5 Ways To Generate Fundraising Exposure on Trail

The rise in thru-hiking’s popularity has provided a platform for tons of outdoor enthusiasts documenting their adventures online.  Whether it be a blog, a YouTube channel, or some awe-inspiring Instagram photography, people are interested in this community now, and with that interest comes the opportunity for us to share what’s important to us as a community.

I believe service is at the heart of many backpackers.  Whether it be picking up litter and abiding by Leave No Trace practices or volunteering for a day of trail maintenance, we can all come together to better these natural places we love so much.  Giving of oneself while on trail can be difficult amid high-mile days or a limited time frame, but the exposure we are all receiving gives us the opportunity to raise awareness and funding for things we care about.

My 5 Fundraising Strategies

During my 2020 AT hike I will be raising money for Thorn, an incredible nonprofit devoted to keeping children safe in a highly online world, and here’s how.

1. Content

Generally speaking, the higher quality the content equals the greater number of eyes.  A well-written blog post or a meticulously edited vlog that showcases exactly what we are trying to communicate (for me it’s often adventure storytelling) can be the difference between a few hundred eyes or a few thousand.  It’s hard to pin down exactly what “good” content is, but finding your style and developing your craft can only lead to a more satisfying product, and those who follow your journey will likely appreciate the extra effort.

2. Local News Sources

I have found that the allure of a grand journey brings interest from all sorts of places.  Within a week of reaching out to local newspapers, I not only found an opportunity to write articles of my own, but they eagerly began documenting the journey.  People who may have never heard about this project before now have access to both my progress and the fundraising page as well as information on Thorn itself.  As the hike truly gets started and tales of long, rainy miles on trail or pictures of gorgeous vistas begin circulating around town, more people will find themselves invested in the trip and its mission.

3. Donor Portfolios

This is a more aggressive tactic for those who really want to see what they can accomplish.  This is information regarding the hike, the nonprofit I’m raising money for, and a specific call to action that I will be handing out to various businesses around town.  This allows me to meet with those who have the resources to really make those fundraising numbers go up over the course of this trip.  I’m certain many of you can produce something more professional than mine, but what the portfolio truly does is provide access to those crucial face-to-face meetings by physically placing the information within their reach.

Here is a snippet from the “Mission” section of my donor portfolio (the word file exceeds upload size here, but please feel free to message me and I will send the whole thing)

“I will document my trip on the AT and IAT via blogging for The Trek (https://thetrek.co/author/jacob-myers/), uploading content for various social media platforms, interviewing for recurring publications at various newspapers, and embracing every opportunity to share the cause with others.  I have created a GoFundMe (https://www.gofundme.com/f/htvqtg-a-walk-for-freedom) to accept donations from interested individuals.  100 percent of the money from the GoFundMe goes directly to Thorn, and so the publications will serve as a means to get the fundraising page into as many people’s hands as possible.”

4. GoFundMe and Social Media Fundraising

We can’t talk about fundraising without establishing a means by which the funds will be managed.  I went with GoFundMe for its simplicity and massive name recognition.  Posting updates and sharing the GoFundMe link is huge in that people who may have been interested in donating might have missed the first one or two times you shared the link.  I have mine 0n all my social media outlets and is referenced in every newspaper article I write or is published about me.

5. Community Involvement

People want to know your fundraising efforts come earnestly, and I’ve found that many of those who are already involved in community service of some kind love absolutely love hearing about my fundraising mission and sharing it with others.  Local churches, companies looking to start their year with some donations (you want the money to go into good hands, and they want the tax write-off), might be looking for someone like you who is eagerly searching for ways to give back.   Perhaps they would be willing to help in ways you hadn’t yet considered, so go where they are and meet them.  Give a few hours of sweat equity toward their causes before asking them to give to yours.  After all, every cause needs more assistance, and even if they don’t join yours, you’ll have put something positive out into the world and that’s the point of all this anyway.

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Comments 2

  • Fabi : Jan 16th

    Hey Jacob,

    just one day ago I finally got my starting date for the PCT and I’m beyond excited.
    But while planning my hike months ago, I also thought about something good I can do for others while hiking the PCT.

    My problem right now is, that I don’t use social media anymore and therefor dont have the audience to “impress” possible donors.
    I mean I have to give them some publicity, right?

    So far my plan has been to contact local companies and ask them to donate maybe 1€ (or how much they want) per kilometer I hiked the PCT.
    What I can also do is to get in touch with local newspapers, where some former classmates work. I imagine something like one bigger article and some follow ups is what they would do. In those articles those companies would be mentioned (e.g. XYZ automotive donates 1€ per Kilometer).
    I would also blog and/or post pictures on an extra website specific to my thru-hike attempt.

    Do you think that is a good plan or do you have any advice for me?
    I’m not completely against maybe starting an Instagram Account again (exclusively for my hike).
    But I’d rather not. On the other hand: if this helps me spread awareness and maybe raise some money for a good cause, I would really consider doing so.
    But I would have to start at 0 followers … and I’m not sure if that’s something a company would consider as an option to support.

    I hope you understand what I’m trying to tell you. Since I’m not a native speaker there obviously will be some mistakes.


    • Jacob Myers : Jan 16th


      Much of my planning for this has come from the social media guru, Gary Vaynerchuck. He is super successful from online marketing and much of his success simply comes from going where the attention goes. So, the question for you is where would your attention be that appeals to companies?

      Perhaps you attend various trail days? Maybe there is a public festival of sorts near your home where you can work a booth to generate awareness for the project? I think it’s smart to recognize that you don’t yet have an Instagram following and so starting a new one may not show results, but what you could do is get in contact with larger Instagram pages and see if they, similar to the donor companies, would like to follow along and share your journey.

      I have found a lot of attention from the newspapers, so those may also be strong options for you. I love the $1 per Km idea, and I am doing the same thing. Since you’re hiking the PCT, however, consider making your proposal in miles instead since that’s what most of the businesses you would be meeting with will measure the trail.



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