DOING IT AGAIN FOR CHARITY
“Elwyn Jordan loves hitting the road and exploring the great outdoors on his treasured motorbike. He also loves helping out worthy causes when he can. He has combined his two passions and organised a motorbike charity ride to raise funds for victims of the Queensland floods and cyclone.” So went the article in a local newspaper promoting the latest charity ride I organised. It’s a pretty good summary, actually, of why I do these things. I do like helping people. And if I can combine an interest, like bikes, or music, and doing some good for someone, then I reckon that’s a pretty good thing to do. Like I’m sure everyone else, I was touched by the tragedy of Queensland’s disasters – massive floods followed by the most destructive cyclone for many years. Such devastation and tragedy. And for many people, homes and possessions lost, and with no insurance to help them out. So I thought maybe I could organise another charity bike ride to help raise a few dollars. The previous one (click here for the story of that), a couple of years before, had been intended as a kind of friends-of-friends type thing (although it did spread a bit further than that), but I thought with this one I’d aim bigger and better. The concept would be the same as the previous one; entry on the ride would be by way of a $10 donation to our charity. In contrast to the last one, this time I planned a shorter route. (Less chance of people getting lost!). This time I was thinking of a format more like an extended toy-run. Starting at the same bike-shop I’d used last time seemed logical. For a finishing-point I thought of a bowling-club in a small town about 40km away. This was ideal as it was used as the finishing-point for a toy-run in that area; it has lots of room for parking and is a picturesque spot too. So, the first step was to see if I could get those places on-board.
It helps if you’ve done it before. Not only do you learn things the first time that make it easier the next time, but if you approach the same people / businesses for support they are more likely to get involved, having been involved in the previous one. However, in this instance, because the route was totally different, there was only one business that I could go to again, and that was the bike shop we started at. It’s still a help though if you can say, “Last time we did this….”. And that was an approach I used when contacting businesses and other organisations. When you approach businesses to support you, it helps if you already have someone on-board. The first person I approached was the proprietor of the bike shop I planned to start at, David Fraser Motorcycles. I was pretty sure he’d agree to help again; and he did. And before I even asked, he offered a gift-voucher as a “lucky-entrant” prize, as he had done the previous time. Yes, I was bringing a heap of bikes and riders to his shop, so I guess that was a good thing for him too. With that shop involved it was easier to approach a bike shop at a town the other side of our destination (from which I knew a few riders would be coming) and ask them for a gift-voucher to use as a raffle-prize. Telling the manager there that we had the other shop already donating a gift-voucher was a big incentive for them to be involved too. Next thing (actually I did this before approaching the other bike shop) was to see if we could get the use of the bowling club I mentioned. And yes, they were happy to be involved too. Again, I suppose it was good for business – I was bringing a whole bunch of people there who would more than likely buy lunch and drinks there. So they allowed us to use their facilities, provided a table for our raffle prizes and a microphone to announce the winners of the raffle etc. I then decided to approach a business that had sent me a few products to review, Kenma Australia. I thought they may be willing to donate a prize for our raffle. They readily agreed to help out and sent about $400 worth of goodies as prizes. I was blown away by their generosity! I then picked a date. That was tricky because I wanted to avoid any clashes with events that other people and clubs had on. It turned out that there was only one Saturday within about a 6-week period that no-one had anything on. Except me. There was a Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club display on that day that I had intended to go to. Oh well, just had to miss it. You need to have a contingency plan in case of unfavourable weather. You could say that it is on regardless, but you won’t get many attending if it is pouring rain! I said that if it was raining it would be postponed to the following weekend. That might rule out a few potential riders who might be away on a club run, but there was no alternative. One thing that proved difficult was getting volunteers to handle the donations and sale of raffle-tickets. If you organise a ride like this you really need someone else to do that. Not only does it look better (ideally, the organiser shouldn’t be the one collecting the money), but you’ll be busy meeting and greeting and answering questions etc. I won’t bore you with the details, but I thought getting volunteers for this would be easy; but it wasn’t. My wife got involved quite early, so she was going to be there to help, but we needed more. It was only a couple of days before the event that I finally got some extra help. Phew! That had been a real concern!
If you’ve gone to the trouble of organising a ride like this, you want it to be a success; so promotion is very important. Word of mouth is a good start. But I intended this to be bigger than just friends-of-friends, so I contacted the local paper. They did a story on the ride (and me) and sent a photographer out to take a picture of me with my bike. That gave the ride the sort of publicity that it needed. I put up a web-site promoting it and giving details of the ride, including date, time of departure, the route we would take and so on. I ran a “Latest News” page on the site which would keep readers up-to-date with latest developments. I also contacted a few bike clubs, who, mostly, were very helpful, promoting the event and circulating the details etc. A word of advice here. Starting at a bike shop has a very significant disadvantage; you can’t really involve other local bike shops. My suggestion would be to start at some venue other than a bike shop, somewhere that has an area big enough for a group of bikes to gather. Then you can hit all the local bike shops and ask them to promote the ride, and donate to the cause etc. I printed around 450 flyers and distributed them to the two bike shops involved, and a few other places, including some local servos. I also handed them out to riders I met on a group ride I went on just before the event. Another avenue I tried was a TV station. Some stations provide a free community-events announcement service. I submitted the details, but I think it might not have been soon enough; they wanted the details several weeks before the event. A fair bit of time and work goes into something like this; and it can get stressful. In the background was the obligation I felt to people and businesses who were supporting it. Having the support, especially from Kenma with their very generous donation, was greatly appreciated but it also added to the pressure to make sure this idea became a successful event! Something I had thought of doing, but didn’t, was to arrange some sort of “sponsorship” deal with various businesses, where they would receive a bit of free advertising on the web-site and any promotional leaflets etc, by donating a certain amount of money to the charity. You can ask your local pub or coffee shop, or any business at all really. You’ll get a lot of refusals, but you’ll get some takers too, and that increases the total amount raised. As an example, the amount we raised last time was boosted substantially by a business making a very generous donation. (It was a popular biker’s hang where I’d scheduled a coffee-stop along the way). A word about overheads. Of course there have to be some overheads when you organise a ride like this. You are entitled to cover the cost of these overheads out of the donations; but I don’t. That way I can truly say that every cent donated will go to the charity; which I think is a good thing to be able to do. You can try to minimise overheads by getting businesses to provide services for free. For example, most newspapers would agree to inserting a free ad for a worthy cause. In this case there wasn’t a lot of expense. The printing of the flyers only cost a few dollars, (they didn’t respond to my hinting that it was for a worthy cause!), and having a photocopier as part of my business, I was able to run off some extra copies at home. My wife did buy some clip-boards to use for the sign-ins, and some cardboard and cellophane to present the prizes in an attractive way. I think all up we probably spent about $50, which was probably more than we really need have spent. And I still donated the amount set as entry to the ride. My wife argued that I had more than made my donation by meeting the cost of the overheads, but I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t chip in my $10 as well.
There’s a great old Aussie tradition of “passing the hat around.” People are brought together for an event, everyone throws in some cash, and the money collected is taken off and given to the particular cause the appeal has gone out for. Well, you can’t do it like that these days! With people openly looting houses and shops that have been damaged, and other low-lifes posing as collectors for charities but actually just scamming the money, any collection of money has to be done in a way that removes any suspicion or possible accusation of fraud. As it’s often said, you not only have to do the right thing, you have to be seen to be doing the right thing. I had some ideas of how I would do this, to keep it all as transparent as possible, then it was suggested to me that the event should be run under the official banner of a registered charity. That was a good idea. The toy run I mentioned above is run under the banner of Anglicare. I had some knowledge of Anglicare through the church I attend, so they were the logical ones to contact first. They weren’t running a particular appeal for Queensland, but they would accept donations and distribute it to agencies in the area that were helping out people effected by the tragedies. That sounded good to me, so arrangements were made. They issued me with a letter authorising me to collect money on their behalf, sent me official Anglicare receipt books, and even slips that allowed donations to be made directly to them by credit-card. That was ideal! I don’t know if other charities do it this way, but it would be worth checking with whatever charity organisation you choose. In this case, the documentation and proper receipts etc made it very authentic and professional. And, as I said, these days it needs to be! So, with these arrangements made, everything was going well. But that was about to change! The day the story hit the local paper I got a call from an acquaintance who is a member of a local car club. “You can’t just do these sort of things on your own, you’ve got to be an organisation or a registered club to hold an event like that!” he said. Then, to emphasise the point, he added, “I’ve seen it happen; someone gets the idea of putting on a run to raise money, they all set off and the police come and stop it. The bloke gets arrested, taken away in handcuffs and everything!” I told him about it being organised through Anglicare and so on, but he insisted I couldn’t run something like this as an individual. He implored me to talk to the police. I told him I had intended doing that anyway, as a matter of courtesy to let them know it was on, but he was sure they’d tell me I couldn’t hold it. To say I felt concerned after that phone call would be something of an understatement! I was sure the bit about the organiser being led away in handcuffs was an exaggeration, (or there’d have to be more reason for his arrest!), but that phone call began a transformation that created considerable stress and concern. What had started out as, “A good idea at the time”, was quickly becoming, “What have I got myself into?” As I said, I had intended calling the police anyway, and so that was the next thing I did. I called the police station covering the area and told them about the ride. Five minutes later I got a call from the police traffic coordinator saying he’d just been told about the ride and it had “set off alarm bells”. He was supportive and helpful, but there were things I needed to know. The first thing was that, if there were a large number of bikes we couldn’t ride en-masse as one group. If we did it would become “an event” and the situation changes. As “an event” it has to have special traffic management, police escort and so on. If we just took off as a large group the impact on traffic would be too great and the ride would be stopped. (He didn’t say anything about me being taken away in handcuffs though!). The solution he suggested was simple; if there was a large number, just break them up into smaller groups with a few minutes in between each and that would be fine. He was also concerned, for my sake, about indemnity. If something went wrong, I needed to be covered against anyone trying to sue me because I was in charge. He talked about the “mob-mentality” that can creep in to these sort of group rides, and which raises the potential of people disobeying road rules and causing other problems. And the consequent possibility that those effected would try to blame the bloke in charge. As he said, “A good idea can turn to shit real quick!” A friend confirmed this potential when he spoke of an incident where the leader of an organised ride had been sued by a rider who had fallen off during the ride. No fault of the organiser, but the rider wanted someone to blame, so he sued him just because he was the organiser. Now, as I had done on the previous ride, I had already put a note on the web-site stating that people would be taking part in the ride at their own risk and that no liability would be accepted by me or anyone else associated with the ride. The traffic coordinator suggested that wasn’t enough; I should have an indemnity form drawn up for each rider to sign. That sounded like a good idea. (And if you organise a ride, it’s something you should do!). I typed up a suitable form, but thought it best to seek legal advice to ensure the form was adequate. A few phone calls finally resulted in a law firm who would look at it – for free. (I couldn’t afford to pay a lawyer to get involved in this!). I emailed them a copy of the form. They made a slight alteration, (inserting an additional paragraph), and returned it to me. However, they also said that no indemnity form could absolutely guarantee I wouldn’t still be sued! They said that, even when people sign a form agreeing that they take part entirely at their own risk and that no liability whatsoever will be accepted by the organiser, there are still ways around that if they really want to try to sue you. Another lawyer I spoke to briefly over the phone confirmed this, and suggested I seek insurance for the event. (Yeah, right! Can you imagine the premium that would be charged to cover an unknown number of motorcyclists to participate in a group ride?). “I’m not saying don’t hold the ride,” the lawyer said, “Just be aware that the indemnity form is not a 100% guarantee.” At this stage the stress levels were really beginning to soar! Realistically, there might have been little chance of me being sued over any incident, but, as I tend to be a bit of a worrier, this situation was really getting me stressed! I photocopied 120 copies of the form, just in case we got that many turn up. One thing I did was change the route. I had intended going along secondary roads through a couple of small villages. A picturesque ride in places, and more interesting than going straight down the highway. But the villages presented more possibilities of accidents. Also, one road was quite narrow and there were a couple of tight corners under a railway bridge that could catch people out if they weren’t paying proper attention. And these secondary roads allowed more potential for any hoons to go crazy, if any riders were so inclined. My main objective had become a matter of getting people to the destination without anything going wrong! So I decided to take the ride straight down the highway. No villages, safer road conditions, and less chance of hooning around. I contacted the police traffic coordinator and told him about the indemnity form and the change of route. As I had done when I spoke to him previously, I said I would welcome any police presence at any point on the ride. So, you might be wondering, where do you stand, legally, with all this? It’s an important issue, because, even if you just organise a ride with a bunch of mates, you put yourself in a vulnerable position if something goes wrong. If something happens to a rider on a ride you have organised, you could find yourself faced with litigation, even if the rider’s fall was no fault of yours. And someone you thought was a mate might suddenly become your legal enemy! Now I’m not suggesting you have your mates sign an indemnity form every time you take them for a ride, but you certainly need one if you organise a more major ride! But if you don’t have an indemnity form, or even if you do, where do you stand if something goes wrong? Someone explained it like this. Basically it comes down to what is termed, “Duty of care”. If, for example, someone did try to sue you because they fell off, when it came to court, the application of the Indemnity Statement (presuming you had one) would come down to how well you had exercised your duty of care as organiser of the event. I’ll use an example from the previous ride I organised. Along our route was a sweeping corner that I knew had gravel across it. I warned riders of this on the directions I handed out. Now, while it could be argued that any rider worth their licence should know to watch out for these things, if I hadn’t mentioned it and someone fell off, if it came to court the discussion could go like this. “Did you know there was gravel across the corner?” “Yes.” “Did you tell the riders?” “No.” “Could you have gone via a different route?” “Yes”. “So you knowingly led the riders into a dangerous situation and did not warn them of that situation. You failed in your duty of care.” And a good case could be made for any statement of indemnity not to apply. That was another reason I changed the route; and why I kept in contact with the police traffic coordinator, and invited police to attend the ride at any point. It was showing that I was doing everything I could to ensure I provided a safe riding environment for the riders who took part in the ride.
Finally the day arrived. In the week leading up to the ride the forecast hadn’t looked good – the prediction being for rain showers. As the weekend got closer it changed to “Clearing showers”, although the night before the ride there was substantial rain. On the morning of the ride the skies were overcast, but the road outside my home was dry. (You'll notice in the photo at the top that there is a bit of water on the road there). I’d checked the forecast for the following weekend, and they were predicting rain for then too. So even if I wanted to (which I didn’t), post-poning until the following weekend probably wouldn’t have been of any benefit. There were threatening clouds about, but also a few patches of clear sky. I assumed the “clearing showers” had cleared, and so the ride was on! We arrived at the start and set up tables for the donations and raffle-tickets. And there was soon a queue of people waiting to sign up. My daughter had come down to let her sons see all the motorbikes, but ended up helping with the sign-ins as well. The weather had, I’m sure, deterred a few people from coming, but we ended up with around 40 bikes. That wasn’t as many as I would’ve liked, but not bad considering the weather. And when the donations and ticket sales were all totalled up we raised just on $600. Raffle tickets sold well; and the prizes looked so attractive that a few people who just happened to be there going into the shop, came over and bought some. When it came time to leave I divided the ride into two groups of about 20 bikes. I appointed an older guy I knew, who is a very responsible rider and a good leader of rides, to lead the first group, and I led the second. I waited about about 5 or 10 minutes before leading my group away. Then stopped briefly as we were about to leave the town to wait for those who had been separated by traffic to catch up. We didn’t see the first group on the road, so the division worked well. As you can see, there was a wide variety of bikes in my group too. It was a nice cruisy ride, albeit into a fairly strong headwind. My wife followed behind in the car with the raffle prizes, and checked that everybody got there in one piece. They did. When I turned into the club there was an impressive line-up of bikes in the parking area. And we then doubled that! The photo at the top of this section shows most (not all, but most) of the bikes all lined up. Inside the club we drew the winners of the lucky-entrant prize and the raffle prizes. I divided the goodies into 4 prizes. The first prize is shown in the photo on the left, and consists of a heavy-duty chain (it’d anchor the Queen Mary!) and pad-lock worth $119, and a puncture-repair kit worth $75. One lucky chap won both 1st and 4th prizes in the raffle! Also in attendance on the ride was Mel Ashby, who had just returned from a stint of chaplaincy work in Queensland providing support and counseling to people effected by the disasters. He briefly described situations he had seen, and the traumatic effects the disaster had caused to those who had lost houses, friends, families etc. Most people then bought lunch (good food, and very reasonably priced) and enjoyed a chat. Everyone seemed to enjoy the ride. Many people said they’d had a good time, and also commented on the “professionalism” of the organisation. That was very gratifying, especially after the stress I’d felt while organising it! Some commented that the ride was too short. “We were just settling in for the ride and we’d arrived!” Well, yes, but as I mentioned above, it was planned that way; a kind of extended Toy-Run type format. There are some good biking roads in the area, and the option was for people to go their own way after lunch; which was what many people did. The forecast of “clearing showers” was backwards; rain came during the afternoon, and everyone encountered a bit of wet weather on their return home. It was raining lightly when I left the club, so I pulled on the wet-weather gear. I got a couple of showers on the way home, but nothing too much. So, that was our Charity Ride for 2011. It was bigger and better, in terms of the number of bikes and the amount we raised. Will I do it again? Hmmm, at the time of greatest stress I said, “Never again!” But now … well, yes, I probably will! (There are some more photos of the ride below).
Thanks must go to several people and organisations who helped out with this ride. *Anglicare, for handling our donations, providing receipts and easy banking facilities and generally making it easy to collect the donations in a safe and professional manner. *David Fraser Motorcycles, for providing an ideal starting-point for our ride, and generously donating a $200 gift voucher as a "lucky entrant" prize. *Berry Bowling Club, for providing us with an equally ideal finishing venue. They provided a table for our raffle prizes and a microphone for the announcements, and made us all very welcome. *Kenma Australia, who provided the rest of our raffle prizes; about $400 worth in total!
*Kevin Brown, traffic coordinator with Warilla Police, for his support and advice.
*Mel Ashby, for giving us a personal insight into the devastation and personal trauma that has been suffered by the victims of these disasters. These are the people your money is going to help!
*And many more! There were helpers there on the day to collect the donations, and sell tickets etc. Including my wife, who helped with time-consuming things like doing the flyers and preparing the prizes, and more. And Phil, for helping with selling tickets, and for photos. Thank you for your help! And others who provided moral support (at times much needed!) behind the scenes.
*And most of all, thanks to all those who came along and took part in the ride! It would've been a lonely old ride if there was just me! Thank you all for ignoring the black clouds and focusing on the sunshine. You've brought a little sunshine into the lives of people who have been so tragically effected by these recent disasters.
SOME MORE PHOTOS
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