Fundraising and other advocacy problems, lets brainstorm together.
Hello trail building and advocacy forum. Name is Peanut and I volunteer as the Chicago Area Mountain Bikers Grant Acquisition Director (among other things). I figured that since there were so many people who utilized MTBr we could discuss things like fundraising and advocacy together and see how people deal with problems in their own areas. Every region and club has their own set of wants/needs and with them come their own problems.
For most clubs there is always the problem of fund-raising. There are a few select clubs out there that are lucky enough to have a solid fund-raising program that provides for them year in and year out. Others have to scratch and claw to be able to maintain their trails, let alone find ways to promote themselves. Who wants to talk about how they tackle this problem in their own area? If its a race or event, how do you procure sponsors, food, vendors, etc. How did you make it successful? If you do a raffle or some other kind of fund-raising event, how did you get companies or businesses involved?
If you have an advocacy problem what is it? Having trouble with a local government or a neighbor to a property you are building trail on? Insurance questions?
These questions can be broad or specific. Or if you just have general advice on any or all of the topics i mentioned (or a topic i may have missed) feel free to chime in. Lets use the experience that we all have built to improve our trails and our organizations.
I'll throw in $0.02 regarding fund raising. We're bad at it. Grants are few and far between ITTET, and we're BAD at applying for them. We keep going back to the LBS for money, but they can't afford more than some food/prizes for events. We've had much better luck with random corporate donations, but never enough to build more than enough to do maintenance, as opposed to building new trail in decently sized chunks.
It doesn't help that there are 3 (technically 4) separate trail orgs working in the same area. We compete for resources - cash and volunteers. Worse still, most trail users don't know that any of the orgs exist...
Well obviously long term i think if there was a way to consolidate resources with the other trail organizations but trust me i understand how hard that would be.
As far as the fund-raising goes one thing you might try is going outside of the normal box and looking at businesses that you wouldn't normally approach. A common misconception is just because they don't have any relation to what you do, this means they have no interest. Thats not always the case.
Now the grant part. Each state/region/country has their own grant system in addition to the typical IMBA associated grants you see every year. So a little research can be ur best friend there. If you need some help on grants, there are hundreds of free resources all over the web to help teach the right approach.
Here is one place you can start: List of Free Grant Writing Courses and Training Programs
And if you are looking for organizations that might be worth approaching or more info on non-profit grant work you can try here:
Foundation Center - Welcome Nonprofit Grantseekers
And lastly, to help with the problem of letting trail users know you exist. I suggest trail gating. Pick a day that you know the trails are going to see heavy use and setup shop at the trail head with a booth and info about your organization. Hand out maps, take donations or sign up members. The point is to spread the word, does take time but i've found its the easiest way to get the users you want!
Hope that helps, who else has some input?
This is not really a solution, but maybe it helps to think of the problem like this: most mountain bikers are happy to spend thousands of dollars on their bikes every year (some spend tens of thousands). Some of those same people get enraged if they have to pay $5 to park or for a $4 day pass for a trail system.
This makes zero sense to me but it is what it is: mountain bikers do not value the trails they ride because they have always been free.
How to change this mindset? I'm not sure.
-Maybe get shops to add a few bucks to the price of a bike and provide the customer with a membership in their local trail group and/or IMBA? This is something you could perhaps get manufacturers to push from the top down (and provide some kind of incentive program for the shops) as well.
-Involve more people in trail work days? One great way to do this is to provide some race series bonus points for volunteer hours, if you've got a local series willing to help.
-Partner with other organizations that do similar fundraising (ie hiking or equestrian groups?) Connect more with youth mountain bike groups and parents? A lot of other user groups see mountain bikers as rivals and/or enemies - working together would be better in most cases.
-Creative use of signage/features/benches along trails to credit those who have contributed/sponsored the work?
-More social events/parties/group rides that can ease people into the club social scene and then hopefully get them personally/financially involved?
That's all I got. Great idea for a thread.
We have had some success (twice within the last 18 months) in selling naming rights to trails. We had to negotiate the right with the municipality. Names are subject to the approval of the municipality, which has a limited right to reject reputation or the business of the sponsor. The same trail development agreement allows us to install donor recognition plaques and other donor recognition signage, although none have been installed yet
My company often works with volunteer groups to get funding for projects. One of the places we tell them to look is foundations. There are thousands of foundations in the US that want to give money to causes that they support. Often times it takes a while to break into the foundations field of vision, but they will often support causes for health, kids, and overall wellness. There are plenty of foundations associated with big business like the Dell's or Gates foundations.
One of the most successful things we've found clubs to do is have someone who makes it their hobby to find money. That individual doesn't need to build trail. They are enabling the trail building. If you have someone who gets a passion about finding the club money, it can be more powerful than if they organized every trail work party.
If some of your volunteers work for larger companies have them see if their companies have a volunteer "match" program. Boeing does and we can direct funds to the non-profit groups we support. The dollars add up!
Originally Posted by Walt
You need to paste your blog rant in every forum on MTBR. :thumbsups: I shared it with our group on Facebook.
I'll come back in a couple days and share what we at CCCMB have done over the last 28 years to get a stong hold on the local area. Meanwhile there are links in my sig.
+1 Well said Walt!!
Originally Posted by Walt
frank at jorba.org
This is why i started this thread!!! Share on folks! If you have problems or anything ASK THEM. It might open you up to a new POV.
Some of the grand we had over the last few years
Originally Posted by pinkrobe
- Prov. Natural Resssources Ministry - Forest Accessibility Grant (Volet II) (up to 50K)
- Rural Pact - to help develop rural areas (up to 30K)
- Prov+Fed. Tourism Ministry - 1/2M$ to develop an international mtb destination
- bunch of foundations, usually below 10-12K, sometimes up to 100K
- Local tourism office - up to 200K
- Fed. Insfrastructure Accessbility Fund (FAIC) - 80K
- Events charges a trail maintenance fee - we can tap into that
- MEC has a few good programs. We had good success with the smaller grants, for signage as example. Below 5-8K is very easy to get in our case.
Don't even bother asking bike mfg. They don't have much money. If you need a fair amount, I'd look into the car industry (they need to associate their name), the food industry (how much profit do you think Pepsi makes on each can?), etc.
You may also consider hiring a local trailbuilding company (as dmonbike mentionned) to help you in the process. We usually know which grants are available locally based on the type/scope of the project.
Finally, I know someone that is specialized in helping non-profit write grant request. He charges a nominal fees to write and a small % of the grant if you get it, which is usually the case. You might want to delegate this job if your club doesn't have the resources to do it properly. Nothing worse than burning your name by sending too many refused grant request.
One hint to finish : One of the key is matching grants.
A trailbuilder from the north
Note that these solutions suggest ides like: get people, involve, hire, find someone, partner…
The methods are not new or even hard to find but they require people to commit.
This is a fair point. The easiest thing on the fund-raising side is finding someone willing to commit to that being their job with the club. It is much easier for one person to focus on these sort of things rather than have that be a part of someone elses job that they already do. Plus it helps to keep the same person dealing with sponsors year after year so you develop that relationship.
Engaging volunteers is always a tough task. A couple of potential labor sources are Scout projects and people needing community service hours, i.e. "hoods in the woods".
Local foundations abound and are easy to get grants from. My experience is being a grant writer is not a difficult task. Most applications we've filled out are simple fill-in-the-blank documents. Having partners is key - snowmobile or running club, local municipality or land manager - and get them to be a co-applicant.
One fundraiser that we tapped into recently was done by a local Flatbread pizza place. They do fundraisers every Tuesday for local non-profits. We scheduled during their busy summer season and also do a silent auction. Silent auctions are a killer way to raise cash and get other community members involved. People donate artwork, photographs, merchandise, massages, carpentry services, on & on. We're lousy at PR but this is a good one.
Social events like movie nights or fundraisers for local racers going to the big time are a fun way to build community. This is one area we need to improve.
Walt, your words are spot on and I intend to re-use them. Good thread
What I've seen is that most people don't know anything about how the trails they ride came to be. When I first started riding I didn't know anything but it seemed the natural thing to do was find out. My attitude was if I wanted more trails they were not going to appear out of thin air. This lead me to volunteering, since I like to build things this was no problem for me. I also became a trail ambassador for the county parks to cover the political end of things.
Breaking thru peoples "bubble" is hard and I'm not really sure what the best way is. I've also seen this with other political things I've been involved with. (Transit Riders Union, if you depend on the bus wouldn't you want to know how it's funded and help prevent service cuts?)
Yes you CAN make a difference.
And yes it's funny what we'll spend money on, fancy bikes but claim you don't have any left over to see to it that there's a place to ride.
There's a big difference between ripping and skidding. Those who skid don't know how to ride.
Over the last few years I have gotten a lot more involved in the trail system I ride in, and the Markham Park Trailbuilders Fund, raises about $40K a year by holding several fundraising "races" a year. With different names for each race and various categories for everyone including kids we offer a wide variety for all levels of riders. Getting young riders involved is crucial too as they are the future. We also get food trucks and show MTB films on a big screen. The last race we had, the local firefighters came out and cooked amazing food and BBQ!
Other clubs who want to hold races in our trails are welcome, but have to pay us a fee for the repairs needed and that adds up as well…We just had one of the Florida State Championship races here.
We are a non for profit club, which makes tax deductible donations from bike shops possible. Before a race we approach all the bike shops in town and have different levels of sponsorship for these shops depending on how much they donate.
We have received a 40ft shipping container last year and are getting another one in 2014, all for free just because one of the riders connected in the business pulled a few strings and found out we needed more storage. We got the storage, while they got the tax break….
Facebook, love it or hate it, is another big factor in generating both enthusiasm and revenue for your trails. I.E we had a chainsaw stolen while working on the trails and after all the venting was over, we ended up with enough $$ to buy two of them….
Another very important part of the success we have, is that the Park manager is a rider and allows us the use of county equipment such as the dump truck and dozer, while also donating fill and much needed fuel for our bigger equipment.
The more quality people you can get involved the better chance you have in getting enough funds to do the right thing. Often enough however there are too many chiefs and not enough indians to get things done and an empty promise is just that. We have weeded through a lot of chaff as well, but now the core group is awesome and we are on track for even better and bigger things.
Current ride(s) 2011 Santa Cruz Blur LT
Biuld it and they will come?!
I was reading a thread on the need to develop a trails system in a particular area. There were a few guys ready to ride who said, simply, " build it and thy will come."
I thought to myself, why you lazy piece of cr*p! Of course I would never say that to anyone out loud but that was my gut response.
Things our club (Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz) does:
We get a significant amount of support from donations and sponsorship from local bike industry (they ride our trails so we will probably do better at this than most). Locally we have Santa Cruz Bikes, Ibis, Fox Racing, Easton/Bell/Giro, X-Fusion. Specialized and Kali are 40 minutes away in Morgan Hill. Many other smaller custom/small manufacturers as well. We probably have 12 major bike shops w/ population of ~250,000 in the county.
Local bike shops don't really give us much except for some product here and there. Some have sponsored food and drink for trailwork days. The most valuable things the shops have for an advocacy group is access to their customers. Something we still need to work on is getting the bike shops to do a better job of connecting us with the customers and getting our name and message out there in the general riding community (most people who ride here still know very little about our group). The club in Santa Barbara has hangtags for all the bikes in the shops and rewards shops for signing up new members. I hope we emulate that here sometime in the next year.
We put on 2 big events each year.
Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival | April 13th and 14th, 2013 in Aptos, California. - Putting on this event is a huge undertaking. Last year we made a good profit but previous years we barely broke even but still a fun event and good for promoting the area and the club. Fortunately we have people in our club who are into making this happen. Some have zero interest in trailwork so things like this are a way for the non-trailwork oriented folks who still want to contribute.
Santa Cruz Super Enduro Santa Cruz Super Enduro - Bike race at our local state forest. Again a pretty big undertaking and great event but not a huge money maker.
We have done two bike raffles to support trail projects.
The first was a carbon nomad donated by Santa Cruz in 2010 - Made about $12,000, mostly by selling tickets at sea otter.
This spring we raffled off an Ibis Ripley for our newest trail project Flow Trail at Demo | Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz (MBoSC). We did a better job promoting the raffle and Ibis marketed it as well and we made almost $44,000. I think a majority of the donations came from the area.
Membership - grown from <200 to over 700 in last few years. Building new trails gets people excited and we added a board position that focuses on membership and development which helps a lot as well. We are the best place to ride near the silicon valley and we receive some pretty generous individual donations and corporate matches. Having 5.5 million people within an hour and a half drive helps as well. Many of our members and donors do not live here but ride here.
Grants - We have applied for a few grants but have not received any substantial funding from grant sources at this time. Again something we hope to improve on.
Last edited by drew p; 12-23-2013 at 01:16 PM.
You do have membership fees? Yes? Different levels as well as corporate/ member/ and bike shop rates? Corporate sponsors ? Start there.
Originally Posted by Sir Peanuts
Current ride(s) 2011 Santa Cruz Blur LT
Any tips/ideas on member ship recruitment? My local club has been around for decades, so people are familiar with the name, but after a few years of stagnant activity those people aren't exactly stoked to be signing up and joining. That will hopefully be turning around with the newly elected board and rejuvenated life within the organization
Get involved and recruit organizations outside of Mtn bikers/cyclist etc.we reached out to other user groups like trail runners,hikers,orienteerers, conservancy members.we are now at approx 150 members in less then two years as a Chapter! and with every event we sponsor we add more to our growth.
Please feel free to use or cite to this for grantwriting purposes
Economic Impacts of Mountain Biking Tourism by leelau - Pinkbike
some of you folks might want to talk to different trade associations. I sat on a furniture trade association board of directors for 9 years. Most of the problems you folks are running into, we ran into in our trade association. What I have seen is that, the board of directors must delegate and hold folks responsible. This was on a volunteer board, and we had different directors manage different activities.
On fundraising, if you pay a commission to the person doing the collecting, you will probably be surprised at how much more funds you bring in.
Also, look outside the box for donations. I own a furniture store. My belief is mountain bikers as a whole have money. actually lots of money. find the retailers who want the names in front of people with money, and ask them to donate. But one thing I have came across is, all this takes time and motivation and long term views.
In my experience these other user groups are unlikely to join in any quantity. We continually have nothing but MTB riders showing up for trail work. Skiers will get involved around the time they need to prep for grooming. Hikers/runners seem impossible to recruit and oblivious to trail access and upkeep issues.
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