Thursday, 4 December 2008

Fundraising success: taking tips from Obama

Its been another incredible week; with lots of positive support flooding in and better still the first corporate sponsor - Celerant Consulting - where I work! This may seem like an easy win but trust me, I had to work for it! Nevertheless £3,500 and a raft of additional publicity is now assured! For the past few years Celerant have donated a generous sum to the most popular charities voted for by employees. There is a designated list of worthy and recognisable charities, and vitally this year the option to nominate a charity. On seeing this my eyes widened! After an initial tour of the office and group email - I was looking less likely than the Lib Dems to secure the popular vote. Ticking a box is much easier than typing in a name - this was going to be harder than I thought! One day to go: 40 votes behind the leading nomination. I ended up sending more personalised emails and phone calls on the final day than most people would in a month. Fingers of fury, flying over the keyboard and delving into the address book, doing my best to secure one of the top two most lucrative spots. The tide seemed to be turning! After a butt clenching extension, the results we finalised & I'd done it - not without the considerable assistance of my supportive colleagues. The first official funds secured - 3.5% of the total - chuffed hardly covers it - I was, and am still ecstatic! What a success! I felt like I'd learned a few lessons from Obama: don't be complacent, set out a vision, make it easy to respond, personalise an emotive message and keep campaigning right to the last!

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Explore - a weekend of inspiration

What a weekend! The Explore conference at the Royal Geographical Society was nothing short of brilliant. I met and learned from some of the most intrepid and interesting adventurers, film-makers and scientists alive today. To top it off I was given an amazing bike! Genuinely one of the most inspiring weekends of my life. Friday kicked off with a chance to look through the RGS library and maps. After a few hours researching routes through south-eastern Europe I'd come no closer to choosing the easier route along the Danube or the one that originally inspired me, along the beautiful Adriatic coast. After four hours I needed some perspective. On entering the bar the first person I saw was Dan Martin - who has just completed a shudderingly impressive cycle from South Korea to South Africa - through the 'Axis of Evil'. http://www.koreatocapetown.co.uk/ Now to be honest I didn't like this guy before I met him. Why? Well he's already ridden from London to Cape Town and what's more he's 6'5 - one inch taller than me - totally stealing my thunder! Ego looking to be unique; flattened! Jokes aside meeting Dan was fantastic - he gave me heaps of good advice in exchange for a few beers, then out of the blue offered me his bike! Awesome! (Apparently he doesn't like cycling - go figure!) The weekend continued in the same thrilling vein, with lots of fascinating lectures on subjects as diverse as fundraising to film-making. The cycling workshop was superb and provided me with the sort of advice that will save me days on the road. Big thanks in particular to our well peddled hosts: Hallum Murray Al Humphreys – http://www.alastairhumphreys.com/ Rob Lilwall – http://www.cyclinghomefromsiberia.com/ Jessica Hatcher – http://www.cycleoflife2008.com/ It was great to meet so many positive people doing original and challenging things. Inspiring and motivating – I’d recommend the Explore conference to anyone.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Pushing the right buttons – Website Launched

As the planning for the ride continues, the last ten days have seen a real breakthrough. The website http://www.betterlifecycle.com/ is now launched! If you’re reading this blog on the website that much may be self-evident – just allow a moment to eulogise! Ken my good friend and former business partner, took two days off work solely to help me get the site up and running. What a legend! In truth he was doing more of the hard work than me – I make things look pretty – he’s the nuts and bolts man that makes the site work. So if it looks crap blame me – if it doesn’t work … no, that wouldn’t be fair ;) The highlight of the two days was trying to make a video for the page. We both decided it would be a bit dry to talk straight to camera, so instead the plan was hatched to film me on my bike – the question was how to do it? Ken had moment of genius pulling a flat head mop and masking tape from the cupboard with a mischievous chuckle. 3 yards of tape later we had a mobile camera unit and over to the park we went for filming. I can’t imagine too many of you have tried riding a bike a using a mop to film yourself, while giving a pitch and remaining coherent. I struggled. It didn’t help that every punter I passed looked totally bemused. It took me quite a few circuits to get it right, interspersed with near crashes with tourists, and several takes ending bugger bugger bugger! The final cut ended with me wiping my nose with my hand and finishing in a bye bye that would be better suited to a Disney character. Stay classy San Diego! The site will continue to evolve, with Kenny’s ever-present assistance. Next step is to get the sponsorship pages up and running! Tomorrow sees the start of the Explore conference at the Royal Geographical Society – a fantastic chance to meet people with experience of planning and undertaking all sorted of adventurous adventures! I have a lot to learn!

Monday, 10 November 2008

A little spark required

Over the past few weeks, things have been a little up and down. One great success: finding a charity to raise funds through has been counter-balanced by the weight of the task at hand. Its a little daunting chipping away but after a month, with not much to show for it. I was hoping that the bike ride itself would help me focus and get some passion flowing back through my veins (a little lacking of late) but it seems like I'm going to have to make that transition a lot earlier if I'm even going to make it as far as the start line. On a positive note, meeting Caroline McFarlan of the charity Kids Charities was a real blessing. We have provisionally agreed that I will raise funds as an appeal for Kids Charities – allowing me to collect gift aid as well as benefitting from Caroline’s contacts and experience, as a long-term devotee of fundraising. Over the next few days, a good friend of mine Ken has offered to help get the first phase of the Better Life Cycle website launched. He’s actually taken time off work just to help me out – what a star! Not only do I benefit from his programming guru skills but the motivational kick up the arse couldn’t have come at a better time. In fact so many people have been really helpful – Lisa for introducing me to Caroline, and finding a contact for an orphanage in SA, Dorthe for telling me about the invaluable Explore conference coming up for expedition planning, and Nikki for introductions to multiple contacts volunteering across Africa. With a little help from my friends I’ll get there – thank you all. Now it’s time to get cracking and get this site launched!

Monday, 22 September 2008

London to Cape Town - where to start?

Wow! I'm going to cycle from London to Cape Town - that sounds pretty darn impressive... or difficult, depending on how you look at it. Right now I can't even see the start line. Clearly it's a bloody long way (about 12,000 miles initial estimate, using string and a newly acquired map), going through somewhere between 25-30 countries. I also intend to raise £100,000 for tens orpahages with hundreds of children, I'll visit on the way. Lots of numbers! But the most scary number right now is one. One is the number of people involved. One is the number of long-distance bike tours I've done. One is the number of years it will take do. You'd be forgiven at this point for thinking I am also one slightly deluded dude. Delusions aside, I am really doing this. I recently told my bosses my plans and my intention to leave next year. That is pretty final. Fortunately they're a decent lot and have let me work four days a week to plan the trip. Today was my first free day. Why? To see the world, challenge myself to breaking-point, and hopefully make a tangible, positive difference to world, if only a small one. What's next? Get the website up and running: www.BetterLifeCycle.com - an essential way of connecting with people I meet and putting a presentable face on this idea (it'll be more presentable than my face that's for sure); make contacts for the orphanages I intend to visit; and finally get an action plan together to make it happen. This is my first blog - let me know what you think. I feel pretty pumped about it; this sure beats working! With a lot of help and a little luck, this should be the start of the greatest time of my life and hopefully make a big difference to lots of deserving kids too. If you think you can help in any way get in touch through the site - thanks for reading.