campaign to watch: iron and water can be a good thing…

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campaign: Racing 4 Water: a Half Ironman challenge
end date: April 3, 2010
campaign leader: David Timm and Rodrigo Gonzalez
amount raised to date: $13,573 + $14,176 (matched giving by their workplace) = $27,749
campaign mission statement:
March 22, 2010 is World Water Day. Today, one in eight people don’t have access to safe, clean drinking water. According the to World Health Organisation, 1.7 million people — mostly children under five — die each year due to lack of clean water. That’s about 4,500 thousand every day. We’re trying to do something to help.

On March 21, we compete[d] in the “half Ironman” triathlon in Singapore, called the “70.3,” as the distance is 70.3 miles. Swim 1.2 miles (1.9km), cycle 56 miles (90km), and run 13.1miles (21.1km). …with your help, we’re hoping to raise US$15,000. If we can achieve that, between us, we will have provided safe, clean drinking water for 750 people. Together we will have changed 750 lives.

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If you’re like most of us here at charity: water, “70.3 miles” to you would mean an hour-long drive in a car (or, more aptly, taxi). But to Dave and Rodrigo from Singapore, “70.3″ meant not only a run but also a swim and a bike ride, too. We asked Dave about his motivations for such a feat and what it took complete a Half Ironman challenge, all to raise money for water projects.

What’s the story behind your passion to end the water crisis?
I was working for mining company and did work in Africa. One of the guys I worked with started talking about the water problems there. He was South African… I had assumed water problems in Africa were in Ethiopia or Sudan, but he said South Africa doesn’t have access to clean water, either. We both have similar-aged children and he said he was lucky his family had clean water but he knew many people in his country who didn’t.

It was an awakening, it made me realize [the water issue is] broader than that. You think of the hopes and dreams for your children and you realize other people can’t have those hopes and dreams because of… water.

And then where did charity: water come in?
In Singapore, I started looking on the internet and came across charity: water. The appeal of it was the 100% model, the fact that you use technology well — it seemed very easy to donate to.

You and Rodrigo got donations from all over. How did you get the word out?
It was really mostly email. We used Twitter as well and built a website. We didn’t do any huge websites or put on dinners… we emailed probably three times, said this is what we’re doing, can you support?

But you raised more than $10,000! All through sending some emails?
The response was overwhelming. The thing we did well was ask people to sponsor a dollar per mile. Since it was 70-mile race, that meant each donation would be at least $70, not a small amount like $2 or $5. Most people gave $70 but a lot of people gave $100 or $200 or $250, a much larger amount than we’d hoped for.

We were really surprised. You’d hope things would go well but it’s a wonderful feeling. Rodrigo and I have full-on jobs and our emails started being donations instead of normal work emails! You feel that rush of something good happening. It gave us a huge lift. It makes you want to do it again. So we’re going to — we don’t know the event, but want to do another.

So you were hoping for fewer donations, but of larger amounts?
Yeah. We set the level and consciously decided we didn’t want 200 people giving $5, but 100 people giving $50. Response was brilliant, we were delighted.
Also, our company matches contributions for anything we give. There are certain provisions but we asked them to put charity: water on their list. We’ve raised US$14,000 and they’ll match that — which is a tremendous scheme. Our challenge was to really use their matching amount.

You did this with a friend — did that make it easier, more do-able?
We have very much done this together. I think you have to do these things with someone, it’s very hard to do it on your own. I encourage people to do a fundraiser with a pal or a wife or a brother. That works for the training but also for the fundraising. I don’t think I would’ve done as well on my own.

And was the race a major struggle? The training must have been pretty rough.
Rodrigo’s done more, he’s a pretty fit bloke. When you train well, you’re fairly well prepared. I did between 12 and 14 hours a week, got up before 5 a.m. to go cycling before traffic hit. I did a lot of running in the heat (34-35 degree Celsius) to get used to it. And I’d often do something in the morning and go to the gym or swim at lunchtime. It’s a fairly full-on training effort. You need a lot of support from your family — and patience from your wife.

Did you always count on doing a physical challenge? And such a big one?
The original idea to get our children’s school to hold a World Water Day walk for water. But we couldn’t convince them to do that, partly because they do charity work already and partly because of the logistics of organizing it.

The race — it was an impetus to do something that’s beyond your comfort zone to help, to raise something.

Of course, we have to know — how did you do??
It went really good. Rodrigo did five hours and five minutes, I did six hours, 58 minutes.

Any advice for budding fundraisers?
Like I said, do it with someone else. You have someone to bounce ideas off of, to share with to push each other. Also, see if your office has a matching program for non-profit donations. Many large companies do have it. If you’re working for large company, it’s worth finding out.

Besides getting so in shape, is there anything else you gained from doing a campaign?
Yes, I do want to say, this has been a good reason to reconnect with lots of people you might have lost touch with or don’t speak to often. It gives you a new angle to talk to people. It’s opened new doors for us — some people recommended others and we met new people — and it’s been good vehicle to reconnect with old friends.

Did you come across people you haven’t talked to in awhile?
I had an old school teacher who found out about it from my brother or parents… he’s been great and I’ve reconnected with him. All of a sudden you’ve got a different reason to talk to someone. He sponsored the race and got some pals involved. He was my geography teacher in my first year of school, from when I was 11 or 12 years old.

Is this it, then?
No, we’re going to do more campaigns for charity: water. There’s a race in the Philippines in August and a race in Vietnam in September, but whether we’ll do fundraising for them, I don’t know. We’re thinking a quiz night or a charity dinner might work. We’ve been a bit overwhelmed with how well it has gone so it has challenged us to be more creative about future events.

We also considered a model where every race we do will help charity: water. It may work for any triathlons we do. It’s been a good experience for us in tying it to charity. And want to do more of that.

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