensuring that the funds that are raised are being utilized to create a tangible, large scale social impact. Our strength lies in managing charity processes right from boarding non-profits to enabling fundraisers and corporates to raise funds for them to finally ensuring that there is complete documentation of their efforts with due recognition given to the fundraisers.

 Q- What are the challenges you have faced while organizing the event?

 The sheer magnitude of the event itself is a challenge. Onboarding and managing nearly 300 NGOs, 150 plus corporates, hundreds of fundraisers and thousands of donors on our online platform and ensuring that all the transactions are completed successfully has been a challenge; but one that we have relished and faced up to year after year. Our success rate over the years proves that.

 Q- How has the marathon made a difference in the lives of people?

 Marathon has cemented its place as not just India’s biggest sporting event, but also as the biggest charity event in India and the Asian subcontinent. The amounts raised through the event, year after year are a humbling acknowledgement of the tremendous caring and giving power of our communities and a testimonial to the credible charity platform. By providing people who wish to give the option of giving in a structured, impactful way, we have been able to help to solve issues at the root, rather than in a random manner. Also, every single participant charity is able to tackle and address the issues they have taken up, because of the support that is given to them by their champions.

 Q- What has been the success rate of the marathon in the past five years? Tell us about an experience which you feel was a turning point or gave you a new insight into the organizing of the marathon?

From 2009 till now, we have helped raise nearly Rs 195 Crores for charity through the SCMM. In 2017, we raised Rs 32.93 crores for 281 charities. The different cause supported include education, health, children, environment, animal welfare, arts culture & sports, disability, elderly care, gender equality, livelihood, social civic & community development and women’s empowerment. This only goes to show that there are people out there willing to go the extra mile for a cause they care about.

Q- What are your future plans?

Our plans are simple; we would like to ensure that the philanthropy aspect of the TMM keeps growing and that we have more and more fundraisers giving to a cause of their choice every year, increasing the impact of the charity aspect. Overall, we strive to bring professional management concepts into practice. With a proven track record in resource mobilisation and community impact, we will keep working towards building sustainable communities.

United Way Mumbai

Established in 2002 and is a part of a family of 4,500 United Way chapters across 47 countries. It is a corporate-oriented NGO, which simply means it acts as a bridge between the corporate world and activities carried out by other NGOs.

TMM 2018- Support these NGOs

Project Poshan – fights against malnutrition amongst children in impoverished communities.

Let’s READ– aims to foster the love of reading amongst children from marginalized communities. Set up mini libraries, gift book sets, conduct book reading workshops and train NGO staff.

Mission Mangroves– aims to conserve and replenish Mumbai depleting mangrove cover. Plans are to plant 1,00,000 plus saplings, educate citizens and restore 20 hectares of degraded wetland