“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 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.