Mad challenges and ludicrous targets

As anybody who has had to endure my constant wittering on about it can tell you, I’ve just completed the most extreme fundraising challenge of my life.

With my friend Peter Muffet and 800 other misguided souls I cycled from Lands End to John o’Groats in 9 days. (The length of what at the time of writing is still, just, the UK). That’s 969 miles of cycling and over 45,000 feet of climbing, the equivalent of cycling up Everest. Followed by Kilimanjaro.

That was pretty bloody hard enough but this wasn’t just a physical challenge. Peter and I were fundraising (for Sightsavers of course) and we set ourselves an extremely ambitious target of raising enough money to fund a sight restoring operation in a poor country for each mile cycled. At £30 per operation that comes to nearly £30,000. For two individuals, working in a sector that is not crowded with plutocrats, that was fairly scary.

I will spare you the details of our 9 day odyssey which I suspect are much more interesting to the people who did it than to anyone else (digested read; we cycled. A lot. It hurt).

The fundraising aspect of this was interesting though and I think there are lessons to be learned from it.

  1. The importance of targets. As of today we haven’t achieved our fundraising goal, we are about 60% of the way there. We’re still going and still aim to raise the full £30 grand but it’s been by no means easy.* So were we too ambitious?I’d say absolutely not. Even if we don’t raise another penny, we’ve raised £17,500 which is way more than either of us has achieved for an individual challenge. Over 400 people have given, the majority being people we don’t know. The large target has helped the challenge gain exposure, for example we have twice featured on the Justgiving home page. It has certainly spurred us on in our fundraising.
  2. Make the ask tangible. Although this was a challenge event and many of the donors were our friends, we focussed the ask on the difference that people’s gifts would make. So the target was set in terms of sight restoring operations with the number of people whose sight would be saved linked directly to the challenge (one operation per mile).
  3. You get what you ask for. We made the core ask £30, to pay for one operation for one mile of cycling. No less than 47% of donations were for this amount.
  4. The importance of high value donors. 3% of donations were for £100 or more but they accounted for 33% of the total value of gifts.
  5. Take money in different currencies. Although our communications were aimed at a UK audience, we received gifts in eight currencies. 5% of gifts were in currencies other than sterling.
  6. Email still does it. Although we used social media (twitter especially) extensively, most donations were driven by emails. 50% of gifts came directly from one email, to Sightsavers’ donors.
    Email updates during the ride itself also drove a steady stream of donations. However, social was important in spreading word of mouth helped by a significant number of retweets and favouriting.
  7. You need to report back. This event was interesting as our donors were a mix of our friends and people we had no connection with. But for all donors, thanking and reporting back was very important.
  8. And finally, the more painful the event for you, the better the fundraising. Worse than the ride for me, actually, was the toe-curling video Peter’s company DTV made of the pair of us (It’s here but I really don’t recommend it). This was probably the most mortifying thing that has ever happened to me. But it did wonders for the fundraising..


*there’s still time for you to donate if you haven’t already (or even if you have), each £30 is one more person’s sight saved

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