Photo courtesy of www.alastairhumphreys.com
Alastair Humphreys is an adventurer, blogger, author, and motivational speaker. His first adventure was a four-year cycle around the world that took him to 60 countries in 5 continents. He logged over 46,000 miles. This self-financed bike expedition raised donations that went directly to Hope and Homes for Children. Hope and Homes for Children is a charity dedicated to providing a family and a future for young victims of war and disaster. It has provided family homes for thousands of children in 13 countries around the world. He followed up his round the world trip with a walk across India, the Marathon des Sables, and a row across the Atlantic. In 2012, Alastair was named as a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year for his pioneering work on the concept of microadventures. With this initiative, he is on a quest to liberate the idea of adventure as an “elite” activity. His new book on Microadventures launched this week.
I had the opportunity to catch up with this adventurer-blogger-author-speaker before he took off to the Isle of Skye on a microadventure. I wanted to find out more about how he went from struggling to raise awareness and money for his cause in 2006 to achieving fundraising success “often without pedalling an inch”. Alastair recalled his regrets, touched on how he changed things by developing a strong profile, reminded me about the value of being different —and gave some pretty great advice: Just get going! —Tracy
In 2006 you were unsatisfied with your fundraising for Hope and Homes for Children. What happened to change your opinion of your efforts?
I’m afraid that my answer is perhaps not very encouraging for people starting out in fundraising, except perhaps to say that the only way to build your fundraising ‘power’ is to begin. Just get going! I was disappointed that I didn’t raise much money (I think about £15k) from cycling round the world for 4 years. Since then I have raised many times that amount for the charity, often without pedalling an inch! I’ve launched a lecture series called ‘Night of Adventure’ which has done well, but mostly my fundraising impact has increased simply as my online presence and profile has grown. This is not new knowledge: the more people who know about you, the more you will raise. It’s as simple as that. TV celebrities raise £1million easily, normal people raise £15k in 4 years of cycling. So the lesson is that publicity is key.
In those years, what did you learn about yourself, your adventures and fundraising in general that made the greatest difference to your ability to fundraise for your organization?
People are jaded by Justgiving. “Please sponsor me to run a marathon” no longer has much clout for so many people do that these days. You need to differentiate: how is your challenge difficult? Why is it hard to you? Why is it interesting to me?
I received one of those round robin emails recently – “please sponsor me to cycle to France (or something – I don’t even remember the trip) because my baby son has had two heart operations and I want to thank the hospital who has helped him”. I donated instantly because of that element of interest, differentiation and -frankly- reason for me to care.
When did you realize you were becoming a more effective fundraiser? What happened?
Sadly I don’t have a good answer here. It has just been a gradual growth as my online profile has gradually grown. I’d encourage anyone attempting to fundraise to put a real effort into getting publicity for their challenge: you absolutely have to be able to reach out beyond your circle of friends and colleagues. You need to not recognise all the names on your JustGiving donation list.
What are your greatest fundraising challenges today?
Overcoming apathy (so many people running marathons) and lack of time (so many worthy causes running events). The challenge is to be different, and to request people’s attention and money infrequently but meaningfully.