A Mongol Rally 2014 retrospective is a murky endeavour; tough to see exactly how it all came together because we had a destination goal, only a loose plan of how to get there, and a whole lot of ‘lets see how this goes’ attitudes.
Certainly one thing that became important from the moment we signed up was the fundraising. Initial thoughts ran the gamut from “this fundraising is going to be a pain in my ass” to “its gravely important to give back something to the environment after burning all this fossil fuel”.
A big moment for our fundraising happened almost 8 months before the rally, and had lasting impact on our lives. It started with Kenneth and Young researching interesting cultural traditions along this mysterious route through Central Asia, and discovering Turkish olive oil wrestling.
Watching the first confusing online video of wrestlers lathered in olive oil competing for a golden belt steeped in the upmost serious tradition going back 700 years prompted the evolution of an idea that went something like this:
Kenneth: “We really need to see this!”
Young: “We should do this aka (You and Kenneth need to do this), wouldn’t that be hilarious?”
Graham: “Wouldn’t it be cool if people pledged money to our charity if we took part in this?”
Young: “Hahaha nothing is more sexy than two dudes doused in olive oil and wrestle LOL! You guys got to do that greasy crotch grabbing move!”
Graham: “We could do these challenges the whole way to Mongolia!”
Kenneth: “Yes! just like those TV shows ‘An Idiot Abroad’ and ‘The Amazing Race’!”
So for the Mongol Rally 2014, Kenneth, Young and I (Graham) decided to try a different approach to fundraising. We came up with the idea to do challenges along our route in order to raise money for our charity Cool Earth. We wanted something that would make the fundraising merge with our adventure, have something that would instantly give something back to the people that supported our charity, and in addition make the process just plain enjoyable. We started building a fundraising site for our goal, and extended it to a platform for anyone raising money for any cause. Hence the birth of FUNraiser.us!
We chose a wide range of challenges; some were actually hard to do like conquering a fear of heights by climbing a mountain, some were funny like singing a rendition of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” in Cappadocia, and others were a little more sentimental like “Deliver Diabetic Advice and Gifts to TYPE-1 Diabetic Children” in Tajikistan.
Coming up with challenges took a bit of brainstorming. We looked for things that would push us to discover more of the cultures we were whizzing through. We looked for things that would be embarrassing or outrageous because we like laughing at each other, but that’s just who we are. We looked for things that would send a laugh or a smile back to the people that pledged us money, because at the end of the day giving something back to the donors was a huge part of what we were looking for.
But before we even started out to complete the first challenge, we wanted to raise awareness and money in a way that wouldn’t suck for our donors, and that is where the challenge of fundraising can really set in, at least it did for me. Growing up where asking the neighbours for money for a fundraiser was considered bothering them, raising money always had bad connotations. This all changed on the rally.
Asking for support is now a way to stay in touch with friends and family, even a chance to reconnect with people you don’t talk to that much. Looking at raising money this way helped inspire us to send photos and videos back to our supporters for the challenges we completed along the way; flipping the notion from “begging for funds” to “helping somebody laugh”.
We used all the traditional and modern methods to raise our profile pre-rally: in person, social media, etc. And it’s pleasantly surprising to see where the unexpected donations spring up.
From our fundraising experience, we learned that:
- Pick interesting challenges that people will talk about and help you spread the word. Be creative and keep it real. If a challenge seems interesting to you, odds are others will find it interesting/funny/inspiring. Embrace your inner weirdness.
- Make sure you put up loads of pictures in your campaign. People’s attention spans are very short these days. If you can make a video explaining your cause that’s even better!
- Use all social media platforms to reach different demographics of donors. e.g. You use Instagram a lot but not Facebook. If all your relatives and colleagues are on Facebook you risk loosing out on potential donations because you are not using that channel.
- Constantly remind and update your friends, family and colleagues about your cause and the challenges you are going to tackle.
- Remember you are the inspiration here, and you are doing it for a good cause! You want people to really feel your excitement, passion, and dedication.
- Make sure once your finish a challenge send an update to your donors. We learned that we got more donations after people viewed our updates, especially the videos.
- Having a successful fundraising might seem easy, but actually takes a lot of hard work. Be persistent and inspirational. Be humble and sincere.
All these fundraising challenges made our Mongol Rally trip even more meaningful and epic! Tackling these challenges gave us a very strong focus, provided us with stamina and broadened our horizons tremendously. The best Mongol Rally experiences for us were all the fantastic interactions and cultural exchange with the locals.
Even while taking a “vacation”, someone can give just a little something back. In the future everything we do may have a charitable component from every trip to every purchase we make. The fact that the Mongol Rally is taking part in this fundamental shift in philanthropy makes blowing out your suspension on the deserted Mongolian steppe that much easier to do.