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advice fundraising

Fundraising tips for charity and equipment sponsorship (Matt Ward)

General Advice on Charity Sponsorship

We decided very early in this trip to raise money for charity. The benefits of this are obvious and we are very glad that we did. It has given our trip real meaning.

If you are thinking about doing the same, please do not underestimate the task ahead. We have made a number of mistakes in our approach and we hope that you can learn from them.

Number of Charities to Raise For
We chose to raise money for 3 charities (one for each of us). We now think that it is better to raise for only one. Firstly, the logistics are easier - all the money can go directly to the charity rather than split the money 3 ways. Secondly, you are more likely to receive more help from a single charity. They can help you with press releases and fundraising ideas.

This can be a major problem. We started off by setting up a new bank account called 'Charityride Charity Donations'. The idea was that all donations would go to that account and we would split the money ourselves equally to our 3 charities.

This method works fine, but there have been many independent charity events that have asked for charity donations and kept the money (nasty people!). We were asking for money from businesses and the general public so we decided that this was no good. No business is likely to give money to a random bank account set up by strangers.

We eventually set up a system where the money goes to one of our 3 charities (which is audited by independent accountants) and then distributed equally to all 3 charities.

However, if you raise for only 1 charity, then all donations go directly to the charity itself - the charity will undoubtedly be audited.

This brings a further problem for you. How do you keep tabs on how much you have raised? One option is to have all charity donations (likely to be cheques made payable to the charity itself) sent to you home/work address and then you can send them on directly to the charity. Another option is for the cheques to go directly to the charity's address and to ask each donator to make clear that the donation is made because of your cycle touring event. The charity itself can then keep a total of the donations made - as long as you prearrange for this to happen.

Methods of Fundraising
We (rather naively) wrote to 400 companies in the Bath area to ask for sponsorship. Each company was a 'richer' company such as accountants, solicitors and estate agents. To each of these we sent a brochure and a good covering letter explaining our event; who we are, our cause and what we can offer them in return (basically website advertising). This cost us plenty of money with envelope, stamps and printing costs.

We received 2 positive replies.

We also wrote 800 emails to larger national companies. This took a huge amount of time and effort, mainly to construct a database of companies.

We received 2 positive replies.

Although the charities did benefit from this time and effort the results were obviously poor. We feel that there are far better ways to raise money, which concentrate on your local community and business contacts.

But Most Important....
Talk to the charity (or charities) that you are raising for. They will probably have full-time fundraising staff with ideas to help you make the most of your time.

General Advice on Equipment Sponsorship

As paupers we decided to beg for as much free/discounted kit that we could. We did pretty well and got (almost) free bikes, cameras, film and everything else was reduced in price by 25-60%.

The key seems to be getting some kind of promotional brochure together. We were lucky and managed to get 200 very professional colour, glossy brochures made up for free through a family friend. We used these to introduce ourselves to suppliers and prove that we were serious about the trip.

Our most successful idea was to travel up to the Bike Show at the Birmingham NEC in late April 2001. We put on our salesman hats, took some brochures and begged/pleaded/groveled for help. It was a good day and it led to us receiving free frames, tyres, wheels, components and other bits.

By chance, on the same day was an Electronics Fair at the NEC. We went in, did the same and walked out with a fantastic free Worldspace satellite radio.

We also went around local shops in our home town. This led to free top quality cameras (on loan), free slide film and 25% discounts at a good outdoor shop. We also used friends contacts to get cycling equipment at trade price at a local bike shop.

The bottom line is that it is far better to meet and talk to a potential donator than to just write to them. A letter can easily be thrown in the bin, even if there is a nice, colour brochure attached to it. Try to phone them first if you can't see them in person.

It is also worth stressing what you can give to a company in return. We could offer website advertising and links, mentions in the press, equipment reviews and high quality slide photos of a product 'in action'.