Charity Bike Rides: Tips for Raising Money

Raising money for a charity cycle ride can be as big a challenge as actually completing the ride. We asked charity rider Steve Fabes for some fundraising tips.

The Welsh 3000s Challenge – climbing the 15 over-3000m peaks in Wales within 24 hours – was part of Steve's pre-trip fundraising efforts. Photo: Steve Fabes/Cyclingthe6

The Welsh 3000s Challenge – climbing the 15 over-3000m peaks in Wales within 24 hours – was part of Steve's pre-trip fundraising efforts. Photo: Steve Fabes/Cyclingthe6

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So many people ride for charity these days – both independently or part of an organised charity bike ride. How did you go about making your charity ride stand out from other cycle challenges?

I set out to emphasise the aspects of my journey that are particularly unique. First of all the scale of my journey, a route across six continents in one unbroken attempt is one that has rarely been attempted. I realised that I would be cycling around 80,000km, which is a distance roughly equivalent to twice the circumference of the Earth, so once I’d made this link, I made it clear in every email and in every pamphlet I sent out. I then highlighted some of the toughest parts of the journey: my route through Alaska, the Sahara desert and the South American rainforest, for example. I also managed to get through to agents of some well-known expedition leaders and sportsmen, including Chris Hoy and Bear Grylls, to endorse my trip and offer their support. Having a patron or even just a quote you can use on promotional materials can help your project stand out even more.

I also tried to combine some medical research into the ride. I have a professional interest in the Neglected Tropical Diseases, 14 infections grouped together by the World Health Organisation which occur exclusively in the poorest regions of the world. I also embarked on some research into the physical impact the challenge would have on me.

Steve says goodbye outside St Thomas's Hospital, London on January 5, 2010. Photo: Steve Fabes/Cyclingthe6

Steve says goodbye outside St Thomas's Hospital, London on January 5, 2010. Photo: Steve Fabes/Cyclingthe6

How did you get your charity bike ride fundraising message across to potential sponsors?

The first stage in raising money is to set up your Just Giving webpage where people can donate online. Gone are the days of sponsorship forms! Then put together an email list, and hit up close friends and family on the first round – empty Justgiving pages can be daunting and people often match the donations they see on the page. Be persistent because people are busy and often mean to get round to it later. Send messages to different groups of contacts so that you can personalise your messages. Explain exactly what their money will be used for, explain why it is vital, and give examples of what their donations could buy: how much for a mosquito net or access to clean water. Try to make people laugh when you ask for their money – here is an extract from an email I sent out for sponsorship of my ‘Welsh 3000s’ challenge in Snowdonia.

"I should emphasise this is not one of those irritating instances where someone asks to be sponsored for doing something pleasant on a Sunday afternoon, like when a crazy woman in my office asked me to sponsor her for walking two miles through an autumnal wood to provide cats with earmuffs during the firework season. On the day, we will be scrambling and scampering over more than 30 miles of scree slopes and knife-edge ridges, incorporating a dizzying rise and fall of some 4,000 vertical metres - it's the equivalent of walking from Charing Cross to Luton, and clambering over the Eiger in the middle. It seemed like a good idea in the pub."

On the next round, hit up everyone else – old school friends, work colleagues, anyone and everyone. Make sure you have a link to your Justgiving page on every email you send and a Justgiving widget or ‘sponsor me’ badge should be part of your blog or website if you have one. Add photos and video to your Justgiving page and your blog to get more people interested in your bike ride. I would also add your Justgiving page address to your email signature.

After an email campaign, you could put together a press release – often the communications team at your charity may be able to offer help with this. I managed to find a printer willing to print an expedition brochure for free which I sent out to hundreds of companies in order to secure some corporate sponsorship. It’s worth thinking very carefully about who you know that could help you. I cajoled many of my friends who were journalists to help on my press release and for contacts, graphic designers for help with the prospectus, web designers for help with my site, teachers to get some school talks arranged, and a children’s cartoon artist for help with my logo.

As your bike ride approaches, you could organise some fundraising events, often an easy way to get closer to that fundraising target. Concerts, raffles, auctions, anything you judge your mates would be up for. If you have a name and logo for your cycling challenge, then get it on T-shirts, hoodies and hats and try to sell them at the event. To raise extra cash, you could also hold a competition at the event itself. I had a ‘name my bicycle a girl’s name’ competition which raised some extra money. (As a result, my bike was christened ‘Belinda’ after a friend’s mum!) You can try and get prizes donated by local businesses – free meals, seats at sporting events, bottles of wine etc. Finally a leaving party is also a good way to raise extra cash just before you set off.

How did you go about setting yourself a realistic fundraising target for your charity bike ride?

I thought the idea of ‘one pound per mile’ was a good one, so I set my target at £50,000. Be ambitious – it's even better if you can beat whatever target you end up setting.

What other considerations are there for charity cyclists when it comes to fundraising for their bike ride?

Remember that 20% of donations on Justgiving come AFTER the event or challenge, so remember to continue to fundraise after your charity bike ride. You could do slideshows and public presentations and talk of all the adventures you had on your bicycle to raise some extra money.

Finally, it’s really important to say thank you to every single person who donates or supports you in planning your bike tour. Send out plenty of personal thank you letters and emails. 

You can follow Steve’s progress via his website and blog, and make a donation via his Just Giving webpage.

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