As if there aren't already enough reasons for you to buy, borrow or hire a bike and get out and give it a go... How about the ability to help make a difference and contribute to a good cause?
With a huge variety of cycling events plus walking, running, swimming, and triathlons, there are heaps of opportunities to join sponsors and organizations in their support of various causes. There are single races, series' of races over a number of weeks and long-distance endurance or multi-day tours, so there's something to suit every interest and skill level.
Getting involved in these events promotes awareness and raises funds towards research, medical treatments and equipment, victims of disasters or other charitable causes. Pledging to raise funds before an event does add an extra challenge, but besides the assistance the monetary contributions can provide, there are a lot of additional benefits to signing up for these events that you may not have considered...
(because images with motivational sayings can only go so far)
We're often told it's a great idea to have a training goal, so events are great to give you a fixed deadline to work toward with your training. But if you're anything like me, it's still too easy to lose focus and forget about the goal, which might be months away if you signed up early.
I'll usually sign up to an event the moment I hear about it in a sudden burst of motivation, telling myself that I will actually train this time. Then all of a sudden the event is less than two weeks away and I haven't increased my 'training' at all.
Having a fundraising target in the meantime and tracking your progress is a great way of keeping the event fresh in your mind, which will hopefully help to keep that motivation up too. Talking about the upcoming event to promote donations and hosting fun activities for fundraising can add to the excitement and anticipation of the event, and might even inspire others to take on the challenge with you.
It's always comforting to know someone who is voluntarily suffering alongside you during the event, and to share stories with them over a celebratory beer afterwards.
Telling your friends and family that you've signed up for the event might also help for that extra support throughout your training, and they may even be more understanding if you're spending more time out on the bike. The fundraising adds a bigger purpose that's not just about the sport, so even if people don't understand your reason for taking on a challenge for the love of the sport, they might still appreciate your commitment to help support the cause and be more willing to assist you along the way.
The Thrill of a Challenge:
In addition to signing up for the friendly competition and personal challenge, you commit to do your best at gaining donations. This makes the event not only a test on the day, but an ongoing, fun challenge leading up to the event to see how much you can raise. Watching donations grow in response to your dedication and commitment and knowing those funds are going towards a worthy cause can be a hugely rewarding experience.
Remember it's not just about the money. Talking about the cause is not only about promoting the good that an organisation does, but it could save a life simply through sharing the knowledge.
Diseases and ailments such as depression, diabetes and stroke are common and serious issues, but many people are unaware of them or how they can help. They may not know the warning signs to identify them if it happened to themselves, or friends and family. That doesn't mean you have to have a PhD on the subject, but simply talking about the event and supporting organisations will make people more aware.
Ideas to Help with Fundraising:
So you've signed up to an event and now have a fundraising goal - now what? Getting started may seem a bit daunting at first, but if you start planning your fundraisers early, the possibilities are endless.
You can try group events, such as trivia nights, group cinema sessions or other various social events and add an entry price per person - sometimes businesses might offer discounts or prizes to help contribute to your cause. It's easy to create free website pages and get word out through social media and networking, which can be really effective since it's so easy for immediate contacts to 'share' or promote your event to their networks as well.
If you're lucky enough to have a profession or skill that only costs you your time, you could offer up your time for free in return for a small donation to your cause. Try swapping the bike gloves for a pair of oven mitts and bake up a storm for a market stall or a glorified morning tea for the office. Be creative and have fun with it so people enjoy being involved.
How to Get Involved:
The promoters of events want you to hear about them, so it's not hard to find information. Check out your local bike shop for news and upcoming events, talk to cycling clubs, or even go directly to the organisations you'd like to support.
Here are a few of the many charity rides in the US:
The American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure
Held in multiple locations starting in March
The Arthritis Foundation's Amgen California Coast Classic
520 mile (837 km), 8 day tour from San Fransisco to Los Angeles, usually starting late September
The MS Bike rides
A massive series of 100 events held in many states across the US
And just a handful of some fundraising cycling events coming up in Australia this year which all provide a fun and organised challenge and great fundraising support:
- Rabobank SuperCycle in South Australia, early April
- The Ride to Conquer Cancer, held in several locations around Australia
- The Great Ocean Road Challenge in Victoria, mid February
MS Melbourne Cycle 2013, late February
So next time you're looking for a bit more excitement for your rides, or an extra challenge to help you train for that next level, check out some organised fundraising events and get on board. You will be helping some great charities while doing what you love - everybody wins!