Botshabelo took part in the Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge’s Ride for a Purpose Campaign for the very first time in 2013. It was a slightly rocky road to a hugely successful finish line on the 17th of November 2013 and the only way to get all the gory details about this amazing project was by getting them straight from the horse’s mouth… Michelle Hinrichsen, the brilliant mastermind behind all things fundraising or as she’s better known: Fundraising Coordinator for Botshabelo. Michelle is an absolute superstar and her drive and passion for her job is evident in everything she does. The effort that she once again put into this project was no different. Botshabelo is incredibly lucky to have her around full time since last year.
Uncertainty, joy, confusion and excitement is all part of achieving success with a fantastic project like this and these are some of the many questions that came to mind about the process that only Michelle could answer:
Q: How long have you been part of the Botshabelo family?
A: I have been working at Botshabelo for just over 1 year now, but I have been a “part” of the organisation since it opened in 2000. Granted I was just a kid then but I was in the Babies Home a lot, and have seen Botshabelo grow and change over the years.
Q: When/How did you decide on entering Botshabelo into the Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge?
A: This race has been coming straight past our property for all these years, and we have always come out to support the riders on the day as well. Then a few years back they launched the “Ride for a Purpose” campaign and I have since watched how many organisations have raised millions of Rands through this initiative. So I just said: “Why not us?” Then came the many long hours of learning, unlearning, re-learning and figuring out how the whole process works. It’s like a different world inside the event – you need a whole new language!! Luckily I had some great people helping me, and some wonderful advice from organisations that have done it all before. Most importantly – we kept going and I am so glad we did!!
Q: Since Botshabelo consists of multiple facets: the babies home, the teacher training programme and the Urban Kids preschool, how did you decide which cause the “Ride for a Future” campaign needs support in its first year?
A: Well, we decided that in order for people to get behind a project, support it, and raise funds for it – it needs to be tangible and something they can relate to. Luckily for us, all our projects seem to have this aspect already. Last year however, the government placed great emphasis on Early Childhood Development (basically, preschool education), so we just knew it would be a great opportunity to ride the wave created in our country and raise funds for education! Which is also why we dubbed our campaign “Ride for a Future“.
This year, we will be raising funds for our Babies Home.
Q: How did you plan to recruit enough people to ride in the race – since there is a minimum requirement for riders in a charity bond by the Cycle Challenge organisers?
A: This was a very daunting task!!! I can’t even tell you that I had a clear path and plan in my head, but even if I had, it wouldn’t have worked out that way. To be honest, the best way to recruit more riders is…Word of Mouth!! Exciting stuff huh!? But really, we had some great riders sign up early on in the year, Peter Bremner, Roscoe Karsten, Francois Brill, Iselle van den Berg, Gareth Nicholson, Marc le Roux and others – and they truly did most of the work for me!! They got their families and friends involved, and viola (but with a whole lot more effort than that) we had a team of 24 riders. We were also able to encourage some of the Urban Lifers to ride!
Q: How did the name “Purple Peloton” come to be?
A: That is a good question!!! Well, in the middle of all this, believe it or not, we undertook to change our whole brand identity -the logo, the website – everything. As part of this process, we decided on new colours for our organisation –green, orange and of course… Purple!!
It was all downhill from there really! For those that don’t know, a peloton is a group of cyclists that ride together – think Tour de France. Now, I know we were not going to have a Tour de France type peloton…but it just rolled off the tongue and it rocked!! We had such fun dressing up in purple, flooding social media with our #purplepeloton pics and just general purple-ness – it really raised our profile on the day, and on social media!!
Q: You arranged a spinathon at the Sunninghill Virgin Active to help the riders reach their fundraising targets. Did you find this a worthwhile effort?
A: The spinathon was a giant first and a huge learning curve for all of us at Botshabelo. We had a relatively small spinathon, but everyone seemed to love it! It is a great way to get people together, and we had a lot of fun. Armed with a few more “spinathon-life-lessons” we will hopefully be doing it all again this year!!
Q: What would you say was the most difficult part of organising this event?
A: Hmm… The most difficult… I would have to say the stress of not knowing whether or not we would reach our target of 20 riders by the cut-off date. This was actually something that was entirely out of my hands – as people need to make the decision themselves and I can’t do anything apart from give them all the info, encouragement and inspiration they need! But, phew…we made it and with 24 riders no less we were well on our way! For our first year as a charity bond – we got a fantastic start time as well (compared to other charities), we had a full team and a brilliant start to a great annual campaign!
Q: …and the best part?
A: Now this is a fun one…the best part of the whole thing would have to be Race Day! 17 November 2013 will go down in my memory banks as a highlight, it was hot as all goodness, a very early, stressful morning, lots of carrying and few hiccups…but boy, did we have fun!! We had the wonderful Urban Life Church media team come out to film the day plus a few extra supporters. Perched right near the finish line we had ourselves the perfect spot. Cheering the riders on as they literally whizzed past us and welcoming them all under the shade of our gazebo was the best feeling. There was such camaraderie between the riders and what a day we had! Oh, and I thoroughly enjoyed shopping for all the purple garb we dressed our riders in!
Q: After all was said and done, how much money was raised by the Ride for a Future campaign?
A: This may contend with the best part of organising the event… seeing the emails, bank notifications, and cash deposits come in was so humbling – that people would so generously give to our project was astounding!! We truly were blessed, with enthusiastic riders who worked hard to reach their targets, and by corporates and individuals who chose to donate to this campaign! In total we raised just over R63 000!! Not bad for first-timers!! Our goal is higher this year, and we know we will reach it! What a privilege it is to raise money for education, for children that so desperately need it – I have the best job!!
Q: How much of an impact will these funds have on the teacher training programme in the year ahead?
A: Huge!! These funds will enable us to train, support, equip and monitor 15 preschools in Olievenhoutbosch (a township just down the road from our offices). These 15 preschools (and their teachers) will have weekly workshops, training sessions, the equipment they need to carry out their lesson plans and someone constantly helping and guiding them – it doesn’t get better than this! At the end of 2014, over 300 children will have received a better education, and over 15 women will have been empowered and trained to be better teachers.
Q: Do you think you will set the same fundraising target for the riders for this year’s campaign?
A: It will be higher – always aim higher!! We will definitely gain greater momentum this year – I already know of a few riders that are keen to enter and ride for us, and more riders, means more fundraisers on the ground… our fundraising target for the riders will remain at R3 000 but our overall target is much higher!
Q: I’m sure this whole event was a massive learning curve for you. What did you learn from the 2013 campaign that you’ll be able to apply this year?
A: First up, I will arrive at the race venue at 4am… it is chaos there in the morning. 30 000 cyclists is no joke… so we will be more prepared for Race Day this year! Also, we have had many conversations on how to improve our presence on race day – with more striking cycling jerseys, and so many more ideas. There are tons of things I learned, but most of them are tiny details, which are guaranteed to bore even the keenest reader!!
Q: Anything you’d do differently?
A: Oh yeah…the list is long, and slightly daunting, but with a year’s experience under my belt I might just make it through!!
Q: You must have plenty of new ideas for this year, so any secrets you’d like to share about your 2014 campaign?
A: All I will say is this…cocktails, sunset, prizes and Purple will be in the mix at some point!!
Q: Anyone you’d like to mention who helped you in achieving such massive success on this project?
A: Yes!!! The list seems to be endless! I will start with the Botshabelo management and leadership who trusted me enough to let me go ahead on this giant adventure! I had encouragement from all sides; Peter Bremner is the main culprit here, sending me loads of emails full of inspiration, ideas and a “you can do it Mich” attitude! I can honestly say that I did not manage this campaign alone– it was such a team effort and it humbles me that I get to be the one to answer these questions. It really feels like we need a team interview here!! To Roscoe for being the mascot, Mary for the spinathon, Francois and Iselle for their tenacity, passion and continuous support, Gareth and Pete for recruiting what felt like half of Urban Life, and Audrey for supporting me in the office AND for being the first to commit to Riding for a Future!!
The final shout out must go to a certain Mrs Cailey Jones, who got on a bike to train a mere 3 weeks before the race and finished in the Botshabelo colours in just 5:35 hours! Her story is amazing…Thanks to her we have a few extra riders on our team this year! I heard many a comment along the lines of: “If Cailey finishes, I have no excuse not to ride in 2014!!”
Q: And finally, what is your vision for the future of Botshabelo and its fundraising endeavours?
A: It’s a pretty simple one actually; go at it from several different directions! We’d like to improve on our current fundraising campaigns and events, such as Ride for a Future, and our Carols by Candlelight event. I am also passionate about “every little drop in the ocean” meaning that both individuals and companies can donate to us and really make a huge difference. We will also be placing great emphasis on our Income Generation Project – the Urban Closet. This is our Thrift Store where we sell any excess donations. It enables us to pay salaries and other overhead costs. The last direction we want to focus our fundraising efforts on is through grants and funding from big donors such as Lotto, and other trusts and foundations.
My vision is that Botshabelo will have enough funds to keep our doors wide open, and that we will be able to bless others and their organisations abundantly as well – we are all in this together!