26/08/2016 - 11:42

Charity fatigue hits cyclists on fundraising road

26/08/2016 - 11:42

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WA hosted 20 major charity bike rides during the past year, collectively raising about $10 million, but the numbers are set to fall.

Charity fatigue hits cyclists on fundraising road
IN THE RUNNING: The Gibb Challenge, run by Perth firm Karunjie Event Management, is a finalist in the 2016 Australian Event Awards. Photos: Seung Yup Paik

WA hosted 20 major charity bike rides during the past year, collectively raising about $10 million, but the numbers are set to fall.

The Santos Great Bike Ride has been a fixture on the Perth cycling calendar since 2004, when it was initiated by the Rotary Club of Perth.

At its peak, it attracted 4,500 riders and raised in excess of $200,000 for charity.

But the event has been postponed this year after oil and gas producer Santos ended its sponsorship and the event manager, Seven West Media subsidiary TriEvents, was unable to find a replacement.

The Tour de Freedom is another major charity ride that will not be held this year.

Since 2009, about 40 cyclists have ridden 1,000km from Esperance to Perth, and over that time have raised in excess of $1.2 million for Teen Challenge.

Chief executive Malcolm Smith said the riders and the organisers were taking a year off, after reaching their goal of funding a new centre for the charity, and he was unsure if the event would resume.

The Tour de Gracetown, which has been held twice a year since 2005, is also facing changes.

From 2017, there will be just one Tour de Gracetown each year.

The organisers of all these events talk about charity fatigue and it’s an issue facing events of all types and all sizes.

Even the state’s most successful charity bike rides are being affected.

The MACA Ride to Conquer Cancer has grossed an amazing $15 million over just four years, making it by far the most successful fundraiser in this sector nationally.

The only other event to have raised that much is the Hawaiian Ride for Youth, and it took 16 years to do so.

The Ride to Conquer Cancer peaked in 2014, when 1,311 riders raised $5.2 million.

That slipped to $4.5 million last year, when about 1200 cyclists participated.

The number of cyclists has dropped to about 1,000 this year, suggesting the participants will be battling to match previous fundraising levels.

The challenge for all of these events is to find a competitive edge, and that often involves group training to build camaraderie and participation in school visits and other charity events.

The Gibb Challenge, a 5-day team event that goes from Derby to El Questro station, has made the most of its unique location.

The 450 participants in this year’s event raised a net $466,000 for charity.

Another novel location is Perth’s freeways.

The first time the freeway was closed for a charity ride was in 1999, when the Heart Foundation ran a Freeway Cycle Day between Judd St and Canning Hwy.

The ECU Freeway Bike Hike for Asthma has used the freeway since 2005, with mixed results.

The event ran into a series of logistical and planning challenges over the past two years and failed to reach its own targets.

Asthma Foundation WA chief executive David Johnson said the event would continue after signing a three-year agreement with the Department of Transport ensuring it would be the only charity with access to the freeway.

He is aiming for 5,000 participants in 2017 and gross proceeds of at least $400,000.

Several other events make a virtue of their small numbers.

The SolarisCare Red Sky Ride, the Ride for Sick Kids and the Tour de Cure all put a cap on the number of participants, at either 30 or 40 riders.

Many events have a minimum fundraising requirement, to ensure the participants are committed to the cause.

The most expensive is the Hawaiian Ride for Youth – participants must donate $1,500 to cover costs and raise at least a further $5,000 for Youth Focus.

One of the exceptions is ProState Active.

“Our model is different,” event organiser Jeremy Watkins told Business News.

“I believe in the power of people connecting to a cause.

“When you connect for the right reasons, you will do the right thing.”

ProState Active will have 127 riders next month, short of Mr Watkins goal of 200.

So far they have raised $145,000, and after adding corporate sponsorships and registration income, total proceeds are in excess of $200,000.

That’s on top of the $600,000 raised for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia since the event started in 2011.

The MACA Ride to Conquer Cancer, which raises funds for the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, makes no bones about its principal goal.

“The event is for fund raising, we make that centre stage,” Perkins chief operating officer John Fitzgerald said.

“It’s not a bike ride that does a bit of fundraising on the side.”

PEDAL POWER: The MACA Ride to Conquer Cancer raises more money than any other charity bike ride in Australia. Photo: Perkins Institute

Mr Fitzgerald hailed the support of contracting company MACA.

MACA is a really solid supporter, not just as a sponsor but they have the biggest team and raise the most money,” he said.

“You need champions, and they’ve been great champions for us.”

There is typically about 250 staff, clients and suppliers who ride each year in the Maca team.

Maca director Geoff Baker described the company’s involvement as a win-win.

“You build closer relationships, and add value to the wider community,” Mr Baker said.

He said the company supplied shirts to riders in the team, and also supplied bikes to some staff, while major customers like Westrac and Kohmatsu had also been very supportive.

Mr Fitzgerald said Woodside Petroleum had been another big supporter, and noted that corporate support was often initiated by employees.

“Its usually what their grassroots employees are doing, and then the company gets involved.

“They see this as something their people are passionate about.”

Perkins head of marketing Margaret Haydon said there was also a concerted effort to keep riders informed of the group’s research activities.

“We have worked very hard at keeping the people very close to us,” Ms Haydon said.

While the Ride to Conquer Cancer has worked very well in WA, that is not a guarantee of success.

The same event format was adopted by cancer research groups in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne in recent years, but they have all subsequently dropped the event.

One of the biggest events on the east coast is the Tour de Cure.

A total of 222 team members signed up this year for the 10th annual Tour de Cure signature tour, which ran from Brisbane to Sydney.

The ten-day event raised more than $2 million for cancer research and prevention projects.

Since 2007, Tour de Cure events across Australia have raised in excess of $23 million.

Tour de Cure entered the WA market in 2014 when it launched its four-day ride from Margaret River to Perth, with last year’s event raising a gross $208,000 for the Telethon Kids Institute.

It’s not the only new event in recent years.

In 2015, Youth Futures launched Pipeline Challenge, a 5-day mountain bike challenge from Kalgoorlie to Perth.

In May this year, two state politicians, Labor’s Tony Buti and the Liberal’s Tony Simpson, teamed up to establish Ride Against Domestic Violence.

While many riding events have been set up to support specific charities, Muscular Dystrophy Western Australia has taken a different approach by leveraging an existing event.

Its Ride for Someone Who Can’t fundraiser is part of the Dwellingup100 mountain bike event, which is managed by TriEvents.

Ride for Someone Who Can’t has been run since 2010 and last year 68 riders raised $107,397, making it Muscular Dystrophy’s biggest individual fundraising event.

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