Tag Archives: adventure

Lewis Clarke: On Inspiration, Drive and Support

Photo Credit: Lewis Clarke
Photo Courtesy of www.youngesttosouthpole.wordpress.com

On January 18, 2014, Lewis Clarke became the youngest person ever to trek overland from the Antarctic coast (Hercules Inlet) to the South Pole. The 16-year old skied over 1,120 km in 48 days and he faced harsh conditions, temperatures nearing -50 C and winds of up to 193 km/h. But he wasn’t new to adventure. When he was only 12-years old, Lewis was part of the youngest relay team to successfully swim the English Channel.

Lewis Clarke’s website

Lewis Clarke is the first adventurer I had to wait to interview because he was still writing his exams. I wanted to know what would motivate today’s teen to venture outside of the virtual world and to risk himself to help people in need. Lewis points to timely advice from mentors, family support, and a focus on what truly matters. He also shared a simple, three-step formula for achieving something incredible. It was worth the wait! —Tracy

Why the South Pole? Can you remember the first time you thought, “I want to do this”? 

When I was doing my Channel relay swim one of the people who ended up helping out had actually walked to the South Pole, his name is Jon Bradshaw. I just talked to him about it and it sounded like a truly amazing thing to do. Having finished the Channel relay I just really wanted to do something else, and the idea was already in my head. All of which happened very soon after the 2010 Channel swim, early 2011.

What did you tell yourself during the moments it seemed too difficult?

I just remembered the enormous effort that myself, my family and my friends had put in to get me there, it was the last of a long series of hurdles and I was sure that I wasn’t going to fail right at the last.

Has the experience changed your perspective about life?

Absolutely, it puts everything far more in perspective and made me care more about the things that really matter, like family and friendship, and worry less about the more pointless things people usually worry about.

Do you feel more kids and teens could benefit from being more adventurous? Why?

Definitely, if only to get more real freedom earlier on in life. It doesn’t matter how big or small the expedition is, just do it. It builds confidence and skills, and teaches young people to be more self-sufficient. I believe that young people have the same ability as anyone else to doing amazing things, but might often feel that they can’t until they are older. You only need 3 things to achieve something incredible: 1) Inspiration, 2) Drive and 3) Support. Young people have just as much drive, and have been inspired, just the same as adults, but people seem to have less belief that young people can achieve. I hope that my expedition and other young people achieving great things will help dispel that feeling.

Why did you choose to support the Prince’s Trust?

They are a charity that specifically help young people. I really liked the idea of helping my peers and I’m going to visit the scheme that my fundraising went towards, which will be a fantastic opportunity to see the good my fundraising has done.

What did you learn about fundraising for the Prince’s Trust before, during, and after the expedition?

The fundraising was best actually during the expedition, when people could be told about all the stuff I was doing. We raised a fantastic £4,000.

What is one tip you would give other adventure fundraisers?

I would say get as many people involved as possible and think up as many different ideas as possible for raising money. The reason I managed to raise so much was because loads of people chipped in to help, my junior school had a fundraising event, my dad went around his work collecting donations, and I did a talk and we had an auction to raise even more money, as well as online donations and various other ways of raising money.

What’s going to be your next adventure?

I plan to canoe the Yukon River in Canada, which is 2,000 miles long. I won’t be going for any record, but it should be a more relaxed expedition than the South Pole, and definitely warmer!

Would you finish this sentence for me? “One person can…”

One person can do anything. As simple as that, no matter who you are if you are inspired, driven and have support, the sky is the limit.


Alastair Humphreys: On Differentiation

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.

How To Overcome Apathy

What’s the greatest obstacle to getting support for a worthy cause according to adventure fundraiser Alastair Humphreys?

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.

Michael Nilsen, Vice President, Public Affairs of the Association of Fundraising Professionals has some advice that might help you with this challenge.

What is the best way to overcome the apathy of the public who are approached by so many people and organizations promoting runs, marathons, challenges and adventures?

An important part of fundraising and charity is that people give to people. They might not ordinarily give to your cause, but if someone they know asks them to support or participate, they are quite likely to. So, it’s critical that your cause uses its major supporters and their contacts as much as possible.

An innovative or creative event can help too. There are so many adventure/athletic events now, so it’s helpful to be able to stand out in some way. This can be important but it pales compared to the first factor—connecting.

How can we move past simple differentiation and make an adventure and/or campaign remarkable?

It goes back to the first answer. It’s all about connection. Because at some point, the adventure is going to be get dwarfed or forgotten by the next fad or craze. Or someone’s interest changes. But a connection with a cause can remain a long time.

So we have to focus on stories, on impact—why the charity and cause exists and what change do you bring about change in the community.

In your opinion, what are the common elements of a remarkable campaign?

They’re all about the donor. We say that effective and ethical fundraising is donor-centered—it has to be about the donor. Engaging the donor. Inspiring the donor. Making them feel like they are part of something. That they’re doing more than just making a gift—they’re making a difference. It’s about communicating with them, from beginning to the end, and making them feel part of the movement and cause.

I would also add that dividing the campaign into distinct achievable elements is also important. Particular for programs when you’re training or raising funds, divide the major goal into sub-goals. Congratulate participants on key accomplishments throughout the process. Positive feedback and encouragement is also critical.

Do you have any tips on creating campaigns that people choose to talk about, regardless of what the others are doing?

With so many of these kinds of adventures happening now, don’t be afraid to try something new. But always do so with the donor in mind. You may think you know what’s best for your donors and supporters, but we always can stand a good check. Talk with your strongest supporters and see what they think. They can be your best minds and provide good perspective.


Rough Road Photo credit: carolina terp via photopin cc

Jamie McDonald: On Motivation


I caught up with Jamie McDonald a few months after he completed his inspiring unsupported run across Canada. He answered my questions only weeks after recovering from what he called “one, big, monumental come down after being on cloud nine for so long”. Jamie talked about how he kept himself motivated when fundraising goals and world-records lost all meaning. What he learned from his epic expedition has the power to change your perspective: what really keeps us going is the people we meet, the friends we make, and the ripples we leave behind us. Tracy

What did you tell yourself when you woke up to get you going day after day even when you wanted to quit?

I had to keep telling myself that this wasn’t supposed to be easy and that no matter how hard it felt, I had to get going as people were counting on me. The expectation weighed heavily on my shoulders, but I guess I placed it there in the first place, so remembering that was important.

At one point, you posted that “the numbers” stopped meaning anything. The fundraising goal didn’t have the ability to motivate you when you were in the middle of it all. Were you surprised by this realization?  To what did you turn for motivation instead?

I was incredibly surprised, but at the same time and on reflection, it makes sense. When you think about it, looking at black and white fundraising figures on a computer screen isn’t ‘real’. My motivation came from the children and families that spent time in hospitals that I was raising money for. Seeing and hearing from the people whose lives I could potentially impact will always motivate me more than figures on a screen.

On the road, you learned that you would not be the first to complete this challenge. What did you learn about using “record breaking” as a motivation? Note: Jamie became the first Brit to accomplish this feat.

I have to be honest, it hurt me when I found out that I wasn’t going to be the “first” person to run across the country without a support crew. Knowing that I wasn’t going to achieve a new record felt like a motivational element being stripped from me. At the end of it all though, worrying about that not only disrespects Kevin Thomson’s phenomenal achievement, but achieves nothing. Pride and jealousy can be soul destroying emotions and finding out made me realise that although being the first person to accomplish a goal is a great motivator, it can eat away at you. My ethos is that no one can take away the people I’ve met, the friends I’ve made, the money I’ve raised – and that’s what matters.

People often use a big goal, a summit, or a finish line to give them forward momentum and to capture the imagination of supporters. After you left Canada, you wrote, “I feel stupid for ever thinking there was one big cake at the end – I don’t think I’ll ever take one of those crumbs for granted again.” How do you think this realization will influence your future adventures?

To appreciate (even more) EVERYTHING that is thrown at you, even all the hardships along the way. Crumbs come in all varieties – some are delicious and some leave a nasty taste in the mouth – but even the worst tasting food fills you up. Life is about appreciating each and every crumb, whether in the moment or after it.

Why do you believe the Canadian people embraced your adventure? Why was it something they wanted to support, talk about and share?

I suppose I attempted what I thought was impossible, especially with no support crew – I became an underdog and looking back now, I think that’s why people supported. During the trip, I shared so much of my journey through social media, to keep me going as much as anything else. I wore my heart on my sleeve and gave people an insight into what it was truly like to run across Canada. People like to support genuine acts of selfless kindness that will inevitably help other people and I feel like my pain brought a lot of people together. Anytime I thought about that pain though, I remembered Terry Fox and the fact he attempted what I was setting out to achieve with one leg and later on, cancer, showing the sort of determination I and others can only dream of.

You’ve had your cycling adventure, your static bike record and now the unsupported run across Canada. Over 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 cause? 

Never having been a cyclist or a runner prior to my adventures, I realised that I’m stronger than I could have ever imagined. Adventure can be whatever you want it to be. The biggest realisation is that if I accidentally discovered this by taking a huge leap into the unknown, then who else can do this if they try? Anyone can be a superhero.

In your opinion, what motivates people to give?

Familiarity with the person behind the cause, knowing exactly what the money is being spent on and most importantly, if the person has a raw connection to the cause – they will do everything in their power to give and also get other people to give, too.

What remains your greatest challenge or obstacle when fundraising? 

Publicly announcing that you’re about to take on a challenge that you don’t know is possible. Once it’s out there, the fear will get to you if you let it.

 You had a rare and intimate experience of the entire Canadian geography, cultures and landscapes…something very few Canadians have experienced or ever will experience. What mark did Canada leave on you?

Canada is massive but not as big as Canadian hearts. I will always cherish Canada, the people I met and the experiences I had. I think the journey taught me even more about the kindness of the human race, something obscured by the media scrutinising the negatives rather than celebrating the positives. The majority of people don’t get to see that we are, on the whole, good and hopefully, I was able to shine a small light on the fantastic people in Canada that showed this.

Can you finish this sentence for me? One person can….

One person can pursue their dreams and ignite other people’s, simply by trying.


About Jamie McDonald

Jamie McDonald became the first person from Britain to complete an unsupported run across Canada in February 2014. He ran 200 marathons to finish the grueling 7,000+ kilometre personal challenge in 331 days. He ran across the praries in conditions that bottomed out at -40 degrees Celsius and over the Rocky Mountains during avalanche warnings, all while pushing a 130-lb load of supplies in a baby stroller he dubbed “Caesar” and dressed as The Flash superhero.

McDonald is no stranger to personal challenge. In 2012, he cycled from Bangkok to Gloucester, England. Just two days after arriving, he set the world static cycling record, biking more than 11 days. As a child, Jamie was in and out of Gloucester Royal Hospital over a nine-year period with a rare spinal condition known as syringomyelia, as well as a very weak immune system.

His childhood battles contributed to his determination and compassion as an adult. Jamie has raised over $200,000 for children’s charities in the UK and Canada, including and the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, the Pied Piper Appeal, which supports Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, and also Canadian charities such as SickKids Foundation.

 Follow Jamie

Learn more at http://www.jamiemcdonald.org

Will Fear Stop You Before You Start?

What’s the greatest obstacle to taking on a major challenge to support a worthy cause according to adventure fundraiser Jamie McDonald?

“Publicly announcing that you’re about to take on a challenge that you don’t know is possible. Once it’s out there, the fear will get to you if you let it.”

Michael Nilsen, Vice President, Public Affairs of the Association of Fundraising Professionals has some advice that might help us face down that fear.

“I would say remember WHY you’re doing it, and connect it back to your cause and mission,” Nilsen stated. “The people who are supporting you and the cause WANT you to succeed—they’re on your side. You’re not going to let them down because the attempt – and bringing awareness to the cause—is the main part of what you’re doing.”

The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) represents more than 30,000 members in 235 chapters throughout the world, working to advance philanthropy through advocacy, research, education and certification programs.  The association fosters development and growth of fundraising professionals and promotes high ethical standards in the fundraising profession.

Even for people who love adventure, fundraising can be more intimidating than an expedition. Where to start?

Arming ourselves with knowledge can help us face this fear, just like with any other challenge. There is a code of ethical principles and standards that fundraisers use.  According to Nilsen, all fundraisers should be aware of them, though some apply specifically to professional fundraisers.

“The Donor Bill of Rights is probably where fundraisers should start. This list spells out explicitly what donors should expect when making a gift and what charities should provide. I think it will help fundraisers to let their supporters know they’re following this Donor Bill of Rights.”

Photo credit: Andrew_D_Hurley via photopin cc