Saturday, 20 July 2013

How do raise over £2000 for a charity cycle ride with the minimum of effort

Yes I admit it! I am a MAMIL! A middle aged man in lycra who rides an expensive road bike (one of three bikes I own!) mainly for commuting, but also on the occasional longer foray out into the Surrey hills. In fact I have been known to ride up Box Hill on the odd occasion- yes that's the one that thousands of other like me regularly hold up the traffic on a Sunday morning in a vein attempt to emulate their hero Sir Bradley Wiggins. But I don't do this because I think I look good in unfeasibly tight clothing (not possible unless you have the physique of an Olympian!) or because I am going through some middle age crisis (I did that when I bought a motor bike some years ago, now the proud property of some other middle aged geezer I am sure!). I do it because I love cycling, I love the freedom it gives me on my commute. I can now get to work (10 miles ride) in well under an hour and be sitting at my desk by 8.15, having had a shower, and with a nice coffee and a bowl of Oatso Simple in front of me. I also do it because it keeps me fit; I have lost two inches from my waistline and a couple of stone over the past two years. Can't complain about that can I!

That's enough self indulgence, but I hope you can tell I am passionate about cycling! In fact apart from moving to the charity sector over 20 years ago and meeting my wife just before that, cycling is by far the best thing I have ever done! What I really wanted to do in this blog is tell you about how I successfully fundraised for a London to Paris cycle ride I completed last August in aid of ChildHope, the children's charity I am a trustee of (soon to be Chair). I like to think I did this efficiently, effectively with the minimum of effort, but in a way that respected and valued my supporters.

I have been a trustee of ChildHope for almost three years. Whilst I make a monthly donation via payroll giving and the occasional one off donation, buy Christmas cards, sponsor people occasionally, etc. I thought I was not doing enough. As I had just taken up cycling, I signed up for an open challenge event with Discover Adventure, almost a year before the event itself. I figured this would give me plenty of time to get fit (cycling 300 miles over 4 days was something I had never dreamt I could have achieved!) and to start fundraising (I thought this might be a challenge). I knew I did not have the time or the patience to be doing cake bakes, boot sales, street collections or selling my body (that might have raised 10p!), but I did want to raise a reasonable amount of money. I thought £2,000 would be reasonable and achievable.

So how did I go about this, given that I have no rich friends or family members, and wanted to spend more time on getting fit than raising money?The getting fit bit was the easy one. I enjoy cycling, so I cycled into work as often as I could (the 2011/12 winter was appalling if you remember, so this was not as often as I would have liked), I bought a rowing machine that now sits proudly in the spare bedroom, and I took part in two sportive events. I ate carefully and tried not to drink much alcohol. I did not stick to my training plan but I knew I had the fitness to complete the ride. The fundraising bit was the thing that scared me more. Even though I have raised millions as a professional fundraiser over the years, this was different and I knew it would require careful planning.

I drew up a table of gifts. I know this sounds ridiculous for two thousand quid, but it really helped. I knew my maximum level donations were going to be probably £100 and I knew the minimum might be a fiver or a tenner. I worked out how many gifts at each level I would need to reach my £2000 target. In fact I set my target at £1600 on my JustGiving page so that I knew could beat it!

I then drew up a list of everyone I know, family, friends, neighbours, contacts and everyone I have worked with in the past, including two chairs of committees I have worked with in previous jobs with whom I am still in touch. I figured they might be at the top of my gift table! I emailed all of these contacts asking for their support for me and ChildHope. I posted the fact that I was doing the ride on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I put a footer at the bottom of my work email. I talked about the ride with everyone I came into contact with.

At Christmas I sold ChildHope christmas cards at work and pledged to match the value of the cards with a donation to my fund. I sold things on ebay that I did not want and that I would not miss. This generated a couple of hundred pounds. But by far the majority of my money came in by my email campaign.

What was interesting was the way the money came in. As I have already said, my 'major gift' amounts were £50 and £100. I was surprised and delighted by the number of these I got from people who I really do not know that well! By far the bulk of my income came from the £10 and £20 donations but it was the bigger donations that were the ones that made the difference! 20 £50 donations are a far quicker way of generating £1000! I was also surprised by those who do not give! This included friends and colleagues I thought I could count on. I did not take this personally; I think many people just forget to give, even though they have every intention of doing so.

Every donation I received I wrote a personalised email. I did not think that the automated email generated by JustGiving was sufficient. I wanted my donors to feel really good about supporting me. And I actually got feedback from several that they really liked getting the personalised email!

When I had completed the ride (different blog, different time) I wrote to all my donors with a detailed description of the ride and reiterated the difference their donation would make to the children ChildHope work with. Of course I also sent them a copy of the picture of me standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, biker aloft! Again I got good feedback on this letter.

All in all I raised £2500 for ChildHope. I was proud of what I had achieved and the difference this will make to our beneficiaries. I was proud that, as a trustee, I had done something that many of my peers had not yet done.

NB: This blog also appears in my other blog: