What I Know About Fundraising

02.5.2013 | 3:18 pm

I didn’t expect to become a guy who’s known for raising money for good causes. I just wanted to write stupid jokes about bikes and have a place where I could publicly shame myself into losing some weight whenever my appetite got out of control.

A while back, though, that changed. Now I’m known more for the good I’ve done in the world than I am for my ad teardowns, my startlingly prescient advice to Lance Armstrong for his screenplay, or my epic shaggy dog masterpiece: Fatty’s Inferno.


Since this has happened, I’ve started getting frequent email requests from people who want advice on how to fundraise for their own cause. In fact, the only more common email message is from people who would like me to do their fundraising for them. 

The short answer is, of course, that there’s no real secret to it. What you see me doing on my blog is what I do. All you have to do in order to have the success I’ve had in fundraising is slowly and consistently build a relationship with a growing readership for five years or so, then live a transparent life through a major tragedy, and then spend a big chunk of your life catalyzing your anger into a meaningful legacy.

In other words, it’s not something that you just do during your month-long fundraiser by following some easy steps. It’s something that happened to me, mostly by accident, and now I try to take this power and keep using it for good.

That said, there are some lessons I’ve learned along the way that are probably worth mentioning.

Email Sucks
The laziest form of communication in the whole world is email. It’s radically impersonal. When I get an email solicitation for a donation, I am absolutely perfectly comfortable with ignoring it, because I know exactly how little time went into getting that message to me.

Don’t send an email. Call. Text. Do something outrageous and go see people in person

Or, if you’ve got to use email, add something personal up top to each email address, so it doesn’t seem like a form letter. 

Oh, by the way, the only thing worse than email for asking people to donate is Twitter. When I get a solicitation via Twitter, the first thing I do is check to see what the person’s recent tweets look like. If it’s the same tweet over and over and over, I ignore it, because they weren’t thinking of me.

You may be wondering, “How can a guy who impersonally reaches out using his blog be so grouchy about getting an email? Which is less personal?”

The difference is push vs pull. Push solicitations — anything that comes to you personally (via email or twitter or text or phone call or doorbell) need to be personal. Pull solicitations — when you come to my blog or watch TV or listen to the radio — can’t be, just by their nature, and nobody expects them to be. 

So: if you want your fundraising message to work, think about the kind of communication you’re sending, and how personal what the recipient is going to expect the message to be. And work your hardest to make your message a little more personal than they expect.

Oh, and don’t ask other people who have a fundraising track record  (e.g., me) to do your fundraising for you. I can personally promise I am doing as much as I can already, and almost certainly don’t believe in your cause as much as you do.

Don’t Apologize
When you ask someone to give you money for your cause, don’t start with:

  • “I usually don’t do this kind of thing, but…”
  • “I hate it when people send this kind of email, but…”
  • “I’m sorry, but…”
In fact, don’t apologize anywhere or anytime for what you’re doing, which is trying to make the world a better place. It’s not something you should show any hesitancy or regret over, even if you feel awkward.

Push People Off The Fence
I firmly believe that people want to do good. And people do good things all the time. Most people are, I believe, very nearly altruistic.

I also believe that people are more likely to do good when a smidgen of self-interest is thrown in.

And also, when there is a game involved. Or something funny. Or entertaining.

Something where, in short, their donating money isn’t merely a donation for a good cause, but a doorway to some kind of entertainment. Because sure they might donate anyway, but if you push them off the fence so that their money also gets them entrance into something fun or exciting or silly or odd, then that’s heaping incentive on top of altruism.

Which is maybe an oxymoron, but it works anyway.

Now, some of you might be thinking, “That’s easy for you to say, because you’re able to call companies and ask them for bikes and trips and stuff.”

Which is true. Now.

But it hasn’t always been true.


Way back when this blog was young and I worked for Microsoft and was joining the company team for a ride for MS, I didn’t have any kind of fundraising resume I could pull out and use to get companies to donate awesome swag as an incentive.

But I did have my limbs.

Specifically I put my legs and arms up for “rent” as billboards to anyone who was willing to donate a certain amount. I hit — and blew right by — my fundraising goal.

Or a year ago or so, I wanted to have a contest center around a trip to come to Utah and go riding on my favorite trails. I don’t have an airline sponsor, but I did have some available frequent flyer miles. 

My point is, you’ve got resources. Think about what they are. Then use them to show your commitment to what you’re doing.

Your commitment will be contagious.

Don’t Ask People To Donate In Honor of Your Vacation
It’s possible — OK, probable — that this one’s just a pet peeve, but I’m going to throw it out there anyway.

I hate it when people ask me to donate money  because they’re going to be going to Italy and riding the Dolomites for awareness of their special cause. Or riding across America. Or wherever. I just see those kinds of things and think, “Why would I give someone money to go on a massive cycling vacation in the name of some charity or other? Why shouldn’t I save my money and spend it on my own cycling vacation?”

Since I’ve never come up with a satisfactory answer to that question, I’m pretty sure I’ve never donated when someone contacts me, asking for money for their monthlong cycling trip.

Don’t Point People Toward Empty Fundraising Pages
When you launch a fundraiser, the chances are your call to action will be to go to a fundraising page and donate. That’s fine. 

I don’t know how many times I’ve been to fundraising pages, however — they had me! — to find out that the amount that person had raised, so far was . . . $0.00.

Which means that the person was asking me to donate to a cause he didn’t believe in enough to donate his own money toward.

So, before you ask a single person to help you fundraise, make the first donation yourself. And make it an amount close to the top end of what you’d like to see other people donate. People tend to follow the leader, and people like to see personal commitment.

Avoid Any Possible Impropriety
Don’t have people give money to you. Have them donate directly to the cause you’re raising for. It protects you from tax hassles, and it removes any question of whether you’re in this for the money.

Go For Scale
I don’t know or care whether you like Barack Obama. You’ve got to respect his 2008 campaign for presidency for the fundraising engine it was, and for the way the campaign targeted normal people, asking for $20.

That works for more than just raising money for politicking.

Think about the large organizations you belong to — maybe are even a leader or known figure in. (And if you aren’t part of something, get involved, because donating your time counts for more than donating your money.) And ask those people to help you. Just $20. Or $10. Whatever feels to you like your people couldn’t reasonably say no to.

Consider: $20 x 100 = $2,000. 

Yep, really.

Own It

The most important lesson I have for people who are doing fundraising is that you’ve really got to care enough to seriously wring yourself out over it. It’s got to possess you.

Why? Because you have to care about it enough to talk about it instead of talking about something else. You’ve got to care about it enough to ask people for money, and ask unashamedly (people can tell when you’re asking embarrassedly). You’ve got to care about it so much that it pushes your doubts aside and you can no longer even imagine someone not wanting to contribute.

Once you’ve got that mindset, really it’s just a matter of how much you’ll succeed, because when you want to do good that bad, it will infect people and — to some degree or another — you’ll succeed.

You will.


Come Do A Big Ol’ Ride With Me

02.4.2013 | 12:55 pm

NewImageI want to make a couple of things perfectly clear before getting into this post. Full disclosure kinds of things. 

  1. Rockwell Relay isn’t paying me anything to promote their Moab to Saint George race.
  2. They are, however, giving my team free entry into their race, as well as FatCyclist / Rockwell limited-edition jerseys for every member in my team.

(There, I think we all feel better now, what with the total transparency and everything.)

As far as bribery and the selling of one’s blogging soul goes, that’s not much. Indeed, it’s not enough for me to go on and spend a whole blog post trying to sell you on coming out to Utah and doing the Rockwell Relay: Moab to Saint George.

So the question is, why am I doing this?

Well, I’ve got a few reasons. Partially because I admire what local promoters do. Putting on a race of this enormous scope is an even more enormous task; these guys deserve our support.

Partially it’s because I like the design of the free jersey they’re giving to team captains who sign up for the relay via this site (and other members of the team can get it too for $50, which is the cost of the jersey for the Rockwell guys). It’s got a cool split-personality thing I personally identify with quite nicely.

Check it out:


But the real reason — the really-for-real real reason I’m going to try to sell you on getting a group of friends together and doing this race is a lot more simple:

I just really like it.

And I think you would too.

So here’s my pitch.

Reason 1: I’ll Grill Brats For You The Night Before

Last year, just for fun, I proposed to the Rockwell guys that I should grill bratwurst for everyone at a night-before-the-race picnic. Here I am, cooking and eating at the same time, which is probably a violation of some FDA code or another:


And here’s my work, which I frankly (ha!) think is too beautiful for words:

IMG 5185

I loved doing this, because it gave me an opportunity to hang out and talk with pretty much every racer doing the event, and also because it gave me an opportunity to show off my bratwurst superpower.

The fact is, if you read this blog and are not a vegetarian (or vegan or whatever), you know that you would like to find out whether my brats are all they’re cooked (ha!) up to be (they are). 

This is a perfect opportunity.

Reason 2: The Race Course Is Beautiful

The real star of the Rockwell Relay: Moab to St. George is the route. It’s awe-inspiringly beautiful. You will see gorgeous desert, red rock vistas, and alpine mountains.


And since you’re only riding 1/4 of the course, you’ll have plenty of time to take in that beauty. 

Bring a camera. You’re going to take a lot of pictures.

Reason 3: The Format Is Fantastic

Anytime I’ve ever raced, I’ve wondered what it’s like to be a spectator in that race, and whether they’re having more fun than the racers.

Likewise, anytime I’ve watched a race, I’ve wondered what it’s like to be a racer on the course.

With the Rockwell Relay, you get to do both. Plus you get to be a crew chief. And once in a while, you get to just sit back and be a passenger. 

You will never feel as much a part of a race — getting to experience it from every point of view — as doing a relay like this.

Reason 4: You’ll Make Friends (And Maybe More?)

When you start this race, you’ll be all bunched up with the other teams. That doesn’t last long. Within a few legs of the race, your team will have settled into a groove close to a few other teams, and you’ll start to get to know each other as your support vehicles leapfrog each other and support each other’s racers.

After working together over a hard, hot, windy stage, The Hammer had gone from stranger to best friends forever with Ryan, a racer on another team:


Oh, here’s another example. Here’s my nice and me, right before the race last year:

IMG 5186

She met a nice guy during this race last year.

Now they’re engaged.

Reason 5: It Just Feels Epic

Go back and read my 2011 and 2012 race reports for the Rockwell Relay. Note that they’re big ol’ long multi-parters. You know why?

Because there’s a lot of story to tell. 

And it’s not like my team’s experience was any more dramatic or special than any other teams’. Every team comes away from a big event like this with incredible stories and amazing memories. It’s a race and a road trip, rolled up together. 

Reason 6: It’s Only As Competitive As You Want It To Be

I’ve mentioned before that when I’m not racing, I’m a pretty easy-going guy. When I am racing, however, I am not your friend. At all. I become this weirdly angry, focused, hyper-competitive animal who would like nothing so much as to tear your legs off.

Thankfully, not everyone is like me.

So — new for this year — The Rockwell Relay: Moab to St. George has a “non-competitive” division, where, if you like — your team can skip a leg or switch riders in the middle of a leg or otherwise do whatever you need to do in order to get a lot of riding in without hating what you’re doing.

Which means that folks who just want to cruise it can just cruise it and make game-time adjustments to race order and so forth, without worrying about people like me flipping out over what they’re doing is fair.

How’d I Do?

Okay, that’s my pitch. Let me know if you’re going to sign up. And if you do, be sure to sign up at the special Friends of Fatty sign up page, by clicking here. And make sure you do it by the end of February, cuz that’s when the special free FatCyclist / Rockwell jersey promotion ends.

See you there. I hope.

Free Verse Friday: Races! And Science!

02.1.2013 | 11:54 am

A Note From Fatty: Today, I have two poems for you. Why? Because my heart if full of poetry, that’s why.

Poem 1: The Rockwell Relay
I have spoken
Of a race I love dearly
It is the Rockwell Relay
Moab to St. George
And it hath a special place
In my heart.

Here is my race report for 2011!
And here is my report for 2012

This year
For the third time running
I shall race it again
With the same team as before 

But this time
I would like to urge you
To race it as well

For one thing
It’s a beautiful course
For another thing
It’s a fun format
And for yet another thing
I shall once again
Be cooking bratwurst
For all and sundry
The night before the race 

And for the fourth thing
Which is to say
The thing I want to point out
If you sign up this month
Verily the month of February
At this special Friends of Fatty sign-up page 
The Team Captain will get
A limited edition FatCyclist / Rockwell Relay jersey
like this one:


And furthermore
Others on your team
Can get these jerseys for $50
Which is a good deal 
And will make you matchy-matchy
In a very awesome way.

So maybe this should be the year
You do this wacky
Beautiful race. 

Sign up here

Poem 2: Science!
Shall art and science
Ever find common ground?
Shall they ever sit
At a social gathering
And converse
Not as rivals
But as friends?

They shall do so
And not in distant future
In fact, right now
In this poem

For my twins have finished
Their science fair project
Wherein they compared
The similarity of identical 
And fraternal twins

IMG 6020 

And in this project
The twins discovered
That identical twins
Are more alike
Than fraternal twins
By a large margin 
And that this similarity
Doesn’t go away
Even as  twins age

IMG 6023 

IMG 6026

Which is all well and good
But my favorite part was
How excited my girls were
To get an honorable mention
In the science fair:

IMG 6027 

So I say to all of you
Who participated in my twins’ project
Thank you
You had a part
In helping two little girls
Have a really good day.

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