A Guide to Ease Your Mind During the Daunting part

I wish that I had kept a journal the whole time through this challenge; from signing up to post-hike, but in reality I only kept notes during the trekking portion. I can, however, speak from experience and while it’s still fresh in my memory I’d like to share some of my thoughts with you: a leader, a current challenger, a parent… whomever!

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I was ecstatic to sign up to my trek to Mount Kilimanjaro! I jumped online 20 minutes after a Choose a Challenge rep had come to UMass (University of Massachusetts Amherst) and spoke about this journey. The down payment was no problem in my mind, what did seem a little more intimidating to me was the $6,000 I had to fundraise and donate to the very worthy Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation, and for my trek. While I was concerned at many times about reaching my fundraising goal, I set myself the task and I completed it as you can, too.

A setback that I found myself in at the beginning was that neither my parents nor my grandparents were on board with this adventure I signed myself up for. A family member even told me, “why would I want to hike Kilimanjaro when I can google it and see the mountain on my computer screen?”. This was a sad remark to me, in my mind I was thinking ‘because you won’t be able to smell the air and feel each climate zone, experience the crystal clear night sky without light pollution, and create a journey for yourself that you’ll never forget’. Anyways, I kept to myself because my focus was on making it there, and proving to some of my biggest supporters (and doubters) that I COULD do it. I won’t lie either, there were definitely times I was down on myself, but my team leader, Ben, and the rest of my teammates were always there to cheer me back up and set my mind to continue moving forward. As easy as it is to quit…Don’t! Prove it to yourself!

Individual fundraising IS the way to go

During the fall my team did a very successful fundraiser with Chipotle, and while we took in a lot of money, we had to divide it equally between our mates and all that money became a small amount again. I quickly realized that team fundraising is a great way to organize large fundraising events, get together, and get to know people before the trek, but the majority of my fundraising success would come from my own individual efforts.

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To overcome some of the obstacles I was facing, I sketched out a mental plan to achieve my goal. So I devoted my winter break to sending 100+ letters to friends, family, distant relatives, teachers I’ve had in the past, really anyone I was otherwise connected to and could find in my family contacts. I explained that I was fundraising for families struggling with the financial burdens of childhood cancer, and to climb the roof of Africa a week after graduating college. I personalized each letter by writing a note on it to whomever I sent it to. After a couple weeks the checks came rolling in, my relatives, family friends, old teachers became intrigued by my endeavors and were pleased to donate to the cause.

Letters were great but I still Wanted to do more…

SO I problem solved AGAIN and decided I really needed to find someone who worked for a company that matches charitable donations. This “fund-matching” is a common practice for most businesses and you can often find online which companies match donations from their employees and even how generous their matches are. This is a great way to get huge chunks of you fundraising done and is one I wholeheartedly suggest you take advantage of as I did.

As it turns out, my good friend, Josh, who works for Citizens Bank was more than willing to help me out and make use of his company’s donation-matching. He donated a large amount (I chipped in a little myself to make it even more effective) and Citizens Bank effectively doubled it to get me across my fundraising finish line. The great part about it? It was easy for him to do, it helped me tremendously, AND it made him look good in the workplace! Really, it was a win-win all around. I was extremely grateful to have that connection and it just goes to show that you never know who in your personal network will be the most supportive so you should contact everyone!

~Small tips and tricks~

  • Get started fundraising as early as you can so you aren’t sweating fundraising during your second semester when you just want to be getting hyped for your trip.

  • Balance your own individual fundraising efforts with things that you do with your team. A mix of both is best.

  • Reach out to everyone you know or knows you somehow. It never ceases to amaze me how many connections we have to others that we may or may not know exist. As I said earlier, you never know who will be your biggest donors.

  • Personalize your messages. No matter who you are reaching out to, someone who knows you put in a bit of effort to individualize your communication will be all the more willing to support your fundraising.

  • Stay in touch with your charity representative for any advice, knowledge, and materials they have that will make your fundraising both easier and more successful!

You CAN do it & you WILL do it!

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Take it from someone who had several mental breakdowns (I’m dramatic) throughout this process: even when I was doubting myself, deep down I knew I had it in me to complete this task. The point is that you have signed up for a challenge; half of the challenge is fundraising and the other half is trekking. Both of these challenges are possible for you and perseverance will get you through; in the end you will have the memory of all that you were fortunate enough to experience along the way and the confidence that you can take on similar challenges in the future!

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