Building Resources Through Donations
Getting a High School Team started demands all sorts of attention to things other than just having fun on the bikes. Dealing with schools and their districts, achieving that critical mass of interested riders and adults, administrative paperwork, creating ride strategies, finding ride locations, building commitment, fitting in with competing interests, building the culture, finding bikes, finding clothing, finding other gear, culling the herd....and money. Some of that stuff is like software, some like systems, and some is like material resources.
Everyone wants money. (Republicans want to keep theirs and get more, Democrats want yours to go to other people. ;) ) In pursuit of resources you learn that people and organizations are most willing to give something they have on hand. Getting money from a business is a snap if they already have it in the budget or you have gotten worked into the budget. Large Corps often have within them humanitarian departments or match employee donations to non-profits. Smaller orgs may have a bit set aside or a small business is simply sympathetic. Some folks just have heart and a bit of extra cash.
There are strategies for getting at money but today I want to suggest a strategy for getting "stuff." Getting stuff is likely if you are willing to accept whatever a business has in excess or very handy. A local donut shop would hardly feel the effect of one pink box of a dozen glazed donuts, for example. Starbucks and Peets dole out coffee for events. There are other examples but you see what I mean. (Bike stuff from bike businesses is another discussion.)
When I first started developing the El Cerrito Team in 2002 I had a lot of bike stuff in the shed, the detritus of developing my bikes over the years: experiments, OEM, changing waistlines, or things I thought I'd use one day soon. It was serviceable but I wasn't using it or I didn't need it anymore and couldn't just throw it away. It was in boxes, hanging on nails, or on shelves gathering dust. It didn't take long before this stuff ended up on my team's bikes as needed.
Now stop and think; just about every rider you know has a cache of stuff like this. (Wait for it...wait...wait...hold that thought.)
We could use that stuff. The strongest thing we have going for us is that these folks share many of our values. That makes contact more welcome and interaction more immediate. The other thing working for us is that the weight of their stuff includes guilt, a sense of waste, bewilderment, frustration, the fact that it takes up space; sort of like the unemployed brother-in-law still sleeping on your sofa. So along you come, with a great cause; kids learning to ride, health, building the mtb community...yatta-yattta-yatta. It's a slam dunk.
What is wanted is some method for reaching out to the cycling community and gaining access to those boxes of stuff. What is wanted is to make connections with our cycling communities and reach out.
More later, I have to get the turkey started.
As I read this I realized that part of all of this is deciding which resources are the most important to a new team. While there can be some sense that since we are talking about resources we start with a High School Racing League that we need to talk about racers and their needs. It is a mistaken notion.
In the case of my first team we came from a love of mtb first and racing was only an excuse to get everyone together. If a team was based upon a few racers, needs would be different. A few racers banding together are generally born of parents who race. As such they already have "stuff" and simply look for financial support. This is not representative of the NorCal/NICA model or it's experience. It's growth would never have happened with this as a start.
Pure racing teams have a hard time recruiting other racers as a racer is the end result of a lot of focused work; fairly uncommon in most areas. Most teams, in the development of racers, are born of a more general talent, athletic if you are lucky; passion, though, will do. Few beginners would be able to keep up with the existing racers, would be intimidated and not join, or fall off the back in humiliation. Racers get bored.That team would soon die. And it has proven so.
Our team was not made of mtb riders. In fact I was one of the few mtb riders in the area with the skills to build community. Of our first riders only two had gear besides their mt bikes. The rest of our participants were dirt jumpers and kids who ratted around town on their BMX bikes. They needed clothing, shoes, pedals, helmets, gloves. We needed bikes or needed to strengthen the bikes we had
What we did over time is build and enrich the mtb community in our area. Our appeal was general and we developed riders in the XC racing mold with broad gradual training modalities. The society, the team culture, in concert with a teen's need for identity in a group, and the cultivation of mutual support of all participants of both genders, bound us together. 10 years later our area is very different with far more mtb riders.That said, I will focus on getting "stuff".
The photo below gives you an idea of where we started. In NorCal terms, this is truely "back in the day." Our team brought the League total to 70. It is now at 600, started SoCal, birthed NICA, and you guys are the result.
This is an image of a rare find for local teams; a kid who already has all the stuff and is a developed rider. This is my son who rode my back wheel from the time he was 5. He rode with the teams from the time he was 11. He was not a racer born of a racer dad but born of a mountain biker who simply loved the sport.
Hokay...where was I...oh, yeah. Trash and treasures.
Accessing the bike community, and their caches of goodies, is a matter of conceptualizing different focal points and targeting them. There are;
your own personal associations
bike shop connections
The next thing to do is ask. For many this is really the hardest part. In my advocacy group I seem to be the only guy who knows how to ask for stuff. I am pretty easy around people and have been involved in the bike community for quite a while. I believe in what I am doing. I have no doubt in my mind that when I represent the high school kids or my advocacy group that they are worthy institutions. That makes for a lot of confidence walking in the door.
Next, consider that promoting these two ideas to people who are ready to appreciate them is not much of a risk. The kinds of associations that bike folk have with supporting kids or advocacy either already exist, or are ready to be formed. People are ready to help but the right kind of opportunity and the mechanics of helping elude them for any number of reasons. You are in a position to show them this opportunity and facilitate the process of helping. That is, you are availing them of a way to participate that really makes a difference while, at the same time, uncluttering their cycling lives. You are, actually, performing a service for them.
This does not mean, however, that you may be presumptuous.
What I am trying to get at is the path to making this work. It is not enough to show someone the trail. They have to find the motivations to act, the facility to get around their own resistance, the possibilities to pull them forward.
Sure, we understand that we need to get stuff for the kids to make things work. Yet what can really make a difference in ones approach is to know that there is a high potential of success. Further, there is the potential to make this truly meaningful to the donor; it directly effects the kids in a positive way. What you will often hear is some derivation of: "I'm just glad I could put this to use." The sense of confounding valuable objects wasting away, now helping to develop new riders, brings relief and joy.
Most people I know hate salesmen. That is probably because there are a lot of bad ones out there. Bad ones haven't a clue, rely on pressure, bad timing, bad fit, arrogance, and the delusion that they are clever and can handle you, even so far as to sell you something you don't want. So we are now charged to go out and sell? Yuch. Yet if we review what we have talked about thus far we are clearly in a different position.
We know it is likely that this pile of stuff exists.
We know that people value it differently.
We know that people want to help our causes.
We know that they don't often know how to help.
We know that helping can be time consuming and expensive.
We know that we share values.
In fairness this pursuit is not a slam-dunk. Yet it has a lot of positives for us, enough at least to help us move forward a bit more comfortably.
Getting the Word out. The word might be :
Dear Cycling Friends,
The Acme High School Mounain Biking Team is looking to the cycling community for support. The team, in its second season, consists of 7 boys and 3 girls who train 3 days a week for nearly 30 weeks to race in 6 races against other high school teams. This team exists entirely from the effort of volunteer adults and donations.
Acme MTB is looking for donations of lightly used clothing and gear to support this effort. We hope that you have clothing that you don't use anymore or a box of spare parts or that you can donate to us.
These items willl be put to direct use by our athletes. Our new riders will benefit from the clothing as getting started from scratch is very expensive. Continuing riders will be able to fill-in holes in their clothing wardrobe, too. Bike parts are used to upgrade, replace or repair the rolling stock.
At the very least these generously donated items might serve as sellable assets to raise funds to defray operating costs. Race fees, kits, gas, food and such add up quickly and, like as not, end up coming out of the coaches pockets. That is cute once in a while but...
As a non-profit organization your donation is tax deductable. If you think you can help please let us know. We can be reched at:
ph xxx xxx xxxx
Head Coach, Acme MTB Racing Team
I believe that asking folks for this kind of support can be done with a straightforward message with confidence. Now how do we direct it? Well you start close and broaden from there.
For example those close at hand, fellow adult ride supporters and riding friends, make a good start. This is very informal and has the extra benefit of including them in a feel-good and personal way. They get to see a direct effect.
Making contact with local bike orgs is next. While emailing a proposal to access a Trails Council, Bike club, or Bike Coalition is a good first step, it will fall flat without some personal follow-up. An initial contact including a proposal to speak on the phone will get more investment. That may give you an opportunity to elaborate with a leader of the group to gain access to a larger group of cyclists. A further step is to appeal personally at a Board meeting. An additional possiblity is to get into an org's newsletter with your appeal.
Local racing teams are a great resource for clothing as they change their kits frequently and amass large amounts of clothing. The addtional advantage here is that racers tend to be smaller than folks in general bike orgs. This makes donations more likely to fit the kids. I was present when the Clif team got it's new kits and put my message out then. Great result. Be mindfull of the needs of your girls. Appeals to women's cycing orgs get a great response.
And finally, online bike forums. Some years ago, 2005 I think, my team exploded in size and I used a forum, with permisssion, to appeal locally and nationally. In the end my mechanic built 10 bikes, mostly 25 lb HT, 8&9 speed at 25-26 lbs.
This program need not be a one-time thing but a steady application of expressed need. Over time, as more parts came in, all the bikes became 9-speed w/-V brakes. Seats improved, flat pedals became spds, and bike shoes were put to work.Wheel sets were changed, stems were accumulated. Over the season more clothing would show up and the team would get excited when the box would come out.
Most of the stuff goes to the newer riders who have very little and the more established riders understand. Later, however, when some really nice goodies came in the the vets got some nice stuff, too. As the seasons pass this becomes a part of the team culture.
Part of accessing resources is making it easy to help out. That's gonna mean:
1) someone going over and picking up the stuff if it is local.
2) offering to pick-up shipping costs.
Another way to make this beneficial is to offer a tax credit. If you are hooked up with an umbrella organization through an umbrella non-profit organization at your school you can do this. For example:
1234 Acme Lane
South Peoria, IN
July 17, 2xxx
Dear Jeff XXXX,
The Team members, Coaches, and Staff of the El Cerrito High School Mountain Biking Club would like to thank you for your gracious in-kind contribution of $_____ during our Fall 2xxx Fund Raising Effort.
Your support means so much to success of this young and cutting edge venture. As you may know this contribution is tax deductible as we enjoy a not-for-profit, tax-exempt status.
For your records our Tax ID number is: 91-xxxxxxx
Again, our thanks,
Michael Mejia, Director, Friends of ECHSMTB
Donations came in tonight
Our Bicycle Trails Council of the East Bay General Meeting was tonight. 6 people brought 7 bags and two large boxes full of clothing to donate to the teams. Most of it was girls stuff, which is unusual but really welcome. I donated baggies which I never wore, a medium wind vest, 4 sets of grips, two sets of pedals, and a water bottle cage.
We happened to have a coach for a local team with us and he scored big.
Another way to focus donations is to ask local bike shops of sports shop to act as a drop-off point. One of our supporters recently got the local SportsBasement to do that for us. As stuff accumulates they make a phone call to have the stuff picked up.
And then there is the chain reaction. One of our donor groups has spread message of need around to one of their business associates; a large sporting goods store. These folks have come aboard to be a drop off point, in their sphere of influence, for donations.
I stopped by Wrench Science to put up a poster for our Bicycle Trails Council of the East Bay fundraiser. They are acollection point for NorCal. I told them I woudl make sure that the stuff got to the local teams. They gave me a huge barrel full of stuff.
Just get it started.....it is so doable.
Just found this forum and have started reading through it. This is great information! I'll make sure to forward on to other folks.
SportsBasement came on board to gather donations and they have a sh*tload. Wrench Science had a barrel full and and MTBR lady (Stripes) gave us 2 boxes of stuff. I sent this out to our 10 sponsored Teams:
Dear Team Leaders,
We have accumulated a fair amount of donated clothing and gear from numerous sources destined for use by our sponsored NorCal teams. We will be distributing these goodies at our next General meeting on Jan. 8 at 7PM at the World Renown Lafayette Roundtable Pizza. Be there to score, bring a box or bag, and tell us a bit about your vision for the team.
Berkeley Mike...This is wonderful information. I am in AZ and we are starting leagues this year. I may only be partially involved this year due to my son not attending High School until 2014, but am very interested in how it all works.
My boys are lucky in that I am an avid mtb'r and they both have decent bikes. I have been "offering" rides for the last year and my older boy is finally gaining interest. Thank goodness!
Anyway, I have been toying with the idea of starting a club team because the HS he will attend does not offer much in the way of sports. I am thinking he will have to ride independently or on a club team. I plan on being at least a ride leader, but will increase my involvement as needed.
Thank you for posting this information. I will be printing it out and using it as my "High School Mountain Biking for Dummies" guide.
Just keep in mind; while this may be new to some of you it has all been done before and there is no need to reinvent the wheel.