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Adventure for Good?

A while ago I wrote a post called Adventure for Good? One of the comments that resulted from it came from Bex. She wrote,

“You raised some interesting points here but your reflections are from a unique angle in that you are a high profile adventurer. I felt like your article started out with inspiration for others looking to raise money and ended quite critical: “if you do decide to link adventure to a cause think carefully about your motivations”. Regardless of motivation, we should absolutely be encouraging people to add a charity to their pursuits – even if it is for a self-indulgent activity that results in the person getting more sponsorship interest! Isn’t that better than the charity not getting anything at all? And really (without getting too deep) is there such a thing as a selfless act anyway – I certainly give to charity because it makes me feel good!”

So I asked Bex if she would like to write her perspective about linking charity and adventure. Here is what she wrote:

I can imagine the groans from my friends and family. Perhaps even a few eye rolls; There she is again, expecting us to put our hands deep in our pockets. Each time I send out a message asking for charity sponsorship in support of my next adventure, I know that I will get less than the time before. That I will need to start thinking outside the box to raise the money in other ways. That it will stress me out and frustrate me.

Still, I continue to do it.

Fundraising is not an easy thing. But adventuring isn’t either. In fact, it’s because it’s hard that we take on challenges it in the first place. We know the benefits will outweigh the struggles. For me, I’ve always seen a perfect synergy between the two; adventure and doing good. For 3 reasons:

1. Adventurers make the perfect empathetic fundraisers

Generally, adventurers are well travelled and see the world from a human level (I’ve lost count of the teas I have drunk on adventures hosted by people living in hardship!). We understand environmental issues because we see them and care for animals because we spend more time than most in the wild.

2. Adventurers are doing something that makes people listen

Often the hardest part of fundraising is doing something that will stand out enough to encourage others to part with their cash. Adventures, especially of the epic and whacky kind, can build a public momentum without even trying.

3. Adventurers are beyond lucky

The fact that we have the absolute luxury to inject adventure in our lives means that we are some of the luckiest people on the planet. Don’t ever forget that! Showing gratitude is finding a way to give back.

Adventure and challenge fundraisers are a huge benefit to charities so I really do urge you to think about making this a part of your next expedition. Fundraising can be a daunting task though. If you don’t know where to start, here are some ideas to get you going:

Think like an adventurer

Begin with a target. Just like adventuring, training and anything else, goal setting helps you stay on track. Pick a figure that scares you enough it puts you out of your comfort zone.

Make it relevant to your adventure

You are also going to need to choose a charity to raise money for. I can’t emphasise how important it is that you select a cause that you really care about. This passion is what will drive you when you feel like your fundraising has hit a brick wall.

Connecting charity to the adventure you are doing is also a great idea, as is reaching out to see if you can meet and share relevant stories first hand while on your journey.

Pull at your friends’ heartstrings

Asking for sponsorship from friends and family is usually the first step with fundraising. Rather than throwing a generic post on Facebook and hoping people will respond, make it personal. Write about your reasons for fundraising and what it would mean to you to get their support. I find sending an email gets a better response than social media initially.

Most people need to be reminded 3 or 4 times before they actually take action. So keep asking!

Get yourself noticed

Write to local newspapers and radio and tell them about your adventure and fundraising efforts. I once had an anonymous £300 donation from someone who had read what I was doing through my local village newsletter!

Write a blog and share on social media. Most fundraisers would agree that exposure is your biggest friend (Here are some handy adventurer fund-raising tips.)

Utilise your contacts & community

The single most effective fundraising tool I used was to ask my work at the time if they would support my fundraising efforts. A 10 minute meeting led to an offer to match my fundraising…that took my total from £2,500 to £5,000!

Also try previous workplaces. As well as any loose connections you have with business owners. Companies get tax benefits for supporting charities and usually have an ethics policy which will work in your favour.

Make the most of your community as well. Contact your nearby Lions and Rotary club. I once did a talk at my local Lions Club in exchange for a £400 donation. What about your old school? Maybe you can speak in an assembly about your adventure in exchange for money raised on a non-uniform day.

You’ve drained your resources, now what?

Once you’re done sending all those emails, it’s time to think of a way to raise money beyond just those you know. There are a few things you can do…

A public challenge: Sit in a bath of baked beans for the day at the shopping centre or go 10 hours non-stop on a static bike outside the supermarket. You’d be surprised how much money you can collect from peoples spare change.

Fundraising event: do a quiz at your workplace, cake sale at your book club, concert at the village hall or even bucket collecting

Raffle or auction: I’ve raised thousands through raffles because, quite frankly, people give more when they think they might get something in return! Contact companies to get products and services donated (here’s a good step by step guide). Then find somewhere to do a raffle or auction that will be busy such as a fair or a popular weekly pub quiz. [NOTE FROM AL: churning out a bunch of copy-paste Tweets to people on Twitter who you’ve never interacted with before, asking for stuff, tends not to work, in my experience…]

It doesn’t always have to be about fundraising

There are other ways we can make a difference as adventurers beyond just fundraising. Explorations are often connected to research and raising awareness. My Coast 2 Coast expedition for example is all about drawing attention to plastic pollution. Kate Rawles is also currently cycling through Central America speaking to anyone who will listen about climate change.

Some final top tips

Be transparent and honest; if you are using a section of the money to fund your adventure you must make it clear. This kind of deception has started to give adventure fundraising a really bad name.

Be persistent; keep sending emails, keep calling people, eventually you will get a response.

Stay positive; fundraising can be disheartening but stay positive. Don’t take rejections personally and remind yourself regularly why you are doing it.

Celebrate your successes; by the end of it all you might be looking at what you think is a small amount. It took loads or energy and time so you ask yourself, was it worth it?

Well…. have you heard the story of the starfish?

A man was walking along a deserted beach at sunset. As he walked he could see a young boy in the distance, as he drew nearer he noticed that the boy kept bending down, picking something up and throwing it into the water. As the man approached even closer, he was able to see that the boy was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time he was throwing them back.
The man asked the boy what he was doing, the boy replied,” I am throwing these washed up starfish back into the ocean, or else they will die”.
“But”, said the man, “You can’t possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach, and this must be happening on hundreds of beaches along the coast. You can’t possibly make a difference.”
The boy smiled, bent down and picked up another starfish, and as he threw it back into the sea, he replied “I made a difference to that one.”

Bex Band

Bex worked for many years as a charity fundraiser and then a teacher before deciding to quit her city life to become a full time adventurer. You can follow her blog, the Ordinary Adventurer. Bex also co-founded the female adventure community Love Her Wild.

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Comments

  1. Bex, I totally agree with your article especially with the fact that we are so lucky and fortunate to be able to go on adventures. Therefore it’s our duty to help others along the way whatever the reason is. Thanks for inspiring me to do more!

    Reply
  2. Charlotte Hudson Posted

    I think raising money for charity, regardless of motivation, can only be a positive thing!!
    Thanks for all the ideas Bex….. i have so many ideas spinning in my head now!!
    And I love the starfish story…. I’ll be stealing that one!!

    Reply
    • Thanks Charlotte. I really love the starfish story. Too many times I hear people say that one person can’t make a difference. Which is nonsense…everything that has ever triggered change in the history of mankind (good or bad) has stemmed from individuals. It’s a powerful thought to hold on to when you feel disheartened.

      Reply
  3. Wow, great guest post. Really made me feel good about my adventure and raising money. Sometimes I have doubts about my choices and how its percieved or the reasons behind my decisions. But this just reaffirmed my belief that adventure is a great opportunity for fundraising!!! Thanks AH and big thanks Bex

    Reply
  4. Full disclosure – I’m Bex’s mum so am slightly biased but she is truly an inspiration. Bex was the reason I headed off on my own with a large rucksack to do voluntary work in Zambia, why I now spend a huge amount of my time supporting various causes (which gives me great satisfaction) and why I think “why not”. Find something you’re passionate about and support it … doesn’t matter whether this is with time, money or effort, do what fits in with your current commitments. All those small things add up to something big!

    Reply
  5. I did my biggest adventure ever for charity in memory of my hubby. It was something I would not have done on my own and has given me the drive to do more. I think that however charity is involved in our adventure, whether it is volunteering somewhere or raising funds to participate, it makes our adventure worthwhile. I was amazed at how generous everyone was with their time. Collecting old clothes that were then bought by an amazing charity and distributed where needed raised my funds in no time and didn’t involve my friends and family putting their hands in their pockets! This is a great st with some useful ideas. Keep going Bex! Off to plan my next one!!

    Reply
    • Couldn’t agree more Suz that doing something good makes the adventure worthwhile. It sounds like you found a creative way to raise money without having to ask people directly to donate which is great.
      Good luck with the next one!! 🙂

      Reply
  6. I’m going to disagree (to some extent) with the “any money raised is better than nothing, just do it!” approach. Tacking charity on to adventure can have downsides.

    The commercial Kilimanjaro climb (at a cost of £3000 ++) that raises £300 is not a good look. I always wonder why, if the Kili climber is ! all about the charitable cause ! she didn’t give that £3000 to the charity and stop sending me begging emails.

    This makes me uncomfortable. “Asking for sponsorship from friends and family is usually the first step …make it personal… sending an email …need to be reminded 3 or 4 times before they actually take action.” I have my own thoughtful choices about which charities I support and why. I don’t like being on the receiving end of this.

    Certain kind of adventures do better that others for raising money. As a generalisation, people do better in their own country, with a project done over time, where they move around, supporters can join in, they can talk to local media as they travel, their coverage can build momentum.

    Alex Staniforth’s just-finished project is a good recent example – low cost, real effort needed, over £20k raised. Alex Ellis-Roswell (ongoing) is another – over £50K raised. Both with ongoing media attention for the causes involved. And those outcomes are much bigger than guilting friends and family.

    If the charitable cause speaks to you, build the best adventure possible to get great fundraising outcomes. If the challenge speaks to you – it’s fine to just head out there and climb that mountain. There are other ways to make positive contributions to the world.

    Reply
    • You raise some interesting points Cathy and in truth I agree with a lot of them. If someone is going to pay 3k to climb Kili, would it be better for them to give that money directly to charity? Absolutely!! But people know this, yet they still pay these prices to have this experience. so surely it’s better that they raise £300 for charity in the process than nothing at all?

      The kind of low cost adventure you talk about is only really suited to a particular type of person I think. Someone who is really driven by charity and willing to dedicate their time to this. It’s the sort of thing I would do, but I can’t think of many friends or family who would be confident or comfortable enough to do this. For them, joining tour companies and paying to do so is where their comfort level lies. And that’s fine. As long as they cover the cost of this and are transparent, I can’t see the difference between a ‘cheap’ or ‘expensive’ fundraising adventure. The outcome is the same (I’ve also seen Kili climbers raise 50k for charity in the process).

      Although I have a different outlook to charity than most, I try not to judge others when they are fundraising. And I also try to be realistic about the expectations I have of others. Most people have a different view in life in terms of spending habits and what they view as important. But when I look back on my journey, I didn’t start out like this. My first adventures were paying to do a race or a challenge and raising a few hundred pounds for charity in the process. These were stepping stones on a journey that led me to more grassroots adventures and bigger fundraising targets. It was a learning curve and that didn’t happen over night. Sure, these sign-up challenges have got bigger (and priceier) than they were 10/20 years ago….but they are still a start and should be celebrated I think.

      As for the reminding people 3-4 times before getting a response I do sit somewhere in the middle. But it’s been proven that even someone who wants/intends to donate will forget or put it off and will need reminding this amount of times before they actually do it. Human nature! It’s the same principle for advertising or events and if it’s ok for companies to do it (who also play on guilty tactics), then why not charities? Perhaps I should have worded this better. It’s certainly not right to pester people but sending updates on your progress with gentle reminders to donate is a soft approach and from my experience, it works. I realise this is a fine line but as someone who used to work as a charity fundraiser I know that regular asks for donations is what keeps the charity world ticking over. I don’t always enjoy it on a personal level but I think it’s the right thing to do.

      I remember being in a talk once where the lecturer asked how many people donate regularly to charity. Out of 150 people only around 12 put their hand up. He then asked how many give sporadically to bucket collectors or friends who ask for sponsorship. Nearly the whole room raised their hand. I bear this in mind when I’m feeling frustrated or question if it’s good to keep asking for donations. Just because people care and are passionate about charities, it doesn’t instantly mean they will donate what they can/what they should.

      I’d be interested to hear if you have any more thoughts on this.
      Bex

      Reply
  7. Daniela M Posted

    Very useful article! Unfortunately I’ve just read it now after completing a London to Oban (Scotland) cycle for charity, but it’ll definitely help next time! One thing I might add, which had a surprisingly huge effect – never underestimate the power of branding yourself – I spent a pound on a permanent marker and scribbled “London to Oban, Fundraising challenge, please donate! :)” onto the shirt I wore everyday whilst cycling, and a surprising number of strangers made a huge contribution, just from reading that!

    Reply
    • Congratulations on completing your adventure Daniela….and on raising money for a great cause!

      That’s a fantastic tip. I have never thought about adding some kind of visual aid advertising that you are fundraising. I will definitely be trying that on my next expedition. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

      Reply
  8. One thing that wasn’t the focus of either this post or Al’s is the choice of charity. By choosing an effective one, you might do much more good with the same money raised. Check out independent charity assessor http://www.givewell.org/ and http://www.givewell.org/charities/top-charities for ideas. If you are willing to spend 10 or 20 hours raising money, surely it’s worth spending at least a few hours choosing a more effective charity. It will do as much good or more.

    From a donor perspective, if you spend time online and choose the most effective charity from your own research, you also make a more effective donation. If you give to someone who someone who stopped you in the street, then a much larger portion of the money has gone to the charity’s expenses than if you make an efficient online donation. So I reccomend to give most of your money to the charities that are proven to do the most good, and smaller amounts to people that pester you at work or stop you in the street etc. But…that does not mean I’m arguing against standing in the street, or doing fundraising activities, because most people don’t think like me and only give money if asked.

    Reply
    • Jamie this is a really brilliant point!!

      It is only something I even thought about after having a personal experience while working in the charity sector a couple of years ago. I really disagreed with the way that the budget was being spent; it felt wrong. Since then I have done A LOT of research into the effectiveness and quality of the charities I support – preferring places with low overhead costs that have a sustainability policy. Both great websites that you recommend for guidance on this.

      You do point out that you think differently from other people which I think is a key point. It’s important to recognise this and also that, although there is lot to be improved in the charity sector, it’s a working progress and for the most part good.

      Thanks for raising this 🙂

      Reply
  9. Some people are just not natural fundraisers, so I don’t think we should expect introverts to get out of their comfort zone and go and do things in public places if they’re not comfortable. That being said, doing something big like a marathon or Kilimanjaro or a Lands End to John O Groats cycle or 3 peaks challenge and not doing any fundraising at all does feel like a waste. You can get the first 200 pounds for a charity with 1 hour’s work setting up a webpage and sending out an email. After that, it gets harder but an alternative for those who don’t feel comfortable giving talks and so on and approaching strangers would be to get a temp data entry office job for instance and give the money to the charity, and/or just pay some of your own money into the fund.

    Reply
    • Those 1 hour/£200 donations all add up to make a big difference, so I’m a big supporter of these ‘minimal effort’ fundraisers. Something is better than nothing.

      Getting a temp job and donating the money is such a great idea. But also hard….I wonder how many people would be able to let go of their earnings in this way? I’ve never done it but I feel inspired to give it a go when I next have an opportunity to do a temp job! Thanks for the idea!

      There are other ways that introverts can fundraise without it being a big public spectacle. Setting up an online shop or E-auction could raise money without ever having to put on a face to face event. I think confidence and not being afraid to fail are key character traits…although I also think you need these to do adventures anyway.

      Reply

 
 

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