Charity Rides — and the Fundraising Dilemma

Lots of us sign up for charity rides. Often, they require payment of a nominal entry fee, a portion of which supports some worthy local organization, and that’s that.

But then there are the big ones, that are tied into national charities, and require not only an entry fee, but that each rider raise x amount of money.

I hate to ask people for money. I couldn’t sell ice in the desert.

But, if I want to ride in my MS 150 in two months, I’ve got to.

In my case, it’s not too bad. The MS Society expects each rider to raise a minimum of $400. Last year, I surprised myself and raised $485. This year, with the economy still in the doldrums, people seem to have tightened their purse strings. But I’m still well on my way to exceeding $400 again.

Other riders set a target higher than the minimum. That’s the case of Ashley, of Massachusetts. She’s entered in the Livestrong Challenge Philly (Philadelphia) in August. The minimum fundraising amount is $250, but her target is $1,000.

How does a person raise that kind of money?

Since most of these big events are organized by big charities, with support staffs, fundraising tips are made available to riders. The MS Society posts a 12-week plan to help you reach your fundraising goal, starting with your participant center. That’s a web page where potential donors can click a link or two and make an online donation to your effort.

Bike Noob’s participant center.

Ashley’s participant center.

But I like the MS Society’s tip for Week Two: Be Strategic with the First Donation! The names and amounts from your donors show up in a scroll on your Participant Center. In my case, my cousin has MS. Her sister made the first donation toward my ride, in the amount of $100. That sets the tone for others who visit the site — they can see that some folks are giving generously.

Then, it’s recommended you email your “second tier” of prospective donors — friends and family. Many of these can be expected to write a check. My second tier is made up of my co-workers, and my boss donated $50. Everyone will see his name in the scroll. Hint, hint.

Other ideas: Email a third tier of prospective donors. These could be people you know who you don’t see as often, but who might surprise you by coming through for you. In my experience, these donations average about $10, but they mount up fast.

You could also raise some additional money yourself, by selling unwanted or unneeded items at a garage sale, or on EBay, or on Craig’s List.

And don’t forget matching gifts from your employer, if they offer that kind of program.

Most people I know who have ridden in these rides were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to reach their goals before ride day. ┬áIf you’ve read this far, please consider making a donation to Bike Noob or to Ashley.

And if you’re considering joining a charity ride yourself, they’re all over the place, all year long. I won’t list them here, but Biking Bis has a nice list of them. There’s sure to be something to whet your riding and fundraising appetite.


  1. says

    Bike Noob, thank you for the tips, and the generous plug on tonights blog, I really appreciate it.

    Tough thing is the economy is hard on everyone, but especially hard for those with serious medical conditions when they’re more apt to lose their jobs, or worse, their health care.

    I have awhile to go to raise the money, but I wanted to start early since I haven’t had to raise money for several years.

    While it’s tough for me to go door-to-door (I hate doing that sort of thing, and time-wise it’s just not possible) but I will be riding up and down the streets of Melrose and putting letters in mailboxes.

    Again, thank you for the nod, and good luck with your goal as well!

    – Ashley

  2. says

    I too am signed up for the Livestrong 2010 ride in Philly. I did the 100 mile ride there last year and it was a great time. A couple of other suggestions for raising funds:
    – Like Ashley, I’m a member of Team Fat Cyclist. My prospective donors know that I’m part of an effort to raise $1M this year and that I’m motivated to raise money for personal reasons, but also as part of a larger group with ambitious goals.
    – If your LBS or other source can donate something, you can raffle it off in exchange for donations. For example, every $5 buys one chance to win a set of pink tires or the like.
    – Social media is a quick way to inform potential donors: twitter, facebook, personal web sites, etc. reach your friends and search engines.
    – Blogs are good, too. I’m off to make a donation to you and to Ashley.

  3. says

    Thanks Kelly!

    I had written a response to the blog, which took awhile to write, and it never showed up…regardless…

    I created that website to make a more personal approach to fundraising, as well as an exersize in coding (design is my job, or something…)

    Raffling off stuff is a GREAT way of raising funds, as Fatty showed before Christmas.

    I’m not a fan of doing the door-to-door thing, but I will be riding the streets putting letters in mailboxes, and I’ll be busy afterwards sending THANK YOU!s to everyone that’s helped.

    Kelly, hope to see you in Philly, and thank you Bike Noob for the huge shoutouts!

    – Ashley

    • says

      Your original response is now up. For some reason known only to WordPress, it got shunted to the Spam folder. That has happened before, and I’m not sure how to prevent it. Sorry.

  4. oldguy says

    Good discussion with good tips. Of my three charity rides so far this year I’m funding the first two. The minimum for the Tour de Cure is within my budget – anything that I raise beyond that will be gravy. Feel like I started a bit late. I’m also funding the Rosedale out of my own pocket.

    My big push will be the Livestrong Challenge in Oct. I raised the minimum last year. I’m thinking of asking people to kick in a per mile pledge with a speed/time bonus. That will give me an incentive to train.

    (obtw, I have the same issue with comments going to spam)

  5. says

    Fundraising is often the biggest challenge in these epic rides. I’ve been riding the Pan Mass Challenge ( for 10 years. It’s a 2-day nearly 200-mile ride, but that’s the easy part.

    All 2-day riders must pay a $170 registration fee and commit to raising at least $4,200. The upside is that 100% of the monies raised go to cancer research. The event is very successful and raises over $30MM per year for the Jimmy Fund of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

    I’ve been successful in raising large amounts of money for a few reasons, I believe. First of all, I’m very passionate about the cause and I share that passion, and my specific reasons for riding, with my sponsors. Many of them have been impacted in some way by cancer and are happy to have a way to help. Many thank me for “doing something.”

    My email list is rather large and all-encompassing. Rather than tiering potential sponsors into groups, I simply ask everyone. It helps spread awareness, and I’m often surprised by the results — sometimes those who you might expect a contribution remain silent, and those who you really don’t expect anything from contribute significantly.

    I also send multiple requests/reminders. I don’t bug people, mostly because I hate that. But, I’ve received feedback from many that say “thanks for the reminder.” Generally, I send one notice a couple of months before the event and a second just a couple of weeks before the event. I usually send a third broadcast, which is a reminder as the event approaches. I tell folks about local media coverage of the event and thank them for their support.

    I also send a personal thank you as each individual donation is received. I think this is critical. This is particularly important to me, as many of these folks sponsor my ride year after year.

    Finally, I always send a follow-up letter letting everyone know how the event went, how much money we raised, etc. Think about it, if you put down $50 or $100 or more to support an event, wouldn’t you like to know how it went? I include photos, anecdotes, and a final message about the cause/passion for the event.

    Thanks for starting the conversation. Great thread.

    And, good luck on your ride!


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