New trend for international athletes – fundraising by blogging

Jon Winter was in US LM4x at the Worlds.  He had to fund the trip himself once he got selected adn did so using a blog and emailing group list.  I paid some money to his campaign and so was part of the group getting his updates.

They were great, insightful and gave much more detailed information about what REALLY was going on for him and his crew than a PR person could possibly have given.

Rowperfect decided to interview him for this blog – here's what he has to say.

1 – what gave you the idea of blogging as payment for sponsorship funding? 

Had you done something like this before?


In the past, I have sent out e-mail messages to friends and family.
Mostly as updates on my rowing travels abroad.  In 2006 when I raced at U23 World Championships, I just did e-mail messages.  When I went to the Banyoles World Cup, I decided to create a google group.  It made things much easier to keep track of.  In Banyoles, I did a similar thing in terms of messages, but the group was smaller.
Usually I would send one every day and then one after each race.  As more friends and family heard about the list, it grew and grew.  I received many e-mails from people telling me how much they enjoyed reading the updates, so when I was approved to go to the Luzern World Cup, I thought maybe other people I didn't know would be interested in reading.  I figured that I was writing these messages regardless, so I may as well see if anyone was willing to pay to be on my private list.

2 – how many people gave you money?  Of these, how many did you not know beforehand (like me)?

For the Luzern World Cup, everything was very last minute.  I think the offer went out while I was already in Luzern, so I only got 2 or 3 people.  I didn't really spend much time marketing the idea, because I was in Switzerland getting ready to race.  For World Championships, we also didn't have much time to get things in order.  We had some other individuals sponsor us, so as people donated, I added them to my list.
 I think there were 10 – 15 people added to the list.  I didn't know about 10 of the people beforehand.

3 – How much did you raise and how much did you hope to raise?

We raised about 10,000 USD.  Some from rowing clubs, some from family, some from our website and e-mail list (www.quadsculls.org).  The total expenses for the trip were 30,000 USD, so I guess our goal was 30k, but I don't think we ever expected to raise all that money.  The main problem is that we were named Aug 7, left for Poland Aug 14, racing started around Aug 23.  30k would be much easier to raise over the course of months rather than days, but that's what you deal with when you are rowing a non-funded event in the USA.

4 – what was the hardest part of keeping the blog going while preparing to race?


I actually really liked to write during the regattas.  Much of the time, you just sit around waiting to race.  It helps me keep my mind off things, and it also helped me analyze my race…mainly because after each race, I would have to write down a re-cap of what happened.
 If I didn't do this, I probably wouldn't be able to remember what I was thinking during the race.  Writing the blogs helped me understand where my strengths and weaknesses are.

5 – which bit(s) of your blog (photo, commentary, questions answered etc) did readers say they liked the most?  Why do you think that is?


I stared doing a Q&A section while in Poznan, and I think most people really liked this part.  I started Q&A because thought the audience would enjoy hearing the answers to questions I received.  To some extent its difficult to give every reader a complete context of what is going on.  Some are rowers and understand what it feels like to race 6 boats across.  Others are not rowers and don't really understand.  I think the Q&A gave both the rowers and non-rowers a better understanding of my experience, and that seemed to really get people excited.

6 – what advice would you give US Rowing as a result of your experience this summer?


I think there are plenty of other US National Team athletes who keep up private e-mail lists.  The e-mail updates could be a way to let the donors feel more involved.  Its great to have your name on a list in the brochure, but if you really wanted to get donors excited about regular giving, you would give them an insight into the experiences of the athletes.  The donors would have a chance to get to know the people they support, and that is much better than your name on the side of a boat.

7 – do you know how the US Lwt 8+ did in their fund raising compared to yours?  Did anyone else do stuff like this?


I think the Lwt 8 raised about 20k USD.  With a bigger boat, you have a larger contact list and thus more donors.  The per-capita amount raised is about the same as us.  Other athletes wrote blogs and e-mail updates, but I think they were confined to family and friends.

8 – anything you'd like to ask us…?


GB seems to have excellent corporate sponsorship for the rowing team.
Do you think this is due to a higher status of rowing within the culture, or do you think it is based on the success of the team?  What do you think US Rowing/USA athletes could learn from the sponsorship situation of the GB team?


[ I answered this last privately – but what do you all think?]

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