Recently, we've gotten a handful of emails asking questions about how Leave It On The Road began. How do we plan rides? How do we fundraise and work with sponsors? It's sparked a lot of good conversation that we thought may inspire other groups and teams to join the fight against cancer. Here are some candid answers to our most often received questions:
LIOTR began as a fundraising-first cancer fighting cross-country ride.
Since day 1 we've always done things a little differently. We want to end cancer. We want to inspire and excite people to join the mission to end cancer, even if it isn’t our specific approach. We also really love riding bikes with excellent people to breathtaking places.
To do this right it’s important that the relationship across our mission, efforts and content connects with our donors, fans sponsors, and contributors. So, as content that can help others fight cancer and learn from what we do, here are all our candid answers to the questions we receive most often!
1. Planning & Logistics
How do you do route planning? What are your secrets?
We use a combination of Google and satellite view, Strava heat maps, and good old spreadsheets. There are no real secrets here other than a lot of detail work.
First we make a rough route via Google Maps to asses mileage and proximity to towns with Hotels. Then, we move to a first pass at getting it into Strava—looking for the roads we want to hit and total mileage. Finally, we'll break the complete route up into days based on where we can find hotels. This can be tricky, especially in remote areas where it's hard to find a hotel. Finally, we keep track of all of this in a spreadsheet like this:
How do you get home at the end of your rides? Do you rent a van, fly with your bikes, etc?
We've done a whole host of different things. For Ireland, we purposely made it a complete loop so we could leave our bike boxes at the same hotel we started at and fly home with them. Pro-tip, give yourself at least a full day in advance when flying with a bike – you never know when an airline may misplace a bike and you’ll have to scramble to find a replacement.
When we've done point-to-point rides, we've hauled bikes home in a support car from the trip, with some of the riders flying home and some driving in the car. The easiest way is to ship a bike box / case (with BikeFlights.com) to your last stop on the route so you have your case waiting for you.. Toting around a rental van full of bike boxes is not ideal. Often, we rent a car point-to-point so that no one has to drive back.
How you all have managed fundraising? Are your sponsors big contributors or does most of the fundraising coming from merchandise sales?
Most of our fundraising comes from the products we sell. A close second is when LIOTR riders’ employers match/double our own contributions. The company one of our riders works for has an incredible program that matches what we raise up to $15,000, so that really helps us increase what we can give to our chosen charity.
We put a strong emphasis on our visual content and storytelling. We’ve found that this is the best way to connect with our individual donors and social media fans. It also provides tremendous value to any corporations and brands who support LIOTR.
Cycling brands are usually happy to support you with gear if you can prove that you can help them generate content for their marketing. Monetary donations are a little more difficult here to organize, but they’re possible.
Specialized has stepped up in a big way to support us this year and we’re super thankful for that. In past years, Speedvagen did a custom paint job for us and donated an amount for every bike sold with the paint. Wahoo Fitness partnered with us in 2016 to donate a percentage of proceeds from sales of their ELEMNT computer, which was also very successful.
Do you have any other creative tactics for raising additional funds either through sponsors, pledges, anything creative, etc.?
Events such as Photo Shows and Group Rides with a fundraising raffle tend to work well. We select a space, arrange for coffee or beer, and food as donation, then promote an event for people to come see our photos, hear the story of our rides, and most recently, view our latest film. We ask our sponsors to donate products for a raffle at the event. We sell raffle tickets and raise money that way. We've found it takes a lot of personal time and energy to organize events like this, but it's worth it since we attract a good amount of donations through it.
How do you involve sponsors for cycling equipment, nutrition, etc? You guys have a great list of partners. How'd you go about connecting with them, and how do you work together?
For us, this is all about the photography. We deliver photo packages for our partners in return for their sending us kit / gear.
Creating good photography that brands can utilize in their own communications saves them significant budget in comparison to putting their own shoot together. We guarantee certain brand sponsors a set of photos from the trip, along with the license / rights for marketing purposes. Essentially we use our expertise as content creators in order to deliver tangible marketing benefit to brands – which at times further elevates our social media presence – which in turn grows our ability to fundraise through the sale of merchandise and contributions.
We make a point of shooting content that they can use for their social media or blog and sometimes commit to a specific shot list that we deliver after the ride that doesn't even get posted to social. This is great because it gets us fresh gear for a demanding ride, but doesn’t always come with a monetary donation.
Our advice is to invest in a nice camera (the Ricoh GR is our long-time favorite) or find a friend who is a photographer that is willing to volunteer their time for the cause to photograph your ride and donate their photos to the sponsor brand. We often try to bring a dedicated photographer along for this and it goes a long way. If you can secure a photographer friend with a lot of followers on social, then bonus! That will help you grow your following too.
It took you guys some time to get to the point where you could get the sponsorships of such big companies so how did you get started?
We believe the success of our start was influenced by two factors:
In 2013, Michael’s epic ride across the country was carried by the support of friends at Rapha and Speedvagen and Tudor.
That first ride was timed perfectly with the rise of Instagram's popularity in the cycling community. Someone doing a big, crazy thing on a super cool bike, fully kitted in Rapha, professionally photographed hadn't really been done before on social media with that level of professional execution.
In 2015, Michael invited more friends along for the ride. We all happen to work professionally in the creative and marketing world, so growing our Instagram, doing great photography, and storytelling comes naturally to us. That said, we do put in a lot of time and energy behind the scenes to plan and execute each trip.
We hope our answers have been helpful! If you have other questions, please comment below. We're happy to help!