Plan a Charity Cycle Ride

Plan a Charity Cycle Ride

You’re an active member of your community with love for bike riding and an affinity for organization. So planning a charity bike ride in the name of your favorite cause should be no big deal, right? While thousands of successful charity rides raise millions in donations every year, planning your charity event (no matter the size) is no small task. Here’s an overview of the things to factor in when planning a charity cycling event.

The Cause

It seems obvious: the first step to planning a charity ride is deciding which charity to support. However, it is more complicated than simply choosing an issue. Many causes are already affiliated with organizations that offer support to smaller groups. The aim itself may contribute to how you plan for the event. For instance, if you’re publicizing a cause or campaign; demonstrating in opposition to a viewpoint, actions, or people; marking or commemorating a well-known event; then you’ll like need to alert your local authorities and may also be required to gain some sort of permit. Each locality requires different levels of public communication; consult your local authorities accordingly.

Partnerships/ Sponsorships

One of the most overlooked and influential parts of a successful charity ride is involving partners, sponsors, and local supporters. There’s a myriad of reasons to put the identification of partners and sponsors at the top of your to-do list. Groups or individuals supportive of your cause may contribute donations; provide snacks, water, or other materials; assist with marketing; volunteer at the event; provide necessary logistical elements, and otherwise support the event. In return, they should be offered (or may ask for) benefits like advertising their name at the event, including their “schwag” in your goodie bags, and any other creative offers you can devise. Reaching out to these partners is a massive undertaking, requiring clever email campaigns, a separate partnership information packet, fiscal separation operations, and careful relationship management.

Type of Ride

Before ever marketing even a single aspect the event, you’ll need to determine exactly what kind of ride it is. Will it be a race or a ride? Will it be individual or in teams? Will it be on flat terrain or along hills? Will there be multiple routes and distances? Will there be a winner, and what does “winning” actually mean? Do riders need to be experienced? Will they be timed? All of these factors influence who you’ll target to participate, what sorts of logistics you’ll need to consider, and how to advertise the event.

Size of Event

The size of the event you plan to host will probably be planned in conjunction with other elements, like the space you’ll use, type of cycling involved, and budget. The size of the event largely impacts money to be spent: Will you need a marquee? To hire some sort of reception hall? Port-a-potties? A car park? If your goal is to raise thousands of dollars, you’ll likely need a big course. The bigger the course, the more permits, and staff. Certain races might also be part of qualification for other cycling feats, which encourages a host of serious riders and paperwork. On the other hand, a very small event might be ignored by competitive racers (with money to invest). Climate contributes to the size of your event, too. Consider planning a ride indoors, on stationary bikes or in velodromes.

Route Planning

Planning an outdoor riding route involves much more than laying out the route itself. If the ride requires many cross-traffic turns and major roads, you’re likely to need permits, marshals, first aid teams, and a multi-day set-up and break-down. No matter the route, riders will need rest and drink stops-- and volunteers to manage them. How far apart rest stops are placed depends on overall race length, how riders move throughout (a relay, for instance), and how much interaction you’d like amongst participants. You might even consider making the ride a multi-day event in which riders rent accommodation or camp. Longer routes, multi-day or otherwise, may also require transport back to the starting point (be sure to add that to your list of budget considerations!). Once the route is set, consider the days of the week you’ll want to host the event. Outdoor races through public spaces are best hosted on Sundays, for instance, as there are fewer cars on the road.


As mentioned before, it’s important to assert how much money you’d like to earn before ever nearly any other consideration. Planning the proper budget based on your fundraising goals has a serious impact on every other element of your ride, from where it takes place to how it’s marketed. Devise a way to organize your identification of budget costs. Try thinking from the ground up: what will it cost to lay your route, ensure on-the-ground staff, the time the event, keep riders covered in poor weather, clothe riders, everything that happens on the ground? What will it cost on the “up” side, i.e. in the cloud to advertise the event, accept donations, and register people online? You might also go from start to finish: what will it cost to maintain the pre-race activities, like training volunteers and soliciting sponsors, to post-race activities, like providing goodie bags and transferring funds to the charity? Considering what extra touches you’re willing to spend money on. Will you have a professional photographer? Any post-race entertainment? Provide volunteers with meals and t-shirts? The best idea is to start by laying out every single cost associated with your ideal event. Once you see the ride at it’s absolute most expensive, start to determine which costs can be cut or how you might raise additional funds to meet them.

Type of Fundraiser

After defining your budget, determine how the money will be raised. There are so many ways to solicit donations at cycling events. Consider first what riders will pay upfront to ride. Some rides charge a minimum entrance fee only to cover the overhead cost of hosting the race. Then riders are expected to fundraise for additional contributions. In this case, it’s important that riders be equipped with fundraising tools, like marketing materials, corporate matching assistance, and informational memos. On the other hand, you can set an entrance fee at a high enough margin to contribute large sums directly to the charity without expecting riders to do more. On the upside, you will receive a guaranteed set income per participant; on the downside, you’re unlikely to raise over your fundraising goal. To get the most out of your ride, incorporate as many fundraising options are feasibly organized. From corporate donations to a post-race raffle, there are ways to make every penny count. Keep in mind that companies and individual riders may write off contributions in taxes. You’ll need to be sure to provide the proper documentation for the fiscal records.


Insurance and First Aid

Depending on the size of the race, you’ll need to ensure a level of health and safety standards. At a minimum, you’ll need the third-party public liability coverage. The provider will likely ask to see a proper event risk assessment. Certain race formats require different levels of insurance. For instance, if your ride launches as a large group, instead of small pockets, you’ll be required to purchase more extensive coverage. The insurance provider will want to know if you have a first aid team. They may also request the presence of a police force or ambulance. If you’ve got only a short amount of time or are worried about being approved, hire a professional risk assessor.

Advertising and Publicity

You’ve finally planned your event to the extent where you can confidently solicit participants. How will you get the information out to them? Short of relying on ride partners to assist with the marketing, you can expect this part of planning to take the most capital, time, and create the biggest impact on your donation bottom line. Just as it’s best to provide a variety of fundraising opportunities, so is it best to use as many publicity opportunities as possible. Print flyers, posters, and newspaper advertisements; offer a press release to your local media organizations; boost posts on social media and encourage others to share the event page; ask a photographer to snap related photos for sharing, and equip your team with the vernacular to advertise via word of mouth. Creating partnerships with related parties can boost advertising as well. Will a local cycling club send an email to their team? Will any other charities relate to your cause create a riding team or leaflet for you? Every single person involved in the event will advertise for you if you empower them to participate, share, and publicize on your behalf. Create a marketing information packet inclusive of logos and useful phrases.

Communications and Registration

By the time you begin registering riders and sponsors, you’ll want to have a communication plan in place, keeping in mind that different groups require different formats, tones, and information. All participants must be immediately informed of how funds are contributed and by when. After that, segment your communications amongst participant types. The most obvious are riders: How will they register? What personal information will they submit? How will they donate funds? What information will they need to receive before and after the event-- when and how? The same considerations need be taken separately for sponsors, partners, staff, and volunteers. Be sure to communicate well the day-of-event schedule, detailing roles and timelines. It’s pertinent that all involved parties receive post-race summaries, with income earned and photos. In fact, the best time to raise money for the next cause is during the follow-up to the last successful event. If you’re planning to make your ride an annual affair, post-race follow-up including next year’s dates and donation opportunities are paramount.

Staff and Volunteers

A perfectly well-planned and well-attended charity cycling ride will turn into a perfect disaster if it is inadequately staffed, whether by paid staff or volunteers. Volunteer management requires a post in itself; they can make or break your event’s performance. While it’s assumed that all volunteers will perform tirelessly in support of your cause, personal incentives render that assumption null. Volunteers, like all participants, must be incentivized and courted. Get to know what makes your volunteers tick: why are they volunteering, outside the immediate cause? If they’re looking for social interactions, provide additional meet-ups; if they want knowledge of cycling, offer them time with the riding mechanic. That means proactive and positive communications and perks, like food, clothing, and post-race parties. Most importantly, make sure that volunteers and staff know where they are supposed to be, when, and why. A bored volunteer quickly sours! For more integral jobs, like mechanic work consider paying skills tradespeople. In fact, we recommend you pay a volunteer coordinator!

Scheduling on the Day

Planning a smartly timed race day contributes immensely to the amount of income earned. Your charity ride needs to include a welcoming speech, where your cause is outlined, and the important information about the ride shared. The ride time itself must ensure that all riders can finish with some semblance of pride. During the ride, you may need to allow rest and transition times. While most charity planners understand the importance of getting riders in the saddle in a smooth and organized fashion, getting them out of the saddle, fed and watered, and offering them another opportunity to donate post-event is as important. After-race festivities should include the announcement of the winners and prizes; another “ask,” like purchase/ disbursement of raffle tickets, incentives to donate last-minute or auctions; and proper health care considerations, like blankets and dry clothes. Also important is the exit route: are marshals required to usher participants out of the car park? Be sure not to overtax your volunteers with clean-up and post-race duties. A smart charity ride includes opportunities to donate throughout its entirety and an event committee that continues working long after the riders have finished.

Post-Race Follow-Up

Congratulations! You hosted a successful cycling ride that raised gajillions of dollars for a needy cause. Sharing this information with participants is the difference between running a professional, sustainable, and truly impactful event and simply going for a bike ride. Firstly, all participants need to know how much you raised and how it was distributed. Without such details, you may be liable for legal repercussions. Next, participants need to be thanked for playing a role. Wherever possible, notate exact contributions of individuals and groups, with photos. Finally, all participants need to be informed about how they can stay involved with the cause in the future. Will you host the same event next year? Will you accept more donations even after the event? Show participants that this cause is bigger than your ride-- because that’s why you organized it after all!

Photo by Josh Shutler on Unsplash

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