Friday, December 26, 2008

How to put together a charity ride - very quickly!

4 Years Ago Today: December 26, 2004.

I was sick in bed with the flu.  I don't think I'd had the flu in over 10 years.  All I could do was watch TV as I lay in bed; I could barely do anything else.

And what was I watching on TV? 

Scenes from the breaking news of the devastating Tsunami.  Over and over and over again I watched the same scenes of water pouring into the buildings, pushing upwards over the shore, taking everything in its path. Gradually as tourists and journalists added more videos, I could see more and more views of the wave that destroyed so many lives. Something came over me, I couldn't turn off the TV, even though some of the video footage was shown seemingly hundreds of times. I couldn't break myself away from it, and my heart was wrenched from my chest as I lay there helpless, crying. I wanted to do something! I wanted nothing more than to jump on a plane and get out there and help these people. I found out later almost everyone I knew had the same strong feelings.

But what could we do? Of course, I could send a check to one of the many agencies doing their best to bring aid to Thailand, Indonesia and the other nations who were suffering, but I wanted to have a bigger impact. So I walked into my manager's office a week later and said (not asked), "We're doing a Spinning Fund Raiser for the Tsunami."

She jumped up immediately and was fired to action, for she too had felt the same feeling of helplessness.  Fortunately, our club is attached to a large hotel, with committees for just about everything, and she got every committee involved, helping with logistics, fundraising and promoting the event.

I called every local club to see if they wanted to participate; really all they had to do was bring their bikes over and promote it to their members. Logistically in the dead of winter this isn't always easy to do, with snow and ice and a complicated parking garage and elevator to bring up the bikes. But we had several clubs volunteer.

Next we had to create the logistics and rules for signing up for the event. Everyone was required to raise at least $100, but we strongly suggested a minimum of $250. Every $50 over the minimum qualified you for another raffle ticket for some of the great prizes.

I had two personal training clients write me checks for $1,000!

So who would the money go to? The committees voted on the American Red Cross, but my husband is in Rotary, and they were in contact with the Rotary Club in that part of Thailand. Money donated through Rotary would go directly to the source to be used to rebuild a hospital or school.  No organizational costs involved. So we agreed 50% to each organization. 

Prizes. You need prizes for people to raise more money. We had massages, free memberships, gift certificates for dinners, and  local businesses donated other products and services. Our club happened to be going through a brand new purchase of Spin bikes, and the dealer agreed to deliver the new bikes the day before the event, and wouldn't pick up the old bikes until the day after, so we had doubles bikes for the event. Plus they donated (at below cost) a new Spin bike as a grand prize to the largest fund raiser.

All this in less than a month. Normally, I'd say you need several months to really be successful in organizing a fundraiser, maybe even 6 months. But everyone in the nation was galvanized for this tragedy. Had we waited another few weeks we might have raised more money, but the situation was dire over there and we wanted to send the money soon. 

It was a 3-hour ride. I taught the first 15 minutes to get them going, then we had 3 other instructors, and I finished up the last hour.
We had about 55 riders on 45 bikes (some only did half). You can see a mix of old Schwinn bikes, new Star Trac Spinners, Lemond bikes and even three road bikes on trainers, including mine right there in the middle. In this photo above, our regular Spin room is the converted racket ball court in the back right corner of the basketball court.

There's my cute husband...
My good friend Nate, and Missy, one of our instructors and club membership director, and a very fun and sweet human being. If she has a chance to dress goofy, she'll jump at it! The food was donated by the hotel and a local bagel shop. 

For promotion, we had lots of pre-event announcements in the local paper as well as full page coverage the day of the event. We also had lots of radio time (the local radio station is owned by a Rotary member, so that really helped)!

All told we raised about $15,000, with the hotel matching a lot of the donations. 

Nine months later we had another reason to host an event - Hurricane Katrina. We called that one Mardi Gras Spin and raised another $15,000. By that time we had the process down and did it in even less time!

Have you ever done an event like this? Tell us about it in the comments area. I think indoor cycling presents a unique, fun and potentially very profitable way to raise money. But remember, every penny counts, even if all you raise is a few hundred dollars. Because you raise so much more than money - you raise awareness as well.

One of the most amazing charity rides I've been a part of is the Spin Odyssey in Norwalk, CT, which in ten years has raised over $1.8million for breast cancer, with almost half a million last year alone!! If you are in the Northeast, you want to ride in this event. Check out their website, which has a great video to describe the event. I was a presenter for that event a few years back, and then came back the next year so my husband and I could ride in it together.

The other event that meant so much to me was the Tour de Cove, which I described in detail in my blog.

Have you always thought about doing one but didn't know how to go about it? It does take a lot of work, but when you get a team to help you out, it can be a very fun and rewarding experience. Start thinking about what organization tugs at your heart strings and talk to your club management. Get some people to help organize and start talking to members who own business to see what they might be able to donate. A charity ride like this really brings people together, and is a great opportunity for goodwill and PR in your local papers and radio stations.

One option is to participate in Spinning Nation 2009, where clubs around the country raise money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. I'll get you more information on that and post it here. 

In tough economic times, these organizations will see fewer donations. But poverty, disease and disasters never take a break, and don't care about a booming or a bust economy. They always need our help.

Maybe you can use your indoor cycling program to help out!

Here's to a prosperous 2009!

PS: Have you ordered your version of the Keep it Real ebook yet? I know that many of you will get a lot of great information from this book.  It will help you understand how important it is to Keep it Real indoors even if you, or your students, do not ride outdoors.  It has a ton of information in it - I could have divided it into two books but wanted to give it a huge amount of value. Think of it as an investment in your instructing career (and an inexpensive investment at that)! Send this link to all the instructors you know:!

Thanks as usual for reading! Sorry I've been AWOL for awhile - two words kept me away: Holidays and SNOW!!! Phew, are my legs tired from skiing! (Thankfully I took that week off two weeks ago when my knee was acting up - just goes to show you - it pays to listen to your body). 


Shannon said...


KellyB said...

Your post comes at the best time! I am starting to plan an awareness/fundraising event for the Vasculitis Foundation. I know -- what's that? Exactly my point! Six months ago, I didn't know what Vasculitis was either. My mom was just recently diagnosed with Churg-Strauss Syndrome which is a form of Vasculitis. I have started a local chapter of the Vasculitis Foundation and Vasculitis Awareness week is in May. The Rhode Island chapter will be tackling this event in May and will be doing a sort of Spin-a-thon. Details are still in the process of being worked out but I found so much inspiration in your post. Thanks so much! I may even contact you for some advice soon!