MS Trust CEO David Martin reflects on his latest fundraising challenge: a 1,083-mile virtual cycle ride from Land's End to John o'Groats.
Lots of charities are struggling at the moment, with so many fundraising events being cancelled because of COVID19. And the MS Trust is no exception.
But there are some elements of fundraising that are exceeding expectations, possibly because of lockdown. And as I have just ridden some of that wave, I wanted to reflect on my journey and what I’ve learnt about how fundraising could look in the future.
Today (June 22) I have just completed a virtual bike ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats. I completed almost all of the 1083 miles on a second hand exercise bike in my back garden. That’s about 72 hours of (very monotonous) pedalling stretched across seven weeks, in everything from hail to (mega) heat. On reflection, it was just about different enough to capture a lot of people’s imaginations. Every time I went out in my village for my daily walk, I would always get asked about my virtual progress.
But hey, this isn’t just about my journey. It’s about the mental journey too. And I’ve got three big observations from my experiences that I want to share with you:
1) My virtual venture has reminded me that life is about flexibility. I love plans. I live by them. But if my daughter hadn’t spotted the exercise bike “free to a good home” outside a house in my village and on the same day I hadn’t spotted an advert on Facebook for virtual adventures (thanks Conqueror Events), this fundraising folly would never have happened.
2) If my supporters are anything to go by, people have been even more generous because of the lockdown than I have ever seen before. Two years ago, I cycled from London to Amsterdam and the fundraising was harder work than the cycling and it took months. This time around, the money just flew in off the back of a couple of social media posts – almost £2k came in in the first few days, and a lot more £50 donations than I had ever personally experienced before. And whatever your personal views of Facebook, my posts about my progress made a huge difference to my fundraising for the MS Trust. Thank you to each and every one of you.
3) Virtual fundraising is the future, not just until we reach “the new normal.” I have raised almost £4k (with Gift Aid) without spending a penny on travel or hotels, so a much higher proportion of the money I raised has gone to the MS Trust. I coughed up the £30 official “entrance fee” to Conqueror Events so I had a proper mission page for my mileage and to plot my progress along the way which gave the official sort of stamp to what I was doing. One or two mates even kept an eye on my progress on there too.
I could have done the ride much more quickly. But carrying out my challenge across seven weeks gave me something other than work to focus on during lockdown and helped keep me sane while also maximising my fundraising. And it did.
Ideally, I'd have cycled LEJOG in real life. (It's top of my bucket list). But at least I have something unusual to tell my grandkids when they ask what I did in the COVID19 lockdown.
So I’m more fulfilled and much fitter than I was two months ago. And I know that the money is going to a very good cause where every penny is so important, particularly at the moment.
One final thought though. Since I first started the ride in April, another 900 people will have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. That shows there’s even more for me and my colleagues to do at the MS Trust.
Want to take on your own virtual challenge? Visit www.justgiving.com/campaign/MSTrustAtHome2020 to set up a fundraising page for the MS Trust.
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