How to Plan a Bike Ride Fundraiser

by Rica Mendes

With high expectations set by charity rides like the Livestrong Challenges, the Pan-Mass Challenge and other nationally recognized cycling events, attempting to organize your own charity cycling fundraiser may seem impossible. But if you break down the ride preparation, understand the legal and logistical issues you will come across, and know what resources are available, planning a bike ride to raise money should be a smooth ride.

Preparation

Select a date for the event based on other athletic events in the area or fundraisers that may take away from your core audience. Choose a rain date if the target audience is diverse in cycling experience or geared toward families and children. However, if the charity ride will be geared toward experienced riders or mountain bikers, weather should not deter them from riding.

Form a steering committee that includes at least an event coordinator and volunteer coordinator who have experience organizing a cycling event and/or participating as a rider in similar events. They will help you avoid overlooking details that are important to cyclists and bike rides.

Establish a budget, expenses and target fundraising goal.

Select a location and a back-up location (ideally four to six months in advance.) You'll need enough time to get permissions, submit necessary permits and coordinate municipalities to lock down the details of the event. Keep the back-up location in mind, and be ready to move fast if your first choice is denied.

Choose the bike route. For a mountain bike event, match trail difficulty with the experience levels of the riders. You may want to select one route and have more advanced riders complete multiple routes. Mark trails clearly with arrows and warning markers that cannot be confused with existing trail markers. For a road bike ride, come up with a set of distance options for riders. Typically, a set of 10-, 25-, 50-mile routes will satisfy most charity cyclists. If you feel adventurous, include a 75- or 100-mile route. Use the longest route as the "base" for all other distances; for the shorter distances, figure out turnaround points. Develop a turn-by-turn cue-sheet.

Establish rest areas every 10 miles for a road bike event and every 3 miles for a mountain bike event. For each rest area, arrange for a set of volunteers (preferably one that has some form of medical experience), water, food, first aid, a safe place for riders to set their bikes and a means for riders to go to the bathroom.

Location, Sponsors, Registration

Contact municipalities, parks and recreation committees, and police departments in the area of the bike ride. If you are hosting a mountain bike ride, you will likely have to file a permit application to use the property and arrange for insurance. For a road ride, some townships require police presence and permission to post signs promoting the event and marking the courses.

Approach local bicycle shops, outdoor and sports centers, and gyms owners for mechanical assistance, to hand out invitations to their customers and to provide volunteers or run a rest area in exchange for marketing. If you plan to provide swag bags to participants, ask bike shop owners to donate items for the bags.

Contact local supermarkets and food stores to donate food and water for before, during and after the ride in exchange for advertising. Ask local businesses to sponsor a rest area by providing food, water, mechanical support and/or port-a-potties and inviting employees who aren't working during the hours of your event to run the rest area. Invite business owners to form teams to ride in your event.

Post your event on Active.com or BikeReg.com to accept participant registrations. Active.com has greater visibility and may attract noncyclists to the event. BikeReg.com will target specifically cyclists.

Arrange EMT support, support wagons, course markers, bibs (RoadID sponsors rides and can provide bibs as part of their support) and a volunteer schedule. Contact local fire departments, Lions clubs and volunteer ambulance corps to provide medical support.

Obtain "Special Event" insurance as needed. Most parks and recreation departments will let you know what their insurance requirements are. Bear in mind costs and requirements will vary greatly depending on the state your event is in, whether or not your ride takes place on state or local property and the number of anticipated riders.

Tips

  • Confirm if the organization for which you are raising money has guidelines for fundraising and events benefiting them. Some nonprofits are very protective of use of their name and how events are run and violating those guidelines can destroy your relationship with them.
  • Look at successful charity bike rides and events regardless of scale. Even if an event is out of your reach, you can get ideas and insight.
  • Generally speaking, registration fees should not exceed $50 to 75 as of 2011. If your fundraising and expenses will not be met by a registration fee lower than $75, require riders to raise an additional amount above and beyond their registration fees. Cyclists tend to steer away from registration fees beyond this dollar amount, but will be more likely to raise additional funds.

Tips

  • You must check with local authorities to make sure that you are not violating any laws or requirements. If you do, you could incur fines personally and your fundraiser could end up losing money. In addition, the charity for which you are raising funds could gain a bad reputation and suffer the consequences beyond your event.

Things Needed

  • Microsoft Office
  • Facebook account
  • Twitter account
  • Active.com or BikeReg.com promoter's account

About the Author

Rica Mendes has been writing since 1989, when she became regional editor of Young Judaea's newsletter. Her work can also be found on Trek Bicycle Store of Fairfield's blog and her personal blog tracking her experience as a cyclist and LIVESTRONG leader. Mendes has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Oberlin College.

Photo Credits