So You Want to Hike for Charity
Although the act of hiking itself is individualistic and often solitary, the larger hiking community is a true force to be reckoned with. Whether it’s out on the trail, here on Appalachian Trials, or elsewhere on the infinite interwebs, hikers help each other out, do trail magic, trade stories, and give advice. So, I figure, why not harness the awesome power of the hiking community to give back? Enter stage left: hiking for a cause.
When I decided to thru-hike in 2015, I also started considering the possibility of using my hike as an opportunity to fundraise for a non-profit organization. After all, it seemed like a pretty cool way to raise awareness for a good cause, and, selfishly, to also keep me accountable to get to the end. Being a complete N00b to the whole fundraising thing, I didn’t really know where to start.
My first stop was CharityNavigator.
It’s great resource if you don’t have a charity or organization in mind that you’d like to contribute to off the bat (or even if you do!). True to its name, this non-profit organization and website help you navigate through certified charities. They evaluate and rate charities with an overall number based on the transparency of the organization, how much of the money donated goes directly toward the advertised cause.
After initial perusing, I realized that there were a lot of opportunities to hike for a cause, and different levels of commitment to suit different people. I wasn’t about to hop on board to be a public figure for an organization, but was intrigued by the idea of setting up a fundraising page.
The following resources were really helpful for me, so if you’re thinking about it (and you should!), give them a try:
The most backpacker specific resource that I could find, and deserving of more attention IMHO. Their founder Paul “Potential 178” Mitchell, basically created a hiking-specific fundraising tool, where you can set up a profile as a hiker, and then get the word out to friends, family, even the wider blogosphere (hint hint) to pledge a dollar or cent amount PER MILE. That means the more miles you hike, the more your favorite cause gets $$. Once you finish your hike (either the whole thing or however many miles), the website simply reminds the donors who pledged to directly contribute that amount to the chosen charity. That sounds pretty awesome (and straightforward) to me. Right now, the website has a set number of organizations pre-populated as causes you can hike for, but you can also always e-mail Paul to ask him to add an organization you care about.
Another great hiker specific organization, which strives to raise awareness and funds for both mental health research (80%) and trail maintenance (20%). Signing up looks to be very straightforward. They say it takes 5 minutes to do, and you get a nifty hiking-friendly t-shirt once you raise $100.
A more general fundraising website that allows you to set up a fundraiser with a goal monetary amount. Unlike Hikefor, they do inherit 3-5% of the donation for facilitating, but on the flip side seem to have a pretty active user base, meaning your cause might get more traction with complete strangers.
Like crowdrise, IndieGoGo is a general fundraising website. They inherit a portion of the donation, but reduce the fee for fundraisers that are for 501(c)(3) non-profits registered in the United States. If you want to raise funds for a more specific non-affiliated cause, they’ll slice off the usual amount for crowdfunded ventures.
Or, you can just e-mail your chosen non-profit, which is what I chose to do.
After perusing a few of these options, I decided to just shoot a quick e-mail to the two non-profits I was considering fundraising for. Getting in contact is really the most direct way to communicate your intent, and sometimes a great way to get direct support from that organization and to get the word out on your hike. Some non-profit organizations will ask you to use one of the tools listed above (Crowdrise seems to be a favorite), while others will work with you to figure out how far you want to take the partnership, from setting up a webpage on their own website, to organizing a blog, or even events while you’re on trail. Really the extent to which you lend your hike to a cause becomes up to you at that point.
As for me?
After a lot of thinking, I decided to focus on a charity devoted to raising awareness for women’s rights and leadership. I thought it would be fitting, because although the risks and challenges of the trail are the largely the same for everyone, regardless of gender, women are still a minority in long-distance hiking (though you wouldn’t guess it from the awesome representation of female thru-hikers here on Appalachian Trials!). Why is that? I can’t tell you why exactly women in general don’t thru-hike as often as men do, but I can tell you that I’ve been told multiple times (most often out of concern) that hiking solo is unsafe for a woman. Some have even gone so far as to impart anecdotes, some more relevant than others, about lone women who have been stalked, raped, or even murdered.
Well, obviously, those kinds of scare tactics are asinine, and I’m doing this anyway. I think it’s ridiculous for anyone to imply that as a woman I have to live my life in fear unable to pursue my dreams, or risk being a target. What’s even more ridiculous is that this implication is a reality for many women who have to fight each day for basic human rights, and for whom these dangers may be incredibly real. That is why I am dedicating my hike to raising funds and awareness for Women’s Learning Partnership, a non-profit organization that promotes gender equality, women’s political activism and leadership internationally. In their own words, WLP’s mission is to:
” …advance communication and cooperation among and between the women of the world in order to protect human rights, facilitate sustainable development, and promote peace.
WLP links those with access to resources, knowledge, and technologies to those without, and augments the voices and visions of the world’s resource-poor majority.
WLP believes that dialogue across boundaries of culture, class, gender, generation, and nation is essential for achieving socially equitable and environmentally sound development.
To secure a healthy, safe, and democratic environment for all, WLP works to advance gender equity, involve men and boys in promoting gender parity, and facilitate the exchange of grassroots strategies within and across different cultures. By instituting a viable knowledge and learning framework, WLP’s programs provide women and girls of the Global South with the technical knowledge and practical skills needed to participate in the global dialogue about rights, development, and peace.”
To raise funds, I am asking for a small donation for each mile I hike. That way, the further I go, the more funds are raised for this remarkable organization! I’ll be sure to update when the fundraising page is up, so stay tuned!
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A fantastic one is also Charity Miles at http://www.charitymiles.org … It is an app (both iphone and android) that tracks your activity and will donate $.25/mile for walking/running or $.10/mile for biking to the charity of your choice. Note that they actually vet each and every charity so they currently don’t have every single one and they have been featured on most every news outlet and won a recent award at SXSW. Considering it’s free to the user (funds come from major companies that consider it both charity and advertising), there’s no better way to do it! And it runs off GPS so it can run on your phone in airplane mode and update when reception is available in towns. For a thru-hike, you can donate about $600 to a favored cause with no more work than just turning on the app. I would love to see the ATC added and am in contact with the founder of CM and will bring up the idea to him soon.
I think it’s silly when people tell me it’s dangerous as a girl, too. I mean, I’m not very tough, but I think I’ll be alright with the help of the awesome trail community!
This article was exactly what I was looking for and saved me a lot of time! I was interested in doing the Make-A-Wish-Foundation Trailblazer’s hike (28.3 mi in 1 day) until I found out that if you don’t raise a minimum of $2500 you’re required to fund the difference to participate. Plus my favorite hiking partner, my dog, couldn’t participate.
Now I think I’m gonna gather some friends and create our own hiking event on Hike For Mental Health! Thanks!
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