Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fun Rides

Over at Core Economics Joshue Gans writes

Robert Merkel [Larvatus Prodeo] is riding his bike through the Pyrenees to raise money from Crohn’s Disease. He wrote a few econbloggers an email asking for advice as to how best to raise funds from this exercise. He proposed some pledge based on whether he can achieve some goal in his upcoming ride.

to which I added the comment that

Being in the professional fundraising business I add these comment to educate anybody who may be thinking of looking to similar challenge events as a means of fundraising.

1) These events are not primarily fundraising events, they're to provide an excuse - and a small charge - for people to enjoy themselves. If Robert really wanted to generate money for Crohn's he'd give up the holiday, work at his day job, and donate the money he made there.
2) As it is, the money is doubtless a useful addition to whatever charity gets it, provided that no work at all is required of it. If the charity gets suckered into providing the admin backup the net value drops precipitously and can easily drop into negative territory. Do your costings carefully including all admin time.
3) In general, all these fundraising schemes are there to avoid the embarrassment of coming right out with it and asking for money - to take the curse of what we have been taight to despise as begging. They try to give the impression that there's some sort of transaction taking place, that something of value is changing hands, when there isn't. If you seriously want to raise money, cut out the shit and ask your friends and family to give it to you, and to ask their friends and family.

I'm being a little harsh here, as a bike trip through the Pyrenees is pretty harmless. The ones that really need overhead are the riding-a-penny-farthing-around-australia or pushing-a-bathtub-across-the-nullabor vanity projects that cost tens of thousands and raise at best net thousands.

Anyway, if you want hints, here's a successful bike ride organiser speaking, from the Our Community newsletter Raising Funds;

The Fundraiser: John Rathgeber leads the Big Heart cycling team each year in the annual Murray to Moyne bike ride, a heroic 536-kilometre dash from one end of Victoria to the other.
Unique Selling Point: Total commitment.
Success factor: In the last three years John has raised over $30,000, over $60,000, and over $70,000 respectively for DEAL Communication Centre, an enormously impressive feat.
The Murray to Moyne is a bike ride, of course, not a bike race, but I notice that you manage to lead the Big Heart team into the finish first every year.
John Rathgeber: I don’t like wasting time. If I’m going to ride 536 k I want to be on the bike for as short a time as possible, and so we try to start last and finish first. It’s the same with fundraising. My time is pretty valuable - not because I’m special, but because I’ve got a lot of things to do, especially with my family, and because I lose a whole month doing this it has to be worth while. Selling tickets, running raffles, rattling the tin – that isn’t a good ratio of dollars to kilojoules. It’s not about that, it’s all about being able to make a call to a director of Telstra and get him to throw in five grand. It’s about recruiting people with influence and having them leverage it.
What do you mean by ‘leverage’ in this context?
John Rathgeber: I look for people with some influence that they can leverage into funds. This year, for example, Mark, one of the riders, has a real estate company that does a lot of business with one of the major corporate law firms and one of the banks, so he was able to ring them up. Mark’s good for $28,000. I ring Terry at another firm and say Terry, it’s that time of the year again, and you can do one of two things – you can give me two thousand dollars or you can come on the ride as support crew. And he says What shall I make the cheque out to?
I’m selective about who I ask to join the team, for that reason. Most of us are from the corporate sector – though we have a mix of people, of course, to keep it interesting. You don’t want it to be aggressively corporate.
How do you get the funds in?
John Rathgeber: There’s no simple formula. But I do set a threshold goal of $2,000-$2,500. Not everybody can make it. One of the team who’s been on the ride for years is a schoolteacher, and she has to work like hell to raise half the money some of the newer riders can get with two phone calls. In general, though, I look for people who can leverage their influence into a greater net fundraising capacity, and if they’ve never thought about raising funds before, I encourage them to explore their opportunities in new ways. Last year, for example, we had a surgeon on the team. He found it very difficult to come to terms with asking people for money, so he just donated $500 of his own money. This year I got him involved. You work in an upmarket suburb, the people you operate on are generally fairly wealthy, quite often you’ve saved their lives, why don’t you tell them what you’re doing and ask them for money? They’re giving it to someone, and unless you ask them they’re not going to give it to you. He identified patients with high net worth whom he’d treated for life-threatening conditions, and I helped him write letters to them and worked out how he should talk to them about focusing some of their charitable efforts in our direction, and he raised about $5,500. You just have to get people to work through their contacts.
I’m developing a real feel for people who can raise serious amounts of money. We’ve picked up two or three new ones this year who have been fairly lucrative. One rang up when I already had sixteen riders and said he wanted to join; I said Look, Lloyd, I can squeeze you in, but it’s going to cost you. How much? he said. Three and a half grand, I said, minimum. All right, he said, Three and a half grand it is. It’s no longer ‘What we get, we get’; this is business. There’s a small window of opportunity, and I know how much it means to DEAL, and I drive it as hard as I can. Next year I’m aiming for $100,000.
How important is the Murray to Moyne?
John Rathgeber: I’m a great believer in event-specific fundraising. It allows you to focus your energy – there’s an urgency about it. We leverage our sponsors to the event, and the emotion, and the commitment -- I’m putting my body through all this pain, the least you can do is sponsor me. And the Murray to Moyne is quite well known now, so it’s partly sold in advance and we don’t have to do the whole selling job.
How do you get people to front up for such a long and gruelling ride?
John Rathgeber: The event is a whole heap of fun. I don’t have to ring people back the next year to ask them if they want to be part of it, they ring me asking when it’s on. This year we got a speaker system for the support van, and Matt, our driver, acted as disc jockey and comic – he told some really disgusting jokes, several of us nearly fell off our bikes from laughing. We do it properly. Everybody gets a Big Heart Team shirt, with the logos of our sponsors on the front (which isn’t to say that our sponsors do it for the advertising, they don’t, but it demonstrates our commitment). It gives the event a signature – come and ride with us and you can get a shirt. And to make it even more enjoyable, you can pay for it. We charge every participant $250 for meals, motel expenses, ride entry fee, and the shirt.
What’s the secret to great fundraising?
John Rathgeber: Commitment. It’s a mindset. I’ll do a thing properly or not at all. I don’t want to be involved with a half-hearted effort. I’ve had some discussions with another team, trying to encourage them to make a real go of it, and they just said no, we’re happy enough just rolling along. That’s stupid, I said, you’re investing all this energy and you’re still missing out on a wonderful opportunity to make a difference. No, he said, that’s the way we want to do it… And so they raised about $10,000 all up. I couldn’t work that way. The way to look at it while you’re doing it is that first is first and second’s nowhere. I don’t know that that approach endears me to everybody, but this is the only chance I have each year to make my contribution to the bigger effort, and I know the money we raised has done a lot of good.


JH said...

That is a useful interesting comment. I have sometimes wondered about the value myself (but of course there is a difference between giving your own money and giving other peoples').

One tip: why not give a summary and put in a link to your blog, so people who are interested can visit (especially with a long comment).

Robert Merkel said...

Hi. I replied to your comment at Joshua's place...

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