2021 Annual Report
The RUN828 Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization based in Asheville, North Carolina. Its mission is to promote healthy, active, outdoor opportunities to individuals and families in western North Carolina. It achieves that by providing events, education, support, and funding. It hosts and sponsors community running events and provides structure and administrative support for the North Carolina Mountain Trail Runners running club (NCMTR). Run by a volunteer board of directors, the RUN828 Foundation relies on funding through NCMTR member enrollment, local business sponsors and funds received from RUN828 sponsored races.
THE PAST AND PRESENT
The RUN828 Foundation was formed in 2015. Over the course of its first five years, it grew financially and in its presence within the community. New programs were on the schedule for 2020, but 2020 did not turn out as anyone expected.
The foundation entered 2021 concerned about its future but optimistic the tide was turning. Vaccines were around the corner, and hopefully the pandemic was on the way out. Unfortunately the hope was short lived. All three of its major fundraising and community initiatives were stopped in their tracks. The work spent planning and designing races and activities for the local community was lost, at least temporarily.
The Hellbender 100 ultra marathon, scheduled for May 2021, and already canceled in 2020, had to be cancelled again for health and safety reasons. Thousands of hours of volunteer time go into putting on this race. The event, which covers over 100 miles of the western North Carolina mountains, is so complex it requires a year of planning and preparation by a large race team. Runners from around the world come here with their friends and families to participate. As a result of the 2021 cancellation, refunds totaling over $37,000 were issued. Fifty five hundred dollars of race sponsorship money was returned. At the time of cancellation, race purchase orders with long lead times had already been placed. Most of those orders could not be cancelled, and the invoices had to be paid.
As North Carolina required residents to quarantine in 2020, membership in the North Carolina Mountain Trail Runners club (NCMTR) dropped from over 200 runners in 2019 to about 40 in 2020. Started in 2016, the trail club was becoming more vibrant each year. The club’s mission is to advocate for the conservation of local trails and to help maintain those trails. Members commit to support this work by volunteering at trail work days. NCMTR also engages the community through weekly group runs, adventure runs, and social events.
The foundation’s third community initiative, the Healthy Kids Running Series, was cancelled for 2020 and again for 2021. More than 200 local children participated each year since its inception in 2016. For many, it was the first time they ever saw a cross country course or ran on a track with families and friends cheering them on.
Growth in the program was so enthusiastic, it was poised for expansion. Parents asked if races could be held in northern Buncombe County as well as the location at Glenn Marlow elementary school in Mills River. By the close of 2019, the foundation had secured a second location for the races so that even more children could participate. A second team of volunteers was being trained to manage the races before Covid hit. The board was actively planning initiatives to make the races even more inclusive in our community.
Until 2020, the foundation was able to support local runners in need and provide stipends to high school track coaches for their teams. That was not possible in either 2020 or 2021.
As a result of the cancellations, the foundation ended 2020 with a net loss of $23,892.88, putting it perilously close to termination. Total cash available dropped by almost 40 percent. As the board approached its first meeting in 2021, disbanding the foundation was an option.
The RUN828 Foundation did not disband. In fact, the foundation finished 2021 in a strong cash position, almost doubling the available cash balance from the start of the year. Fifty percent of that is restricted funds for the Hellbender 100 race now scheduled for May 2022.
In 2021, the media widely reported that more than one-third of U.S. nonprofits were in jeopardy of closing within two years because of the financial harm inflicted by the pandemic. The RUN828 Foundation did not close and is poised to finish 2022 in a strong financial position.
What are the reasons for that? Why did the RUN828 Foundation get through two difficult years and come out ahead?
Community Support. The RUN828 Foundation was started by runners for runners. It aims to serve the community from the most elite ultra-marathoner to the 3-year-old little girl running her first race. Over its 7-year existence, the RUN828 Foundation has created goodwill within the running community and beyond. In 2021, NCMTR rebounded and finished the year with about 85 members and growing. When Hellbender 100 was cancelled in 2021, over 45 percent of those registered donated all or part of their race fee back to the foundation. That was their vote that Hellbender 100 needed to survive the pandemic and return in 2022. When the race was back on the schedule for 2022, major sponsors like Hunter Automotive Group, Pardee UNC Health Care, Hillman Brewing, Terry Foxworth CFP, Leki, and Squirrels Nut Butter and many others, have already written checks and committed to the success of the event.
Frugal financial practices. The RUN828 Foundation is led 100 percent by a board of volunteers. There are no paid positions. Every dollar donated to the foundation is funneled right back into community activities. During 2021, three more members have joined the board. They are volunteering their time and talents to help the foundation continue to grow.
Positivity. Perhaps it is the nature of runners, particularly trail runners, to face challenges head on. The RUN828 Board and the NCMTR leadership team have held onto a vision of what the foundation can accomplish. Throughout the struggles of the past two years, the focus of meetings has remained “can do.” With one eye on the reality of the financial situation, and the other looking ahead to what can be accomplished down the road, the foundation continues to move forward.
No one can predict how the rest of 2022 will unfold. The RUN828 Foundation is moving forward cautiously, one step at a time, creating opportunities for individuals and families in western North Carolina to get involved in healthy, active, outdoor, activities.
Megan Robinson, President
Tom Sharkey, Vice-President
Mary Koppenheffer, Treasurer
Abby Harris, Secretary