Tips for Organizing a Successful Charity Motorcycle Ride

1. Scheduling Your Ride – From start to finish, your event should be no more than four hours long.  If you are looking for participants beyond a 50-mile radius, schedule your start time for later in the morning.  Remember, these riders are traveling 1+ hours just to get to your event, and will need to stop for gas, coffee, etc. along the way.   FYI:  RIDIN’ STEEL is based out of Bath/Augusta area.   Minimize numerous and lengthy rest stops along the way.  Restaurant/pub stops may provide a fun and thirst quenching break, but is likely to increase the restart time waiting for folks to pay their tabs, etc., and ultimately put you behind schedule for any festivities you may have at the final destination.  Another choice is to rest in a large parking lot and offer water/soft drinks brought in on the sweeper vehicle.  Either way, restroom facilities are a must.   Keep your event moving along by selling raffle tickets before the ride, during stops and meals, and begin awarding prizes no less than an hour before it is scheduled to end.  We advise against rain dates because they can conflict with other rides.  Safety is everyone’s number one concern when riding in packs, and throwing inclement weather into the mix is a serious risk.  Opt instead to scrap the ride itself and meet later in the day at your final destination or alternative under cover venue.

2. Ride Admissions - Consider a donation-only admission.  Not all participants, especially those who frequent multiple rides, can afford the standard $15-$25 fee, but are willing to give what they can.  It’s important to remember that those who are there want to support you - trust in their generosity.  (Two rides we attended in 2012 implemented a donation-only admission and reported earning an average of $1500 more than previous years!)  If you go on a donation-only basis and share your passion for your cause, we believe that the compassion you derive from that will benefit your fundraising goals and exceed your expectations.  Should you decide to charge an admission, try to eliminate extra costs to your riders such as meal, t-shirts, etc.  “One-price-fits-all” is most appealing to the biker’s wallet. 

3. Volunteer Help - We all know that it takes a small army of dedicated people to pull off a successful event.  In addition to the usual neighbor, friends, and family, consider inviting local groups such as a scout troop, rotary club, cheerleading squad, or even a friendly real estate agency to lend a hand, as these folks are often looking for ways to contribute to their community.  You can also reach out to those who may have a vested interest in your particular cause.  For example, if you’re raising monies for a cancer-related issue, contact your local hospital, hospice, or visiting nurse organization for assistance.  This approach may not only help suffice your manpower needs, but helps get the word out to a diverse and wide-spread support base.  And don’t forget to utilize the FREE comment area of the RIDIN’ STEEL Calendar page, as well as any Facebook and Twitter accounts to solicit help.

4. Food & Beverage – Pig roasts, BBQ, catering, and restaurant fare are some of the common ways to feed your group, but don’t forget the good ‘ole potluck.  Many dishes can be dropped off ahead of time and friends and family who aren’t able to come along for the ride can contribute here as well.  As for beverages, keep it light and simple, and try to avoid alcohol.  The last thing anyone needs is an alcohol-related accident to remember your cause by, not to mention the liability issues.  Water, coffee, and a few soft drinks should do the trick.  Please note:  Because RIDIN’ STEEL crews work as volunteers and receive no compensation for their expenses, complimentary food & beverage at your ride is greatly appreciated.  RIDIN’ STEEL crew members carry badge credentials to help identify them in their roles.

5. Souvenir Merchandise - If you’re hoping to offer a commemorative t-shirt, carefully evaluate the expense that is likely to eat into your total monies raised should you not sell all you’ve purchased.  One way to circumvent the out-of-pocket expense is to solicit business advertising on the shirt.  For a $50-$250 charge, a business logo can be strategically placed on the event shirt affording them unlimited exposure and helping you to offset, if not eliminate, the risk of a huge financial disappointment.  If you’d like assistance in how to create such a shirt, contact your local printing/embroidery business, or contact the official gear supplier of RIDIN’ STEEL- B&B Embroidery at 465-2846. 

6. Promote Your Event – Your priority as an event coordinator is to Sell Your Cause!  Tell people why it is so important to you, the difference their involvement makes, and your sincere appreciation for their participation.  Be knowledgeable about your cause (Make-a-Wish, illness, beneficiary, etc.).   There are many, many ways to promote your cause for little or no money.  Below are a few suggestions to help get you started:
   6.a.  Word of Mouth – Talk it up!  Share the enthusiasm and passion you have for your cause and you will be pleasantly surprised how contagious its spirit becomes.  If you have a healthy data package on your cell phone, send a group text out to your contact list.

   6.b.  Support Other Motorcycle Rides - This instantly puts you in the community you are hoping will help your cause, and shows camaraderie towards other organizers.  They may even offer that you promote your upcoming event while attending theirs.

   6.c.  Inter-Connect – The possibilities here are limitless.  Utilize as much social media as possible, the RIDIN’ STEEL website, online community calendars of your Chambers of Commerce, television stations, newspaper, tourism sites, etc.

   6.d.  Newspaper – Although newsprint advertising is notoriously expensive, most publications do not charge for community calendar and event submissions or Letters to the Editor.  Also, contact a newspaper reporter or local TV station and ask them to do a feature story about your worthy efforts.

   6.e.  Flyers/Posters – Find someone who is savvy with Microsoft Word or Publisher and create your own marketing materials.  Be sure that all pertinent information is on the material, is easily understood, and can be seen clearly.  Save it to a .pdf, email it to everyone you know and ask them to share it as well.  To minimize printing costs, opt for black & white text on color paper, and ask your local printery for a discount or see if your library, town office, church, etc. will allow use of their printer if you provide the paper.  Post your flyers on community bulletin boards, restaurants, pubs, motorcycle shops, grocery stores, etc.  Create mini-flyers by reducing the .pdf and print  it 4:1, cut on a paper cutter, and distribute to convenience store counters, post office work tables, etc. one week before your event.  They make great reminder slips folks can take with them.

7. Safety First – If your ride has more than 25 bikes, the ride leader  should maintain at least  5-10 mph under the speed limit when starting to allow everyone in the pack time to safely get into formation.  If you opt for assigned blockers, place them at the front of the pack to eliminate unnecessary passing/cutting to reach their assigned intersections.  Plan routes accordingly to minimize left turns (crossing traffic) as much as possible. If you anticipate more than 75 bikes, consider asking your local law enforcement for escort service.  Note:  If RIDIN’ STEEL is there to film your ride, our crew leader will give the group a quick FYI before the ride embarks as to what to expect from the film crews while on the road.  Rest assured, we are experienced with our maneuvers and safety is always our #1 priority. 

8. Give Credit Where Credit is Due - Keep track of your donors (raffle items, entertainment, food, etc.) and let the world know of their generosity to your cause.  A public thank you in your local newspaper, social media, or the RIDIN’ STEEL website is a great way to show your appreciation and to display mutual support.   Should RIDIN’ STEEL film your ride, be sure to supply us with a list of donors and we’ll include them in the shows closing credits.  And, if you have content for a great follow-up show, let us know that too!


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