A month has now passed since I completed my 4 stages of the Tour de Force – 17 to 20. I’ve had time to reflect on the past few months as well as enjoy my cycling fitness over the summer. It’s been quite a year!
First and foremost, I have raised £3,294 (including gift aid) and I’m so proud of that and grateful to all my brilliant and generous supporters. THANK YOU. We will have a final figure for the fundraising at the end of August – but we already know that we’ve raised over £330,000.
On tour, I was lucky enough to meet again with Tyrese and his key worker, Thandi – 2 of our ‘Charity Visitors‘ from the Westminster House Youth Club (WHYC), whose Duke of Edinburgh award scheme is funded by WWMT. Both set out to ride as much of stage 19 as they possibly could – and they put in a bold and brave effort. ‘We never give up on any of our kids’ said Thandi – and in one phrase managed to sum up exactly why the William Wates Memorial Trust works with charities like WHYC.
I cycled 4 stages experiencing the very best that the Alps have to offer. Gruelling tough climbs, fabulous exhilarating descents, glorious sunshine (most of the time), gob-smacking views and beauty all around. My training paid off and I ate up the miles, finishing every day with a huge smile on my face, a colossal sense of achievement and the satisfaction of a job well done. In short – I absolutely loved every minute of it.
Of the 4 stages I rode, the first – stage 17 – was always going to be the toughest. Terrible weather and freezing temperatures on the high cols made it even harder. I stopped just 2km short of the finish (just before it started to hail!) and made a quick video for my supporters to post on facebook that evening. I was tired and hurting – every bit of me ached – and daunted though I had been all day by the enormous climbs I faced, I knew there was absolutely no way I could let down all those people who have supported me, donated money and sent so many fantastic messages of encouragement over the days leading up to the ride. I was tired … and emotional. But more than anything, it’s the recognition that however tough it was, I was doing something I love to do and challenging myself by choice.
For some of the kids we support through WWMT, every day is a Herculean challenge, and their circumstances are not their choice. To keep themselves on track, to have aspirations and goals and opportunities, they are struggling every day. It made my slightly emotional video seem pretty pathetic – and I am humbled by the bravery and tenacity of these kids as well as the extraordinary teams of staff who dedicate themselves to the tough and poorly rewarded (financially) job of helping those kids every day. Knowing that by sweating up a climb in the Alps, I am finding a way to support all their efforts not only inspires and motivates me – it reminds me just how damned lucky I am. Riding the Tour de Force is so much more than just a bike ride – and it’s about so much more than my own personal achievement – it’s about giving kids the chances in life that most of us take for granted.
Long live the Tour de Force!
Blog 9 – the last one before the off!
When you sign up to ride the Tour de Force, you know you’ve made a significant commitment for several months of your life – not just for the days away on tour. All that winter training; all the kit you’ve bought to keep yourself comfortable, warm, dry, fed and cycling; all those negotiations with family to squeeze the training hours in; all those emails to friends, family and colleagues, all the fundraising events … it all comes down to this. With just a week to go before the first riders arrive in Mont St Michel, it’s time to take stock and reflect on all that effort – and start to really relish the excitement of the adventure ahead.
Because I’m not joining the tour until the Alps, I need to keep my riding going into July, so May AND June needed to see as many big long rides as I could fit in. Early May was the Etape Caledonia 81 miler which I rode at a cracking pace, so while the mileage was lower than most days on tour, the speed was WAY higher. I spent most of the ride wondering if I was about to blow up – but never did, so the boost to my confidence was huge. I climbed off the bike and once I’d got my breath back from sprinting the final 4 miles to try and get a P.B. (I did … just), I felt fine and the legs were in good shape. The final week in May saw a great mass of TDF riders at the Tour of Wessex for a perfect weekend of 3 back to back big days. Even though I only rode the ‘short’ routes each day (75, 85, 61 miles) I still rode them at a good pace before being on our stand to welcome back fellow TDFers and feed them sweets and encouragement. Getting up and riding again each day was exactly the preparation my body needed – that’s how it will feel on tour. Chapeau to all those TDFers who tackled the long routes each day – gruelling! But it was great to see so many TDFers working together and helping each other out. The camaraderie is already working and will stand us all in good stead on tour.
Since the start of June it’s been a whirlwind of squeezing in early morning rides, longer 3 hour evening rides (there are advantages to living in Scotland at this time of year) and searching out any opportunity to get long rides in (a 5 hour ride on a Monday afternoon/evening was a coup). I want to get another long ride in before school holidays and family commitments clip my wings – not to mention my bike heading off to France well ahead of my body. I’ve teetered on the edge of illness (a massive cold sore was a dead giveaway 2 days after the Tour of Wessex) and balancing the need to train, with the strain it puts on the body is one we all have to find. Most of us will be teetering on the edge of illness with colds being all too easily caught as the body struggles to keep up. But I’m happy and confident now that I’ve done what I need to do and so far, no sniffles.
My bike has been serviced (amid the usual consternation at the state it’s in), new cleats purchased and recovery drink sachets, chamois cream etc. Airport transfers booked, insurance sorted … I’m ready.
Meanwhile, back in TDF HQ our lives are dominated by spread sheets. Masses of them – you wouldn’t believe how many. A hundred last minute little jobs are being completed in readiness, from finalising our film crew (oh yeah!) to tweaking menus, creating bike labels and laminating bright yellow arrows. Our bike transport hubs are all raring to go – (if you want a service on your return to the UK, you better book it now!) and our support staff are all briefed and ready. The webinar was a great success with over 140 views so far and we’ve had some lovely feedback. The most popular question, it appears, was ‘what happens if I’m slow and end up at the back on my own’! Happily many riders have told us they are reassured!
So for those of you heading out next Friday to France – safe travels, enjoy your week of tapering and don’t eat TOO much pasta. For those joining later in the tour, keep those pedals turning and stay safe on the roads. I wish you all HUGE luck and particularly thank you for your efforts fundraising – don’t stop now! Those pennies can be rolling in while you’re riding – just send a few photos of yourselves in agony and then jubilation at a stage finish to tug the heartstrings of your supporters!
See you in France!
Blog entry 8 – Maxing out on fundraising and training
It’s been a while since my last blog and I’ve been busy! The Swindon training weekend back in March was a great opportunity to meet fellow riders and check on fitness. Although I was driving the support vehicle on the Saturday, the Sunday ride was a lovely lumpy 55 miles and I felt perfectly comfortable on return to the hotel. Longer weekend rides have seen the miles add up and with the clock change, I’m getting out one evening a week for a couple of hours or more. As of next week, I’ll start doing an early morning ride once a week. It was so cold this week that I couldn’t face it – but next week it has to happen, no matter what! Wrap up and put up.
All of this is great, but I aim to get one 100 miler under my belt this month to reassure myself that I can do the distance at this stage. So with that target in mind, I headed up to beautiful Perthshire last Friday with cycling training buddy Marianne. We were rewarded with lovely weather, epic climbs and stunning views of wild Scotland. It was the sort of cycling day you dream about (complete with bacon butty stop, cake and mugs of tea). Eventually we ran out of time at 94 miles, but with well over 2000m of ascent (including some sections at 18%) we were more than happy with that. Better still, be both had enough left in the legs for 2 more short rides over the weekend (something to do with the post-ride recovery drink I’m sure!). So beautiful, I had to include some photos:
The month of May sees more big miles with the Etape Caledonia 81 miler next weekend and the big Tour of Wessex weekend at the end of the month (I’m signed up for the 65 milers each day so that I can be back at the TDF hub to cheer the rest of you in!). I’m looking forward to meeting more of our TDF riders there. At last I feel my training is where it needs to be for this time of year, having struggled through the Scottish winter (though looking out of my window at the sleet and hail, it’s questionable as to whether the summer has either not yet started, or that was it!!!). With only a couple of months to go before the Grand Depart, I’m starting to visualise those Alps and am getting really excited.
Although I had planned to sell sponsorship space on my jersey in March, the fact was that life got in the way and I just didn’t manage to find the time to do this. I think this is an important lesson – we are all living busy lives and even the best laid plans can get scuppered by other commitments. It reminded me how important it is to plan well ahead with the fundraising to allow for set-backs like this. The same thing can be said for training of course!
Undeterred, I ploughed on with my plans for a daffodil tea party in April. This was my version of a cake sale, given that I don’t have hundreds of work colleagues to sell to, and I was too late to tap into the Rugby fans walking past my house to Murrayfield (lots of friends fundraise very successfully by doing cake sales from their drives/gardens on International rugby match days!).
I decided to invite all my friends over for tea and cake, with bunting in the garden and games to play like sack races and egg spoon races. My weekend diary is pretty packed and I didn’t have many options for when I could hold the party. I thought that by hitting one of the Easter holiday weekends I’d be able to get lots of folk along, but in fact so many were away on holiday that I had far fewer guests than I’d hoped. However, in my invitation, I had suggested that if folk couldn’t make it, they might like to just make a donation anyway. This is the first time I’ve asked for cash directly – it’s something I’ve been avoiding. It paid off and I made much more from those donations than I could have made from simply baking them cakes.
In total I made over £200 from my tea party. Here are my top tips:
- Don’t worry about red tape. For an occasional cake sale for charity, there is no food and hygiene legislation. You can just crack on with your baking, and sell your cakes. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care not to poison anyone of course!
- If you’re selling cakes in a public place, it’s worth checking with your local council. Some have regulations on street fundraising and might ask for proof that you’re fundraising for WWMT – just drop us a line and we can provide what they need.
- Advertise your event with lovely invitations/posters.
- Start baking early in the week – tray bakes and cakes like banana bread and gingerbread will all last if well-wrapped in a sealed tin, while scones and Victoria sponges really need to be made fresh on the day. Get your supporters to help with the baking!
- If folk aren’t eating the cake there and then, make sure you have paper bags or similar to wrap the cake in – available on Amazon, or you could ask your local shops to donate paper bags. Straight slices/tray bakes are easier to package than wedges of cake! Thick icing or cupcakes can be messy for trying to wrap up.
- You can produce labels for when you package up the cakes – logos for TDF and WWMT are available on the fundraising resources page. Include the link to your VMG fundraising page!
- Rather than put a price on your goods, ask for a donation. In all likelihood you’ll make more this way. People know the basic price of a slice of cake and as it’s for charity, most top it up, some generously!
- You don’t have to host an event. You can have an order form for cakes with a delivery date, then simply bake to order. Or auction them off to get the best possible price!
- What to do with leftovers? I delivered mine to a couple of friends who couldn’t make it on the day, but had made a donation online instead. You can try knocking on neighbours doors with a tray of goods and sell to them. Or you can stick them in the freezer, pulling a piece out for each training ride!
The daffodil tea, combined with a couple of very generous donations from friends this month has taken me well over my target of £2,500 and I’m delighted! I’ve made it! 6 monthly fundraising projects and I’ve raised the largest target we set for any of our riders.
If you’re struggling to hit your target, do read my blogs and see how I’ve done it. There are loads more ideas on our fundraising resources page. Whatever your method, I wish you all huge luck.
Blog entry 7 – the Ebay effect
If you read my last post, you’ll know that for the month of February, my fundraising tactic was to sell goods that were donated to me for my October car boot sale, that were worth much more than I was ever likely to get for them there. I gathered together 2 wedding hats, 4 very lovely dresses, 2 White Stuff coats, a cashmere cardigan, some Boden trousers, a Ralph Lauren men’s jacket and a Crew Clothing men’s top. I’m delighted to report that I made a grand total of £172.32. A couple of the items made a lot more than I expected, but I have to confess that 99p for a silk dress nearly killed me! One dress didn’t sell, despite re-listing it.
I was pretty pleased with that. It took a couple of evening sessions to load up all the items with photos etc and 3 quick trips to the post office. And all this from selling just what was held back from the car boot sale. So when I heard that one of our riders (Andy Hibberd) has raised well over £1,000 on ebay so far (and is well on his way to reaching £1500) for WWMT I was gobsmacked! How has he done it? Well, he’s sold loads of his own stuff that he didn’t need or want, he sold donations made from friends and family and then (and this is the genius bit) he offered to sell stuff for friends on ‘Ebay for Charity’ in return for a 15% donation to WWMT. The supporter still gets their stuff sold and makes a profit, but thanks to Andy they don’t have the hassle of loading it up and posting it off – and WWMT gets 15% in return (and the donation is all automated within Ebay for Charity – you just specify the % you wish to donate from an item)!
So my conclusion is that Ebay for Charity is a winning option for fundraisers. Once you’ve loaded up a couple of items, it becomes very easy to load the rest. You soon get a feel for postage costs and get into a rhythm with how it all works. If you ask friends and family for donations, then you can give them the option of what % of the sale will go to WWMT – 15% or 100% – it’s up to them. It might be worth purchasing a job lot of bubble wrap and plastic envelopes that will cover most items you need to post. Once in a while you’ll have the disappointment of an item achieving only the minimum bid, or not selling at all, but you may be equally surprised by how much some items will sell for. Certainly, it’s very realistic to expect to make several hundred pounds from a concerted ebay effort.
So, with February done and dusted, I’m now moving on to my March fundraiser – I will be trying to get sponsors for my jersey. As a basic rule of thumb I’m aiming for £50 for a small company logo to be printed on my jersey and £100 for a larger one. If I can get a single humdinger of a sponsor, then I’ll happily plaster their name all over the back of my jersey for £300 +. In return, they’ll get photos from the tour, blog mentions etc. Of course, if you’ve got a way-in with a bigger corporation (your employer?) who you can convince will benefit enormously from having their name on your back, be brave and be bold in how much you ask them to sponsor you! Make sure you offer them as much as possible in return: images they can use for publicity, a blog entry perhaps, even a press call!
Training and the Swindon Training Weekend
Meanwhile, the training is progressing and the brighter, longer days are helping my motivation to train. That, and the fear of humiliation on the training weekend in Swindon! I’m looking forward to meeting many of you there (and several of you who are coming to the charity visit on Thursday 17th March … let me know if you plan to come to that but haven’t yet got your name down – the more the merrier). The brilliant routes for the Swindon weekend have been thoroughly researched and tested by 2015 Lifer Jerry Redford (enormous thanks Jerry!). We’ll be seeing the very best of the Cotswolds and we’ve got some great cafe and lunch stops planned and of course, the whole route will be signed and lead by our lead cyclist, Phil Deeker, along with mechanical support. On the Sunday we’ll be joined by TDF Alumni – so you can pick their brains relentlessly about their time on tour.
It’s going to be a cracking weekend – I look forward to seeing you there!
Blog entry 6 – Winter training and an easy little fundraiser
Nothing beats new kit, right? Unless you’re already geared up, you’ll be stocking up on arm warmers, leg warmers, good winter gloves, chammy cream, recovery drinks and a really good waterproof jacket. It’s going to cost you a few quid, but it doesn’t have to cost the earth. My latest arm and leg warmers were bought from Aldi (replacing the lost sets I had from Lidl!) when they had them on offer in September – setting me back less than £10 each set. They’ve now been thoroughly tested and they’re perfectly good – so why pay more?
I swear by a good pair of waterproof shoe covers or ‘booties’ for the winter. Frozen wet toes are a miserable thing to suffer, and if I’m to be able to persuade myself out on my bike in grim winter weather, I want to know that I’ll be as comfortable as possible, for as long as possible.
If it’s absolutely filthy weather (I don’t just mean a bit damp and gloomy – I mean proper filthy), I’ve got to be honest, I don’t head out. Yes yes, I know, I’m supposed to just grin and bear it but I find it so rotten that I’d rather wait for a better day and not get too hung up on following my training plan to the letter of the law. I’m not a slave to my training plan – it has to work for me and fit into my life. I’m also very keen not to get injured or ill. I don’t think I’m likely to suffer from ‘over-training’ any time soon, but plenty of you will! Keep your eye out for debilitating fatigue and make sensible decisions about whether to train when you’re under the weather. Obsession with a training plan makes you very vulnerable to ignoring tell-tale signs of illness or over-training. I’d rather miss one day of training than a week caused by illness.
I’ve been researching Garmins recently. My basic bike computer tells me how far I’ve gone, at what speed, but not much more. I can’t incorporate my heart rate (for the last few years I’ve trained at Marianne’s heart rate, much to her bewilderment) and I can’t log my rides on Strava (but I do have a phone that could do that, while sucking up battery of course). Most of us respond well to keeping a log of training and find it thoroughly motivating. If you’re one of these people, invest sooner rather than later in a Garmin or similar and join the TDF 2016 Strava group to share your training efforts. Seeing what others are up to is a great way to assess whether you’re on track and to motivate you to get out there.
Of course – nothing beats a new bike. I bet you can still remember the Christmas that you were given your first chopper, or bmx? The sheer thrill of a beautiful, shiny new bike just can’t be beaten. My husband actually cried (well, he definitely had a tear in his eye) when I bought him a new mountain bike as a surprise a few years back (complete with big red bow). He still says it’s the best present anyone ever bought him.
No doubt several of you will have invested in a new bike this year – why not!? (Don’t forget the 15% on Trek bikes offered by On Your Bike for TDF riders!). Are you ever going to do anything bigger than the Tour de Force? If you don’t get your dream bike now, then when? I’ve been lucky enough to be loaned one of the fabulous Trek bikes that we’ll have on tour as our fleet of back up bikes. It’s a Silque SL – a beautiful ladies road bike. I’m going to be riding it from now until the tour and it is SO much more, in every way, than my own tired old road bike. There’s really no comparison. Should any of you suffer serious mechanicals on tour, you can rest assured that you’ll be only too happy to ride one of the Trek bikes in our fleet! We’re also going to have a fleet of Trek demo bikes with us, so if you fancy giving one a try on tour, you can!
I took the Silque out for its first proper outing a couple of weeks ago and it definitely didn’t disappoint. When the guys in the Trek dealership in Edinburgh had handed over the bike, they’d waxed-lyrical about how fast the bike is. I couldn’t help thinking that surely it was up to my effort to determine how fast it would be. But with their words still ringing in my ears, I was delighted to feel, instantly, just how darn nippy this bike is. True, my own bike is a bit of an old tank in comparison, but the Silque was light and nimble beneath me. We shot off with, I confess, a silent squeal of excitement. Riding this bike for the next few months is seriously going to be fun! And as for speed – well I’m never likely to be at the front of the pack, but anything that helps me keep from being last has got to be a good thing. Thank you Trek!
By February (ie now!) I know that I need to have made a good start on my training. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m clocking up huge miles yet (that’s particularly difficult in a Scottish winter), but it does mean that I have a regular date, twice a week, with my turbo trainer – this will continue until the clocks change. I’m keeping up my trail running (I love it too much to drop it) and I’m making sure I do at least one thorough stretching/pilates session a week. So I’m cardiovascularly (is that a word?) in good shape, but I’m not totally confident that I’m bike-specific fit yet. I need some decent weekend days to get a few bigger road rides in (but I’ll have to settle for mountain biking if the roads are too icy). The Wiltshire training weekend at the end of March is helping to keep me focused – that’s about 5 weeks away and I don’t want to let the side down. It’s time to get serious.
As for the fundraising? Well for January, I want to talk about collection tins. I’ve had one in my local Costcutter grocers since October when I started my fundraising. I replace it fortnightly, bank the winnings and make a payment for that amount onto my fundraising page. Then I pop back to the grocers and give them one of our WWMT/TDF certificates to confirm how much was raised in the last tin. The grocer tells me that the majority of the money comes from the school kids who pass through every lunchtime. Apparently they ‘don’t do change’ … whatever happened to looking after the pennies so the pounds look after themselves? So they put pretty much all their loose change into the collection tins by the tills. This means that, on average, I collect around £15 a fortnight. But over December and January, I collected around £37 each time! Since I started fundraising, I have raised a grand total of £120.10 simply by having one collection tin sitting in a shop. It’s low impact. It’s not asking friends and family, yet again, to donate. It asks nothing more than for a friendly shop keeper to be willing to accommodate your collection tin.
I have more collection tins I can send out to riders – so if you’d like one or 2, drop me an email and I’ll get them posted out to you.
And now for my February fundraiser. I was donated lots of goods for my car boot sale back in October, but some of them were just too good to sell there (it’s hard to get a good price for goods at a car boot sale). So I kept the best items back for me to sell on Ebay for Charity (see the ‘how to’ video) and Gumtree. Ebay for Charity enables you to decide what percentage of the sale you want to donate to William Wates Memorial Trust. The ebay fees are then charged in direct relationship to the percentage you donate – ie. if you donate 50% to WWMT, ebay will only charge 50% of their fee. The monies are then paid directly to WWMT via paypal. For gumtree of course, there are no charges for advertising unless you want to pay additional to boost to ‘urgent/featured or spotlight’. You would receive payment for the goods and you then need to make a donation for that amount onto your fundraising page.
I have spent an evening photographing and loading up items and I need another evening to finish the job. I then wait for 7 days for the Ebay auction to complete before a session in my post office to get the items sent to their new owners. It’s a bit of a job, but I stand to make good money from it. It’s cost me nothing – but my friends and supporters have been really happy to donate their unwanted goods at no cost (or hassle) to themselves.
Several riders are already selling well on Ebay for Charity. Why don’t you join them?
Happy training and happy fundraising!
Blog entry 5 – Training kick start – the Sainsbury’s effect!
I can’t quite believe it, but I have already smashed my target of £1,200 and have just broken the £2k mark and it’s not even the New Year!
Yes, I’ve concentrated some time and effort on this, but I’ve only taken on 3 fundraising projects so far: a car boot sale, selling Christmas cards and now a sponsored spin. Proof that with a bit of effort and commitment and without asking a single friend, family member of colleague for hard cash (though some have generously donated all the same), it’s possible to raise the target we set for riders in a relatively short space of time. I’m chuffed to bits and am now focused on trying to break the £2,500 target that is set for our ‘Lifers’. It’s become apparent that this is very do-able between now and next June.
When I started on this project, I was far more concerned about the fundraising than the cycling – having ridden several stages of the Tour de Force in previous years, I know what I need to do to get fit and what I am capable of – which doesn’t mean there isn’t some serious work to do on the bike between now and June – there most certainly is! But I am deeply comforted to know that the fundraising is well and truly in hand, allowing me to focus properly on my training. Not only that – because I knew I had to be able to ride my turbo bike for 8 hours, in December I’ve started training more seriously so am already on my plan for that too. It’s a great place to be at the start of the New Year.
Lessons learnt from the Sponsored Spin:
Firstly – I am delighted to report that I raised a fantastic £663.26 by riding a turbo bike in the foyer of a large Sainsbury’s store for 8 hours on a Friday in early December. I set myself a minimum target (hoped for) of £400 and decided that if I raised over £800 I could really celebrate. Falling between those figures seems like a logical place to end up! It has also been the perfect way to force me out into my garage and onto the turbo trainer (see my previous blog and vlog) and means that far from having put the turbo training off until the New Year, I’m feeling pretty chuffed that I’ve already made a start.
I learnt an enormous amount from the experience to share with you. So I’m going to do it here in simple bullet points. Here goes …
- You want high footfall, of all sorts of people (you may be surprised by who is the most generous!). A large supermarket achieves this perfectly.
- Many supermarkets have ‘charity/community champions’ and a policy for fundraising. So make sure you speak to them early to ensure you can get a slot that works for you. ie, start trying to schedule this now for the Spring.
- In terms of planning, I had the admin of contacting supermarkets to persuade someone to let me do it (I spoke to 3 before striking lucky) as well as persuading 3 friends to come and help me. I did a little bit of social media around it (a couple of facebook posts and tweets). I spent a bit of time googling trivia to use on the notice boards (see photos) and a little bit of time sorting out bike, turbo, banners etc so that I had everything I needed on the day (see packing list below). All in all, very little time needed and NO financial commitment required from me – a BIG plus.
- I would recommend a minimum of 8 hours of spinning but probably a maximum of 12. Once you get into the late night, footfall reduces to a level that will seriously effect the amount you can raise. It’s probably just not worth the epic effort of a 24 hour spin.
- Do not do this unless you and/or your helpers are open, cheery and outgoing people. If you’re naturally a wall flower this probably isn’t for you (although your helpers can make up for this) – you will not be able to engage with folk in the way you need to. We soon realised that if we weren’t saying a confident and cheery hello to folk as they came into the shop, we were largely ignored and passed by. If people said hello, smiled, slowed down, or stopped to look at our various banners and signs, then we started to explain just what we were doing and why – and people were surprisingly receptive to this. We never forced conversation on people or shook collection tins aggressively at them – we just engaged cheerfully. As soon as we stopped making a concerted effort (or if I nipped to the loo, or even if I took a phone call while still riding) the donations slowed down. You must engage with people in an appropriate way … and that can be quite tiring after a few hours!
- I had a relay of 3 friends helping so that no one got too exhausted by it and I always had cheerful and enthusiastic helpers. They were brilliant – I couldn’t have done it without them – thank you Sarah, Ranald and hubby Andrew!
- Use banners, posters (all available to download or borrow from us – see link below in kit list) and anything else you think will help to engage with people. We decided to offer a ‘calorie offset’ as a gimmick. Think ‘carbon offset’ (you know – ‘you burn fuels, I plant trees’ – in this case ‘you eat pies, I pedal them off’ … it sort of works!). But it was just a fun way for people to think about the effort I was going to for 8 hours and was a good way to get people talking to us. We also had a big countdown on a blackboard with helpers saying to shoppers “she’s already been here for 5 hours and she’s STILL got 3 hours to go!!”.
- Make sure you have somewhere to store the money you raise – you’ll need to empty tins/buckets fairly regularly (the customer services desk locked up a bag that we sealed each time with zip ties – safer than putting into a parked car). Remember we can provide collection tins and buckets – just email me to request.
- Show your thanks and appreciation to the supermarket. I put 2 or 3 posts onto their facebook page before, during and after my spin and tweeted on the day. They really appreciated it. I also gave them a certificate to confirm the amount I raised, for them to put up on their community board.
This is a brilliant method of fundraising. Not only does it raise substantial amounts of cash, it kills 2 birds with one stone by being really useful time on the bike too! OK – it’s not quite the same as cycling your favourite countryside route, but at least you’re not missing important training time on the bike. I would recommend trying to get outside a supermarket near you in the spring – perhaps over the busy Easter weekend when the weather will hopefully be in your favour and footfall should be high. 8-12 hours spinning is not a bad way to spend a day while fundraising too! Based on my experience, you should be able to make between £600 and £900 depending on how long you pedal for. That’s going to make a big dent in your fundraising target in just one day. And the fact that there was no risk involved in this – (ie no financial outlay from me or dependency on folk turning up – Joe public is always going to be coming and going at a supermarket) makes this a really great fundraising tactic.
This method also tapped into a new audience of potential sponsors for me – ie, the general public. October and November depended on friends’ support in terms of donations of unwanted items for the car boot sale and purchasers for Christmas cards. But to tap into the general public is a potentially bottomless pit of donations and I’m keen not to be approaching the same people again and again to get them involved (even if it’s not with hard cash donations) in my fundraising every month – however creative I might be being!
So – a big thumbs up from me for this one. Try it!
Kit list for a sponsored spin:
Bike and turbo trainer (spare inner tubes)
Cycling clothing including chamois cream
Food and fluids
Banners, posters, collections tins and if possible, black or white boards that you can update during the day.
2 or 3 fun, supportive, friendly mates to help!
sellotape, masking tape, zip ties, string, pens/chalk, scissors – for putting up posters and any other eventuality
Information about the charity – you can download the annual report as well as posters relating to charities supported by WWMT here.
So – having got on top of my fundraising in a big way, I’m all set to focus my attention on the training. Christmas was a big blow out of course, but I managed a couple of few wild and windy trail runs. Come the New Year, I’ll be hitting my turbo trainer in a big way and getting out on my mountain bike in the hills. If the weather is kind enough, I might even go for a spin on the road bike! Now there’s a thought …
And just for fun – here’s a little video we made on the day:
Blog entry 4 – The December Sainsbury’s Spin Challenge
I’ve been suggesting this method for quite a few years now to our cyclists. One rider did do a 24 hour pedal in a beer garden in Sheffield in 2013 and made a few hundred pounds but was scuppered by torrential rain over the busiest period – he had hoped to make a lot more. My husband once did a 24 hour row on a rowing machine outside a supermarket and made well over £1,000 – but tells me that it was pointless being there in the dead of night with no customers.
So! Taking all this advice on board, I have come up with a plan for my December fundraising project. I will be cycling a static bike outside Sainsbury’s (outside, but with a bit of roofing for protection from the weather), Straiton (Edinburgh) for 8 hours on Friday 4th December. 8 hours replicates a day on the bike on tour (with breaks every 40km for food). I will be ‘cycling off the Christmas calories in your basket’. For example, one mince pie has around 287 calories and a portion of Christmas pudding (before the cream/custard/brandy butter) is a belt-straining 500 calories (as an aside, a quick google search suggests that on average we consume around 7,000 calories on Christmas day – try to remember that when you’re thinking of investing in carbon!).
On the advice of the lovely Marian (Community Champion at Sainsbury’s Straiton) I will be there from 10:30 until 18:30 – ie after the time they can legally sell alcohol (seriously – the shop is dead until the booze aisles open apparently) and there long enough to catch folk popping in on their way home. Friday, I’m told, is the busiest day of the week and I’m looking for the highest possible foot fall.
I’ve got my turbo trainer and bike with computer for stats and a couple of black/white boards to write stuff on (like, ‘8 hours to go’ and ‘1500 calories consumed so far’). I’ll have a mate with me at all times – partly to look after the collection bucket and partly to help me engage with shoppers and explain what I’m doing. I’m hoping Sainsbury’s will donate all the food I eat during the time I’m there and I’ll collect the wrappers in a basket beside the bike. Sainsbury’s love the idea of me cycling off the calories – it ties in with their efforts to encourage us to eat healthily apparently.
I’ve got a big WWMT banner to put up, posters etc. I’m trying to get local radio to come and interview me too – anything to help spread the word. It’s difficult to estimate how much I’ll make – but I’m hoping that it might be as much as £800. It could be as little as £400. I’ll let you know how I get on and I’ll share any top tips with you based on my experience.
Whatever else happens, this has certainly fast-tracked my training! I had been planning on ignoring the turbo trainer until January, but I can’t exactly take on 8 hours in the saddle without some preparation. That being said, I’ve only had about 3 weeks notice so there’s only so much I can do between now and the fundraising spin! Nevertheless, I’ve put in some hours in my garage on the turbo and I’m hoping it will help even just a little bit.
So – wish me luck! And check out my latest video:
So here’s the thing – if you don’t ask, you don’t get. But if you ask … you just might be happily surprised!
When I approached my son’s school to ask if they’d have any objection to me selling my Christmas cards to the Mums and Dads I was squirming with discomfort. I didn’t want to over-step any marks, and I didn’t want to be a nuisance. Their response was extraordinary: ‘Wow! That’s fantastic! But surely we can help more than that?” Not only have they let me advertise my cards to every family in my son’s year group (around 125 families) by putting a little slip into each homework book – they have also agreed to put a wee article into the fortnightly newsletter to the entire junior school (around 1200 families). Suddenly, selling 100 packs of Christmas cards seems more than achievable!
I then asked my Mum if she felt comfortable asking any of her friends if they’d like to buy any Christmas cards. 3 days later she’d already sold 30 packs and her email had prompted a number of direct cash donations to my fundraising page too. Another friend immediately asked for 10 packs, so I’ve sold 40 packs before even trying. So – how does this all translate into hard cash for William Wates Memorial Trust? Here’s how I’ve done it:
I contacted the printers we have been using for the Tour de Force, explained what I’m doing and asked them for their very best price. The lovely Dan Mackenzie at ‘The Marketing Solution’ www.tmsltd.com stepped up to the mark – nice one Dan! You can contact him on: 01892 832952. Dan has charged me £180 for printing, packaging (into 10 per packet) and posting out to me 1,000 cards and envelopes (ie 100 packs). I decided that the cards needed to be stylish and if at all possible, relevant. So I spent quite a long time on www.istockphoto.com trying to find the right image – but I did! Check it out.
You can use this exact same image including wording on the back page about both WWMT and TDF by downloading this pdf: TDF Xmas Card. Inside it simply says Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Go ahead – it’s available for your use.
The image has cost me about £20 (I thought hard about this – either I personally take the hit, or it’s less cash for WWMT) but I think it’s worth it (and you’re getting it for free!). A quick trip to the local charity shops and I was able to establish that I could sell each pack for £3.99.
So my costs are £200 and I stand to make a clear profit of £199. But in reality, quite a few folk are just rounding it up to £5 for a pack. So my overall amount raised from these Christmas cards will come out higher than that. Afterall, an additional £1.01 to support me is an easy gesture to make.
The obvious potential downside to this is that I’ve had to invest £200 of my own money up front and there’s a risk that they don’t all sell. I had to be confident that I could sell all 100 packs and that I could achieve this relatively easily without incurring postal costs on top or that it would be too time-consuming – so the support from school is key to this working (if I worked for a large organisation, I might be happy that colleagues would buy).
I shall be positioned at the school each morning and afternoon for about 10 minutes each time, every day for a week in November and parents simply buy from me direct. In this way, the logistics of physically selling them is straight forward too and not massively time-consuming (which is important – as I said, I’m a ridiculously busy person!).
Having sold 40 of my 100 packs before even approaching friends and the school, I’m now slightly regretting not ordering 200 packs. But hindsight is a wonderful thing and I wasn’t confident enough that they would sell as easily as they are. Remember – I only have 1 colleague (Sarah) – imagine if I had a big office I could be selling to?
So there you go! My November fundraising project is well underway and stands to make over £200 for the William Wates Memorial Trust.
Since my last post, a few more direct cash donations have come in to my Virgin Money Giving page (one particularly heart-warming donation from Jerry Redford who rode as a Lifer with us in 2015 and nailed his own fundraising target then – cheers Jerry).Thank you to everyone who has donated so far. With the cash I make this month the Christmas cards , I will already be over £1,000 and I’m only 2 months in!
So – my conclusions so far:
- Don’t be shy to ask for help – you’ll be surprised how genuinely happy people are to help (particularly if you’re not just asking for cash).
- If you’re going to make an up-front investment in a fundraising project, be confident that you have the audience you need to pull it off. Avoid risking your own cash if you can.
- While both the car boot sale and the Christmas cards have needed a degree of my time and energy, it has been manageable in my very busy time-poor life.
- Even without asking anyone at all for a direct cash donation, I have already raised £505 from folk who just want to support me that way. I am amazed by this – and so grateful.
Other bits and bobs
I have sent another email to my friends and family letting them know about my Christmas card sales and also reminding them to sign up to www.easyfundraising.org.uk because although 3 or 4 did so after my first email, I’m sure many more could – and NOW is the time to remind them before they get into their big Christmas shopping period!
I have also taken a collection tin (contact me if you’d like one) down to my local greengrocers and they have encouraged me to return fortnightly to empty it. A full tin usually amounts to around £15 so I can expect to make, over 3 months, 6 x £15 = £90 of very easily earned money. Each time I empty it, I take a copy of this Certificate of thanks (also available on our resources page to download) to complete so that they can pop it in their shop window.
So – if you are signing up to the Tour de Force this month, don’t skip a beat and just get started on your fundraising. There is just enough time to get Christmas cards made (you can start taking orders from friends while they’re being printed) if you act quickly and if you get that link to www.easyfundraising.org.uk out there, you’ll be maximising its potential during the Christmas shopping period. Wouldn’t it be great to go into 2016 having already kick-started your fundraising?
Oh – and while I enthusiastically encourage you to make the most of any lovely autumn days to get out on your bike before the filthy weather really start, you might want to dust down your turbo trainer and get it set up in readiness!
Blog entry 2: The Car Boot Sale
I mentioned that in October I did my first fundraising activity – a car boot sale. I asked the mums and dads in my son’s school class, as well as friends, to have a bit of a clear out and give me their unwanted goods. The response was fantastic – who doesn’t like to get rid of their junk!? And one man’s junk is another’s treasure. So – with the invaluable help of 2 friends, I set off at 7am to Edinburgh’s multi-storey car park (better than an open field in Scotland!) and set up my boot. We were fooled into accepting a spot with rubbish lighting which was a bit of a disaster (I think they could spot a novice!) but we worked really really hard and sold a huge amount of stuff, making £270 profit for WWMT! What we didn’t sell we gave to charity shops. Plus some items we were given were far too good for a car boot sale and I’ll be selling those on ebay or gumtree in the coming months to maximise the return on them. It was definitely worth mentioning that we were doing it for charity – lots of lovely people gave a bit more for their goods and haggled less. One amazing young girl bought lots of warm kids clothes at a knock down price at the end so that she could send it all to Syrian refugees as part of a school project. Good karma!
My conclusions: it’s quite hard work to do a car boot sale, but it was fairly time efficient. Most folk delivered their stuff to my house, then I spent a couple of hours pricing up as much as possible so I was prepared for when the klaxon goes to open the sale. I was there from 7.30am until 1pm and was pretty exhausted by the end of it. But it was fun too! A car boot sale won’t smash your target on its own, but it will definitely make a good contribution.
Just for fun, I’ve made this little video about my October project – enjoy! (much eyebrow waggling!).
2016 marks 20 years since Will died and 10 year since the inaugural Tour de Force, so it’s a big, important year for us both at WWMT and TDF HQ. As I am the person who encourages, supports and sometimes cajoles all our cyclists in their fundraising, this seemed to me to be the year for me to make myself accountable! And so I am going to cycle at least 3 of the last mountain stages and on to Paris as well as fundraising to the tune of at least £1,200 alongside the rest of our cyclists. I can’t wait!
Just to make this an even tougher challenge, I’ve decided to attempt to pull off a different fundraising activity every month and I plan to showcase these on this blog. And because that didn’t seem hard enough, I’m trying to achieve my £1,200 fundraising target without directly asking anyone simply for cash. Yep – that’s right. I’m going to use every means available to me to avoid simply asking the same friends and family for yet another £20 that I’ve asked time and gain to support me whatever my latest endurance event for charity has been over the past 20 years. This isn’t to say that I won’t gladly accept donations of course (I’d be mad not to, and the reality is that for some of my supporters, a quick and easy cash donation onto my Virgin Money Giving page is the easiest way for them to support me) – but I want to see how hard it is to achieve our not-unsubstantial targets for fundraising.
So – if, like me, you’ve exhausted your usual fundraising avenues, don’t have a bunch of corporate friends and colleagues with deep pockets to approach, then stick with me and learn from my experiences not just this year, but over the last 5 years of the Tour de Force.
The Cycling Bit
I’ve got to be honest – at the moment, this seems like the easy bit (you can remind me I said that when I’m exhausted on some Alpine col). You may have seen from my wee article about training – Tracy’s Training Tips, I’m relatively fit and so am going into the winter feeling pretty good. I ought to try and lose about 5 pounds in weight (cheaper than buying carbon) but with any luck that’ll happen as the training ramps up after Christmas. But for now, I’m making the most of an Indian Summer in Edinburgh and am enjoying the daily school run with my 5 year old son on the tag-along behind me (occasionally pedalling on the hills when I yell “put your back into it!”) as well as regular trail runs with my running buddy. I’ll keep up the occasional mountain bike ride either at Glentress (mountain biking mecca just south of Edinburgh) or in the wilds of the Cairngorms and might get another road ride done before the clocks change if I’m lucky. Oh, and I rode in the inaugural Etape Royale this year which was great – check out my article about it here in Sportif Magazine.
When that fateful day arrives, not only will I start counting the days until the clocks change back again but I will also dust off the dreaded turbo trainer and set it up in the garage (I’m not saying I’ll climb on it yet – but I’ll at least set it up!). I really really hate turbo trainers. So I’m going to be getting the special Tour de France DVD bundle from Success Cycling to try to keep my mind distracted. I’ll also get my extensive file of photos going around on a loop on my laptop (a great tip from our lovely tour medic Dr Col Baird) and will download various podcasts to plug into my ears. I might even try and improve my French – pourquoi pas? I may as well embrace this thing completely!
I need to get back to doing pilates once a week to remind myself to stretch (I never stretch enough – who does?) and I might treat myself to a swim and steam or sauna once in a while to remind my other muscles that I still need them too.
So – for the moment, that’s my plan. I’ll be ramping it up in the New Year and I’ll report back in more detail on that then.
The Fundraising Bit
Like I said, I think this might be the hard bit for me and so I’ve sat down and started to make a proper plan of attack. We ask for 80% of all fundraising to have been completed by the end of April (for me, that means £960, minimum) and so there’s no way I can leave this until the last minute. I am, like most of us, a ridiculously busy person. So for this to work, I need to be really organised in order to squeeze training AND fundraising into an already over-stuffed life. And here’s the thing – there are only 2 of us in the TDF HQ, so a ‘dress down’ day at work isn’t going to work – and nor is a sponsored leg wax (and I don’t intend to wax anything else for charity either)! So some brilliant ideas that are there for those of you in big companies (including match funding) simply aren’t available to me. You see – this is going to be tough!
I’ve already started. Yep! It’s not too early to start – in fact, there are a couple of tactics I mean to employ now to make the most of Christmas fast approaching. I suggest you do the same.
Here’s what I’ve done so far:
- First things first, I’ve set up my Virgin Money Giving (VMG) page (check out Fundraising Q&A for everything you need to know to get started). I’ve used a profile photo because VMG stats show that pages with a profile photo make an average 117% MORE than those without! I’ll add more photos and even videos soon. I’ve also added a personal auto-thank you to go to anyone who donates – it’s important to feel appreciated! I’ve also set my target (which I can increase if things go well). Again, VMG stats show that those who set a target raise 100% more than those who leave that blank. To know your target, visit the Fundraising Q&A page above.
- I’ve shared the link to my VMG fundraising page on my facebook page (50% of traffic to VMG comes from facebook) and added it to all my personal emails as a signature.
- I emailed all my friends and asked them to sign up to www.easyfundraising.org.uk and link to my own easyfundraising page so that all their online shopping (as well as my own) can attract small (but numerous) donations from the retailer. Do this now and make use of all that online Christmas shopping! IMPORTANT – download the ‘Donation Reminder’ so that whenever you are on a website that attracts donations, you are told – and then click the reminder immediately to avoid being sent back to the start of your shopping process when you’re already at the checkout!
- I have already done my October fundraiser! I asked all my local friends as well as all the Mums and Dads in my son’s class to have a big clear out and give me all their unwanted items. I then did an enormous car boot sale and raised a whopping £270! They were delighted to de-clutter and I was thrilled to get my fundraising off to such a good start. I’ll blog about this separately.
- I am busy planning the next few projects – one per month – so I’ll keep you posted on that here in this blog.
- I’ve started my blog! So I’ll get this loaded up and will send the link out to all my supporters along with a big fat thank you for their donations for the car boot sale and a report on how I got on! Showing my appreciation as well as keeping them informed as to how my challenge is going is important.
- I am investigating local charities that fulfill the mission set by the William Wates Memorial Trust and will champion an application to the Trust in the next round of grant giving in January. This will ensure that my fundraising has a local impact, which matters to my supporters (and to me!). More on that in due course. The Trustees welcome applications supported by our riders in this way. To find out more about the criteria they are interested in, see here.
- To my total delight, less than a month into my fundraising and without asking a single person to simply give me cash (though 4 kind souls have), I have already raised over £500.
So if you’re thinking of signing up to the Tour de Force, but are daunted by the fundraising element, I hope this blog will help to inspire you and motivate you. It’s very do-able. And in fact, my experience over the past 5 years with Tour de Force shows that the vast majority of our riders raise well over their targets. So embrace the challenge, both on and off your bike, and together let’s make 2016 the biggest and best year of the Tour de Force yet!